The 2020 World Series is here, something that not-too-long ago didn’t seem likely to happen as the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country (wear your masks!). But baseball found a way, and here we are, with the Tampa Bay Rays riding October hero Randy Arozarena into the championship tilt with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are in the final round for the third time in four years.
Nobody really has any idea what’s going to happen — that’s why they play the games — but here are a few things to keep in mind as Tuesday’s first pitch rapidly approaches.
Rays vs. Dodgers: 2020 World Series predictions
Don’t let this guy beat you, Dodgers edition: Randy Arozarena, obviously. He’s been the story of the postseason, a once-traded outfielder who was largely unknown just spraying home runs all over the ballpark. And he’s hitting everything: sliders, fastballs, curveballs, Eephus pitches (well, he would if he saw one). In his 14 postseason games so far, Arozarena is batting .382 with a 1.288 OPS, seven homers, 10 RBIs, three doubles, one triple and 14 runs scored. Thing is, even with his crazy, historic numbers, the Rays are struggling overall offensively, batting just .209 with a .702 OPS as a team. There is literally no reason for the Dodgers to ever throw him anything to hit. Give him the Peak Barry Bonds treatment until the other Rays show they can produce, too.
Don’t let this guy beat you, Rays edition: Cody Bellinger. The top half of the LA lineup is just ridiculous. Pitch around Mookie Betts and you have Corey Seager up next. Pitch around Seager and you have Justin Turner. Pitch around Turner and you have Max Muncy. You get the point. Bellinger, who had a so-so regular season after his 2019 MVP campaign, is batting sixth in the LA lineup, which hardly seems fair. He still crushes mistakes and pitches that catch too much of the strike zone, but he’s a guy who tends to swing and miss more than some of the others in this lineup. He can be pitched to, but you’d better be careful.
Sleeping giant, Dodgers edition: Justin Turner. He’s long been a reliable part of the Dodgers’ postseason lineup, but he struggled to start the 2020 postseason, going just 2-for-18 in the first two rounds, against the Brewer and Padres. But his postseason track record is solid — .292 career playoff average, with 10 home runs and an .881 OPS in 66 games — and he was solid again during the regular season, posting a .307 average and .400 on-base percentage. He’s too good of a hitter to continue to struggle.
Sleeping giant, Rays edition: Brandon Lowe. This left-handed hitter followed up a solid rookie campaign with improved rate/percentage numbers across the board: OPS+, on-base percentage, slugging, etc, and he led the Rays with 14 home runs during the 60-game schedule. But he’s looked lost at the plate in the postseason, and that’s putting it mildly. In 57 plate appearances, he’s batting .115 with a .193 on-base percentage and 17 strikeouts. He has one home run, but his five other hits are all singles and he has just two RBIs. Simply put: The Rays will not — they cannot — beat the Dodgers if Lowe repeats his performance in the ALDS (0-for-18) or ALCS (4-for-24).
Potential fatal weakness, Dodgers edition: The bullpen has been an issue in the postseason for the Dodgers for several years, and though this group was better during the regular season — they led the NL with a 2.74 ERA — it’s still not a lockdown group that gives Dodgers fans restful nights and peaceful dreams. Julio Urias looked stellar closing out Game 7 of the NLCS, but his value isn’t just the ninth inning; only Urias (16 innings), Walker Buehler (19 IP) and Clayton Kershaw (19 IP) have throw at least nine innings so far this postseason for the Dodgers.
Potential fatal weakness, Rays edition: It’s the lineup. We alluded to it earlier, but the numbers are stark. Look at the postseason numbers from the regulars in the Tampa Bay lineup.
Austin Meadows: .114 average, .448 OPS
Brandon Lowe: .115 average, .366 OPS
Yandy Diaz: .125 average, .489 OPS
Willy Adames: .132 average, .550 OPS
Kevin Kiermaier: .194 average, .605 OPS
Joey Wendle: .225 average, .520 OPS
Mike Zunino has a .231 on-base percentage, but at least four of his eight hits have been home runs, and that power is needed. And the Dodgers have a better pitching staff than the Blue Jays, Yankees or Astros, the three staffs who have kept the non-Arozarena hitters at bay.
Prediction: Dodgers in six
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