Let’s start by saying that in a season where truncated play was thought to have a narrative of “anything can happen”; the teams with the best records in both the National and American League are the World Series representatives. LA Dodgers won 43 games and Tampa won 40 games. We have the best teams in MLB playing for the title.
The narratives are that LA have not won a World Series since 1988 even though they have played in 3 others since 1988. They have won the NL pennant in 2017, 2018, and now 2020. They are a storied franchise with 6 World Series titles. The Rays went to a World Series in 2008. It was their only appearance. They lost to the Phillies 4 games to 1. The Ray shave now won 2 AL pennants, so they do not have a long history in championship games.
The Dodgers main strengths are their star powered players. Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and AJ Pollock are ALL rated in the top 90 players in MLB. These super star players are also playoff tested and experienced. When put into a batting order, these players are often right-hand hitter followed by left hand hitter, then right, then left all the way through their 9 hitters! It makes pitching decisions problematic. The offense has a large advantage over the Rays. In the playoffs thus far, LAD OPS is .812, .256 avg, and .355 OBP. The OBP is #1 for all the teams in the playoffs and their OPS is #2. The Rays have an OPS .702, avg .209, and OBP .295 which all rank 10th out of the 16 teams in the playoffs. The Dodgers have scored the most runs with 69 over 12 games (5.75 per game). The Rays scored 57 over 14 games (4.07 per game).
The Rays offense has been led by one emerging star player in Randy Arozarena. He has 7 HRs and 21 hits. He played in only 23 games during the season and he hit 7 HRs over the entire season! He is a torrid hitter right now. Manuel Margot is 2nd on the team with an OPS of .967 and 5 HRs. He only had only hit 1 HR during the season. The Rays are getting performance from guys they did not count on all season, conversely are not getting performance from the guys they relied upon. Brand Lowe led their team 2.3 WAR and 14 HRs. He is batting .115 with 1 HR. He has 6 hits in 52 at-bats. Willie Adames is batting .132. Another big issue here is that TB leads the playoff tams in strikeouts. There is an abundance of swing and miss in their lineup. This leads to more troubles for them in the series with Dodgers pitching staff. The Dodgers throw extremely hard with several pitchers over 100 mph fast balls. The Rays were 26th over the season batting against the fast ball! They are great curve ball hitters (#2) which means they will match up well with Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers pitchers Gonsolin, Buehler, May, and Urias are all outstanding fastball throwers.
A usual edge for the Rays is their bullpen. In this series, the Dodgers bullpen measures to be similar. The Rays have “matchup” guys. They have a stable of arms that are unique based on delivery, type of pitches, or quality of stuff. They are built on pitching and defense first. The trouble is that the Dodgers have an outstanding bullpen as well. The Dodgers bullpen ERA is 3.40 and the Rays is 3.41 for the playoffs. Both have thrown similar number of innings (LAD 49 and TB 46) with a variance in performance in opponent batting average. LAD is .218 and TB is .266. It just means LAD has allowed fewer base runners.
An area where LAD had trouble in the past was batting against lefthanded pitching. This does not hold true any longer. In fact, LAD are #3 vs lefties in the playoffs. TB will start likely 2 lefties (Snell and Yarbrough) plus they have 4 relievers who throw lefthanded.
I believe the starting pitching for TB will hold their own. Glasnow, Snell, and Morton combined for a 2.7 WAR and went 11-5. The LAD Kershaw, Buehler, and May combined for a 2.3 WAR. The Dodgers Gonsolin 1.8 WAR and Urias 1.1 WAR will pitch and may start so the depth of the rotation makes their WAR better, but the main three are similar and TB might even have a slight edge based on the season performance.
Breaking down the series. Bookmaker has LAD -220 to win and the Rays are +184. My line for game one does not come near the actual line. Kershaw is -175 over Glasnow. My line is Kershaw -135. I believe there is value in the numbers for TB, but I will not be running to the window to get my down on them in this series. So, I think LAD will be the 2020 World Series champs. Is -220 a fair number? I think it is overstated but what will happen if they win game one? The series price will rise. Game one is where TB has their best chance to win. Kershaw with his curveballs against the #2 hitting curveball team. If the Rays can win, we get a better price after game one. My suggestion is to wait for that scenario to present itself, if the LAD win, we likely did not want to pay -220 (overstated) anyway. I think LAD win 4 games to 1.
The Rays have a super tight margin for error. Their best players must start hitting to get the odds of them winning to near 50%. The game one line indicates their chance of winning is 46% and their series odds are 32% (hence why I said LAD are overstated). Think about that for a minute though. They need to improve from their best players just to get closer to 50%, which means LAD can play a bit worse and still have the edge making their margin of error much more flexible. LAD does not have to be perfect to win whereas TB certainly does. The Rays win by cumulations of small things overcoming the whole. Their fire power in this series does not match so they can accumulate all those things they want but it is a dire spot for them. Where the youthful Braves matched up because their lineup at the top was just as potent, the Rays just too over matched.
I think the Rays best chance will be game one. Their offense woes will not be as exploited in this game as likely in the rest. Here is issue though is that Kershaw has seen the Rays and has performed well in the past against their hitters. Glasnow has not seen much of the Dodgers (remember he was a Pirate) but in the limited opportunities there have been, the Dodgers have hit him well. The total in this game is 7.5 +101! I like the idea that Kershaw is capable of giving up runs but also that Glasnow has been had by LAD before. It seems like game one should be an OVER 7.5 +101 or Over 7-110. Once the prop bets come out for R+H+E I will investigate that as well.