Key Players Heading into the 2020 World Series
The stage is set for the 2020 World Series. The Tampa Bay Rays will be squaring off against the Los Angeles Dodgers. What makes this year’s World Series unique though is that it features the two teams with the best record in both leagues for only the fourth time in the Wild Card era history. Furthermore, it is taking place at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. A neutral site for both teams.
What makes this World Series match up so intriguing is both rosters. Both the Dodgers and Rays have a lot of pitching depth. Tampa Bay and Los Angeles both have solid starting rotations. From a bullpen perspective, it’s hard to overlook the talent and stuff of either bullpen. As Kevin Cash said, “I have a whole **** stable full of pitchers that throw 98 miles per hour.” That’s certainly true as has been illustrated to this point this postseason. In addition, the Dodgers have a number of options that they can utilize late in games.
Switching over to the offense, the Dodgers have the clear upper-hand in this category. Coming off of the American League Championship Series, the Rays had a .201 batting average with a .296 on-base percentage over a sample of 219 at-bats. That’s not what you want especially when you are squaring off against a really strong Dodgers pitching staff which led all of baseball with a 3.02 ERA this year. In regards to the offense, the Dodgers slugged 16 home runs and had a .254 batting average as well as a .345 on-base percentage against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series.
Here are three key players for both teams.
Tampa Bay Rays
1. Brandon Lowe
Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe is certainly a key player for the Rays offense. Lowe has not done much at all this postseason. In fact, over 14 games Lowe has hit .115/.193/.173 with six hits, one home run, two RBI, five walk, and 18 strikeouts. Sure, he is a complimentary piece to the Rays lineup given the contributions of outfielders Randy Arozarena and Manuel Margot along with first baseman Ji-Man Choi, but it would be a huge boost for Tampa Bay if he started hitting like he was capable of. Additionally, Tampa Bay really needs someone that can just rack up hits and get on-base. So far this month over 70% of their runs has come via the home run. That’s a trend that needs to change if Tampa wants to make some noise in the World Series. Getting Lowe to be that constant offensive player would be a step towards doing that.
2. Tyler Glasnow
Assuming the series goes all seven games, right-hander Tyler Glasnow would get the ball twice. The 27-year old would start Game One and most likely Game Five given that Blake Snell has already been named the Game Two starter. Therefore, he needs to set the tone at the top. He needs to pitch well in his start in Game One and really shut down the Dodgers lineup to the point where they start to feel a little fear at the plate. Glasnow made a start in the Wild Card Series against the Toronto Blue Jays and pitched six innings allowing two earned runs with eight strikeouts. His most recent outing came in the aforementioned ALCS. In that start, he threw six innings as well. However, his ERA sat at 6.00 after that start. The Rays will need Glasnow to be the guy he was in the Wild Card series.
3. Nick Anderson
If you have watched the Rays this postseason, you already know who Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo are. Both are power-throwing relievers who have been thrust into high-leverage situations. Fairbanks has three saves this month while Castillo has two. While both are very important to the success of Tampa Bay, an argument can be made that how the Rays get to them is even more important. That’s where someone like Nick Anderson comes into the fold. Anderson will be utilized as a bridge late in games and might be called on to make some big outs depending on the situation at hand. To date this postseason, the righty has a 4.63 ERA over seven appearances with six earned runs, two home runs, three walks, and six strikeouts. Tampa Bay will need all the help they can get shutting down the Dodgers lineup and Anderson will need to play a key part in doing that.
Los Angeles Dodgers
1. Cody Bellinger
The Los Angeles Dodgers have a very talented lineup that can score runs in bunches and pose as a threat to whatever team they are playing against. Add to that, that the Dodgers have a very deep roster with interchangeable players around the field. One of the key cogs of the Dodgers roster is outfielder/first baseman, Cody Bellinger. While Mookie Betts can spark an offense by himself, the Dodgers are at their best when both Bellinger and Betts are in-sync with one another. However, that has happened much this postseason considering how the 25-year old has performed at the plate. So far this postseason through 12 games or 44 at-bats, Bellinger has a .250 batting average with a .365 on-base percentage. If you look solely at the National League Championship Series over 7 games, he had a .200 average with nine strikeouts. The good news is that he hit a home run during Sunday’s Game Seven to clinch a World Series spot for the Dodgers. Maybe he can build on that and add some muscle to the Dodgers lineup this series.
2. Kenley Jansen
Once again, Kenley Jansen is going to be an important member of the Dodgers relief corps. Between the Wild Card and aforementioned NLCS series, Jansen posted four-scoreless innings with a total of four strikeouts. However, the blip in the conversation regarding his performance this month came in the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres. During that series, Jansen posted a 13.50 ERA over two appearances and there was some serious concern in Dodgertown. The concern was surrounding how he would perform the rest of the postseason. Therefore, if the Dodgers are going to come out on top with a championship for the first time since 1988, Jansen has to continue performing as he did in the NLCS. If that happens, it lengthens the bullpen for Los Angeles and allows things to flow more smoothly. Both Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol will have less pressure and can continue to thrive in the roles they have held thus far.
3. Joc Pederson
In the postseason, a role/bench player is nearly as important as the core position players in a teams lineup. For Joc Pederson, that is certainly the case. After almost being traded to the Los Angeles Angels last offseason, the 28-year old is playing a vital role in the success of the Dodgers lineup this postseason. He has played in ten games so far and has slashed .375/.400/.500 with nine hits, one home run, five RBI, one walk, and four strikeouts. With that type of production, the Dodgers lineup becomes even deeper and their opportunities to score runs increase even more. On top of that, depending on the matchup at hand, the Dodgers have the luxury of using him at one of the corner outfield spots. Even more reason as to why Joc Pederson is a key for the Dodgers this World Series.
Final Thoughts on the World Series
In the end, this World Series matchup should be a really good one. As mentioned earlier, the Los Angeles Dodgers haven’t won a championship since 1988. For the Tampa Bay Rays, they last played in the World Series in 2008. However, it did not result in a championship which means they are just as hungry as the Dodgers for one. On paper, both teams are fairly even matched albeit the Dodgers have a slight advantage when it comes to the offense. Regardless, if either team is going to come out on top, the six aforementioned players will be keys for that to happen.
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