The biggest difference between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays is money. The Dodgers sported a $107.9 million payroll in Major League Baseball’s 60-game 2020 season, whereas the Rays sported a $28.3 million payroll. When you extrapolate those figures to include the 102 games that weren’t played, the Dodgers’ payroll is north of $230 million, whereas the Rays’ payroll falls well short of the Dodgers’ 60-game total.
The payroll disparities are astounding.
Why are we comparing these two teams’ payroll? Well, they’re the two ballclubs competing in the 2020 World Series. However, when you put their financial differences to the side, the Dodgers and Rays are more alike than different.
Homegrown Pitching Staffs
Of course, not every person on the Dodgers and Rays pitching staffs were drafted by the team they play for. Simultaneously, the bulk of their pitchers, especially those who sustain a substantial workload, came from the farm.
Five of the Dodgers’ six top innings eaters this postseason have spent their entire careers in Dodger Blue: Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Dustin May, and Tony Gonsolin. Buehler is an elite power arm; Kershaw is old reliable; Urias has been clutch both starting and coming out of the bullpen; May throws a mean cutter and took the next step in the regular season; Gonsolin was a steady force in the regular season. Meanwhile, Adam Kolarek, Jake McGee, Brusdar Graterol, Kenley Jansen, and Joe Kelly, among others, have been a sturdy relief unit this season.
Dave Roberts has utilized his top hurlers, who are mostly under 30, in a variety of ways. From taking them out when a crisis presents itself in the early innings to letting a starter come out of the pen to close out a Game 7, Roberts has been crafty and pushed the right buttons this postseason. Los Angeles finished the regular season first in MLB in ERA (3.02), WHIP, (1.06), and opponent batting average (.213) and 29th in home runs surrendered (66).
The Rays are the epitome of a pitching staff. They have a slew of versatile arms with downright offensive offerings that get hitters tied up in knots. Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow, and Ryan Yarbrough make for a potent rotation. Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks, Aaron Loup, and John Curtiss make for a vibrant bullpen. The Rays don’t have starters or relievers: they have pitchers.
Their starters don’t go deep into games, rather manager Kevin Cash typically goes to his bullpen the third time through an order and/or rolls with a bullpen day. Even Snell, the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner, and Glasnow, whose fastball hits 100 mph, rarely see the sixth inning. Tampa Bay is as effective with nine relievers across nine innings as they are with a starter across seven and a pair of relievers across the next two. Tampa Bay finished the regular season third in MLB in ERA (3.56) and sixth in WHIP (1.22) and strikeouts (552).
The Dodgers and Rays each own a 3.36 postseason ERA thus far.
Offenses Full of Similar Hitters
The Dodgers and Rays lineups couldn’t be more different. That said, they have one crucial overlapping similarity: depth charts with a grouping of hitters who have similar skill sets.
The Dodgers have power for days: Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Will Smith, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, and others somehow. In the scenario a couple of the aforementioned sluggers have a dry spell, like Bellinger in the regular season, the depth overcomes one’s struggles, still making for an overwhelming offensive attack.
Los Angeles finished the regular season first in MLB in runs (349) and home runs (118), second in OPS (.821), and tied for seventh in hits (523). They get runners on base at a high level, get said runners across the basepaths, collectively work the count, and have the best all-around offense in the sport.
There isn’t a single offensive accumulation with the Rays that will impress you; they were between 11th and 21st in the regular season in runs, hits, home runs, on-base percentage, and slugging while totaling the most strikeouts in the sport. At the same time, they have a plethora of level, contact-swinging players who execute.
Brandon Lowe, who posted a .916 OPS, and Willy Adames, who posted an .813 OPS, hit for slug; Joey Wendle and Manuel Margot are scrappy contact hitters; Yandy Diaz and Mike Brosseau, who each hit over .300, have sharp, power swings; Kevin Kiermaier, Ji-Man Choi, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Hunter Renfroe, and Mike Zunino provide pop; a healthy Austin Meadows was an All-Star last season; Randy Arozarena‘s never-ending postseason hitting clinic has enhanced everyone on the lineup card, allowing them to play to their strengths.
These teams don’t solely rely on any one or two individuals to carry the load offensively. It’s a vital reason why they’ve made it this far.
Similar Playoff Results in Recent Memory
The Dodgers and Rays have held the same fate over the last year.
They each finished the regular season with the best record in their respective league while sweeping their opponent in the Wild Card series. A couple series later they needed seven games to defeat their opponent as the higher-seeded team.
Last year they each lost grueling five-game first-round series and have finished with a winning percentage above 55 percent in each of the last three years.
The 2020 World Series is Going to be Fun
They’ve each been true to their philosophies. The Rays wheel and deal like crazy but do so in search of specific skill sets and wins; it’s working. Over the last decade the Dodgers have come up short in the playoffs in a handful of ways but continue to make bold transactions in hopes of finally breaking through in the postseason. Most recently, they acquired Betts from the Boston Red Sox and signed him to a $365 million extension before he even suited up in a game for them.
Dodgers president Andrew Friedman was once the general manager of the Rays and resided in Central Florida in some capacity from 2004-14. The years are piling up on the West Coast for Friedman with both his old and new team looking to win their first World Series championship of the 21st century.
Can the Rays pitching staff continue to grind away against the Dodgers? Will the Dodgers be able to produce runs at the rate we’ve grown accustomed to as they face perhaps the deepest pitching staff in the sport? Can the Rays get more runs on the board? The questions are endless.
The 2020 World Series is going to be fun.