On Monday night in the heart of Texas, the Dodgers proved again what we all already knew: They are the cream of the crop in the National League. I’m on record as having picked them to reach the World Series, which, I know isn’t exactly going out on a limb. But when the Atlanta Braves went up 3-1 in the National League Championship Series, I was convinced that the Dodgers ability to continuously reach the World Series — save 2019 — might be fading. After all, that would be two consecutive seasons of falling short of reaching the Fall Classic. It’s a long and slippery slope back down from there.
Not so fast. Los Angeles powered back and forced a game seven against the NL East victors, ultimately prevailing in an exciting 4-3 tilt, a final score which mirrored the series game totals.
Perhaps the most frightening thing about this run is that the team seems to still have plenty of years of contention ahead of them. In Hollywood, star power reigns supreme and the Dodgers have plenty of it, just like their cross-city counterpart, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mookie Betts’ contract runs through 2032, Clayton Kershaw will be there through next season at least, and Cody Bellinger goes into arbitration after next season. Players like Corey Seager and Justin Turner will have to work out new deals to stay in Los Angeles; it seems likely the Dodgers will at least lock down the former. Still, the future is bright regardless given the young, controllable talent the organization has: Dustin May, Gavin Lux, and Keibert Ruiz, whose major league career has hardly started.
Now the Dodgers potent offense will attempt to lead them to their first World Series victory since 1988, finally propelling the organization back over the hump and getting Kershaw a deserved title.
This Dodgers team went into the series against the Tampa Bay Rays last night leading in several major offensive statistical categories: 1st in home runs (118), 2nd in wOBA (.350), 1st in wRC+ (122), and 3rd in fWAR (12.6). But it’s not just offense where the Dodgers excel — it’s also pitching. The team comes in 2nd in FIP (3.79) and 1st in ERA (3.02).
Of course, the calling card for Tampa is the team’s pitching and defense. The Rays’ staff comes in with the third best ERA in baseball at 3.56 and a 3.94 FIP. Tampa also went in first in defensive runs above average (DEF) with 16.8. The hope for the small market Rays is that the pitching staff and the team’s defensive prowess can do the heavy lifting and that the offense can get the job done when opportunity presents itself.
It’s going to be an incredibly strong and potent Dodgers’ team — the heavy favorites — against the small market darlings, the Rays. The Dodgers are doing what everybody expected of them. But just like the 2008 Rays and the 2014 and 2015 Kansas City Royals, this 2020 Tampa team is giving hope to small market teams everywhere.
Dodgers win in six.