The 2020 MLB World Series has begun this week, featuring the Tampa Bay Rays from the American League and the Los Angeles Dodgers from the National League. The two clubs finished with the highest records in their respective leagues, earning both number one seeds, but the intricacies of this matchup stretch far beyond wins and losses. Here are some uninspected storylines that are absolutely fascinating.
1. The two highest-paid Dodgers make double the money as the entire Rays roster
The cumulative payroll for the Rays 28-man roster in 2020 amounted to $28.3 million, while Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw alone will have made about $58 million by the end of the season (Baseball Almanac).
The Dodgers 28-man roster had the second highest payroll in the entire MLB for 2020, trailing only the New York Yankees, while the Rays had the 28th highest payroll. Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier is the highest paid Ray, making $10.17 million this season, which is still just roughly one third of the money made by the Dodgers highest paid player, Kershaw ($31 million).
The 2020 World Series will feature the highest payroll disparity between the two competing teams in league history.
2. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has a very spotty World Series track record
The 32 year old superstar is looking to rewrite his World Series narrative in 2020, because as it stands, he is statistically one of the worst pitchers in World Series history.
Kershaw is already a Dodgers legend, and surefire hall of famer, as he has collected 8 all star appearances, 3 Cy Young awards, and an MVP award in the span of his twelve year career. However, as he heads into his third career championship series, he has some of the worst numbers of any qualifying pitchers.
He enters with the fifth highest World Series ERA of all starting pitchers with a minimum of 20 innings pitched. He has a 1-2 record with an uncharacteristically high 5.40 ERA (Baseball Almanac). He will look to put all of these struggles behind him and lead the Dodgers to title in 2020.
3. Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena is one home run shy of another MLB postseason record
Tampa Bay’s rookie outfielder spent the majority of the regular season sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19 just prior to the team’s opener in July. However, after joining the club in the back half of the regular season, Arozarena did enough to make the postseason roster.
This decision by head coach Kevin Cash has proved to be one of the biggest driving forces in the Rays World Series run. Arozarena is having one of the best single postseasons in MLB history and undoubtedly making a run at the best postseason ever by a rookie.
He leads all qualifying batters in base hits, runs, extra-base hits, and total bases. Arozarena has already tied Derek Jeter’s record for most hits ever by a rookie in an MLB postseason with 22, and is one home run shy of the all time record for home runs in a single postseason with 7 currently (ESPN). The rookie is putting the entire league on high alert, asserting himself as superstar for future seasons.
4. The Rays have an MVP candidate who you’ve never heard of
A brutal postseason thus far for Rays’ Second baseman Brandon Lowe should not be enough for fans to ignore the stellar regular season that he pieced together in 2020.
The 24 year old posted new career highs in slugging percentage, on base percentage, and OPS over the course of the shortened 2020 season. Lowe also finished with just 3 less home runs on the season that he had all of last season when he played 26 more games (ESPN).
With Tampa Bay being one of the league’s smaller market teams, Lowe did not receive the publicity or recognition that he was owed for a fantastic regular season. Lowe’s name even crept into some AL MVP conversations in the latter months of the season.
Lowe remains a relatively unknown player for most casual MLB fans, but his play is sure to make him a household name in years to come.
5. The Dodgers and Rays have gone head to head only 19 times
Along with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Tampa Bay Rays are still the newest franchise in the MLB, playing their first full season in 1998. In their 22 year existence, the Rays have only played the Dodgers 19 times, with LA leading the all time series 12-7 (Baseball Reference). This accounts for one of the thinnest histories ever between two teams competing in the World Series.