7 bold predictions for the 2020 World Series

October 20th, 2020

This is the World Series we deserve. Dodgers vs. Rays. Seems like it was meant to be, doesn’t it? That definitely didn't always appear to be the case. Right, Dave Roberts? You agree with that, Kevin Cash?

Got a little tight there at the end, didn’t it, fellas? That just makes it even sweeter. Baseball’s expanded 16-team playoff field made getting to the World Series a significant accomplishment, and both the Dodgers and Rays were pushed to the brink.

In Tampa Bay’s case, that happened twice, first against the Yankees and then the Astros. In the end, the two best regular-season teams are the two teams that’ll line up for Game 1 on Tuesday at Globe Life Field in Arlington.

You’re going to hear a lot about these two franchises being a study in contrasts in terms of payrolls, markets and ballparks. Don’t lose sight of the baseball end of it: The Dodgers and Rays are very evenly matched, both featuring young stars, deep pitching staffs and spectacular defense. In short, the World Series we deserve.

Here are seven bold predictions:

1. Defense: It’s what the cool kids are doing, and it’s going to define this World Series.
Sure, great defense has always had the ability to thrill. In this World Series, defense is a huge part of both teams' success. The Dodgers and Rays were second and fifth, respectively, in Defensive Runs Saved during the regular season. and were tied for third among all players in Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric.

This postseason, we’ve been treated to string of highlight-reel plays by players on both teams. Stand by for more.

2. Don’t be surprised if a stolen base wins a game. (Yes, they’re sort of a thing again.)
The Rays stole 34 bases in their last 26 games as Cash searched for something to spark his offense. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have gotten into the swing of things in the postseason by going five-for-five in 12 games.

At a time when stolen bases have become less and less a part of team’s offensive weapons, teams that have fast players -- like the Rays (Kiermaier, , , ) and Dodgers (Bellinger, , ) -- see it as a valuable weapon.

3. Bet we’ve seen the last of Bellinger’s forearm smashes.
One shoulder dislocation per postseason celebration is the official limit. That’s what happened to Bellinger after a massive forearm smash while celebrating the winning home run in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. Imagine if he had missed time because of that. Thankfully, Bellinger got shoulder popped back into place. Next time, a no-touch high five -- or no-touch forearm smash -- is the way to go.

4. Misery index: Cardinals fans vs. Red Sox fans.
Remember what they say about trades involving prospects being impossible to evaluate for, say, two or three years? Tell that to Cardinals and Red Sox fans as they watch Betts and Arozarena in the World Series. Last offseason, the Red Sox traded Betts, and the Cardinals dealt Arozarena, in deals that involved prospects. Neither team expected either of these guys to simply disappear, and they, harumph, haven’t.

Memo to Red Sox and Cardinals executives: This would be a good time to go on that social media diet you’ve been talking about.

5. Globe Life Field a neutral site? Not for the Dodgers.
Remember you heard it here first: The Dodgers are going to win World Series games because they’ve played 10 of 12 postseason games at new Globe Life Field, where the Rays have never played. The Dodgers have had plenty of time to learn the park’s idiosyncrasies, especially an outfield that has some odd angles and potentially some odd bounces. Look for the Rays to spend lots of time taking balls in the outfield before Game 1.

6. In MLB’s bullpen era, it’s starting pitching that can win it for the Rays.
Relievers have thrown 49.2 percent of the Rays' innings, and 52 percent of the Dodgers' innings, this postseason. Because both teams have so much bullpen depth, it’s easy to assume this World Series will be chock-full of pitching changes.

But Tampa Bay’s biggest advantage is that they also have three starting pitchers -- , and -- capable of getting the game into the sixth or seventh inning.

It doesn’t happen that often because the bullpens are so deep. But if it does, Tampa Bay’s pitching staff could dominate the series.

7. So you think the Rays may need more offense to win? Maybe not.
The Rays have gotten this far despite hitting just .209 in the postseason and averaging 4.1 runs per game. Cash has shaken up his lineup, benched some players, moved others around, and he still isn’t getting much from anyone other than Arozarena. Having survived one round while playing five straight days (American League Division Series) and another playing seven days in a row (ALCS), this World Series with the usual days off built in could play nicely into his hand. With off-days after Game 2 and a potential Game 5, Cash will be able to keep his stable of relievers fresh. This may just be Tampa Bay’s advantage and the reason they’ll win.