The leaves are changing and pumpkin spice everything is taking over our lives once again, which can mean only one thing: it's World Series time. The Tampa Bay Rays will be representing the American League for the first time since 2009, while the Los Angeles Dodgers seek to finally get over the hump, playing in their third Fall Classic in four years.
William Hill Sportsbook pegs the Dodgers as -210 favorites heading into Game 1 on Tuesday. Financially speaking, it's a battle of David vs. Goliath. Here are the team's 2020 adjusted team payrolls:
- Dodgers: $107.9 million (2nd in MLB)
- Rays: $28.3 million (28th in MLB)
Tampa Bay was, very clearly, the best team in the AL from start to finish in the regular season. Label them underdogs if you wish, but the Rays have a multitude of reasons to feel optimistic. Here are 5 reasons why they have a shot to take down Los Angeles.
- Kenley Jansen vs. Rays Stable
Rays manager Kevin Cash made headlines after passively threatening the Yankees after a bench-clearing confrontation, saying he has a "stable full of guys who throw 98-mph." That includes: Diego Castillo, Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks, Jose Alvarado... the list goes on.
On the other side of things, Kenley Jansen's velocity concerns have been well-documented. Not to mention, Blake Treinen got hit hard by Atlanta's offense in the NLCS (4 ER, 5 1/3 IP). There are serious concerns with Los Angeles' bullpen, and not so much with Tampa Bay.
2. Most fun team in baseball?
We can dive into all the stats and analytics that we want, but if a team doesn't have the right culture and camaraderie, the numbers are meaningless.
The Rays receive little to no attention due to the small market they play in and their low-payroll label -- which means many have not soaked in the amount of energy these guys bring on a daily basis on and off the field. They have dance parties. The bat flips are guaranteed. They live and die by the long ball. They encompass just about everything this era of baseball is about: strikeouts on the mound, dingers at the plate -- and celebrations in between. They might be the most fun team in baseball.
3. Playing with house money
As mentioned earlier, the Rays are underdogs in this series. Until Los Angeles finally raises the Commissioner's Trophy, it's World Series title or bust for the Dodgers. Pressure has been mounting for years in Chavez Ravine. Jobs could be in jeopardy if Dave Roberts and company fall short yet again.
Not to mention, a team with the 3rd-lowest payroll in baseball, the Rays, is not supposed to beat a team with the 2nd-highest payroll. All the pressure is on Los Angeles.
4. Charlie Morton is as clutch as they get
Uncle Charlie has started 11 playoff games in his career. He has given up more than three earned runs in a start just one time. Charlie Morton has four wins in winner-take-all games, twice as many as any other pitcher in postseason history. Simply put, he's clutch.
Los Angeles has Walker Buehler, but he has dealt with blister issues and has seen his velocity dip as the season has gone on. Do they roll the dice with Clayton Kershaw? Do they ride the hot hand with Julio Urias? Only time will tell.
5. Defense wins championships
Yes, it's an old cliché but it still reigns true to this day: pitching and defense takes the cake come playoff time.
Tampa Bay had the highest defensive rating in baseball (16.8) in the regular season, according to FanGraphs. They also ranked second in the American League in defensive runs saved. The Rays put on an absolute clinic in the field all series against Houston in the ALCS -- and that's despite being out-hit 59-44. They do all the little things right. Isn't that was playoff baseball is all about?