In a word, yes. Thanks for reading the article!
In several more words, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays both seem uniquely poised to slice through their respective leagues again this fall, despite only one of the two entering the campaign with the highest of expectations.
After finally getting the monkey off their back in 2020, the Dodgers were expected to set season-long records in their follow-up campaign. After jettisoning Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, the Rays were largely expected to regress.
Instead, both teams seem particularly prepared for October, and it’s quite possible the Rays are more likely than the Dodgers to make an appearance in this year’s Fall Classic — and not just because of the one-game Wild Card.
By nearly any metric, Tampa and Los Angeles have been the two most flatly dominant teams of the 2021 season. If the San Francisco Giants weren’t having an historically surprising season, and if the Houston Astros didn’t own the media narrative win or lose, the rest of the world would probably be tuned into this tone shift, too.
The run differential tells the whole story here. We’re not sure how the Rays have kept up the pace, but they certainly have. Their whole rotation’s changed since the confetti fell after Game 6, but also, nothing’s changed at all.
It really feels like the Dodgers and Rays are headed for a World Series rematch.
The Rays don’t have the same star power advantage as the Dodgers. Naturally. Most close-eyed baseball fans probably can’t rattle off the current, over-performing rotation.
Heck, neither can most Tampa Bay residents. But it simply doesn’t matter. There’s a reason the entire league is trying to emulate the Rays’ infrastructure, whether they have inflated budgets to work with or similar restrictions.
Without Snell, Morton or Tyler Glasnow, the Rays have the third-best ERA in the American League, just behind the Yankees (!!) and those devilish Houston Astros. Surely, that would make the ‘Stros the runaway favorites, right? Given their vaunted offense? Well … about that …
Tampa’s boys have actually outscored Houston 756-726 to lead all of Major League Baseball, buoyed in the second half by the additions of Nelson Cruz, who never misses, and Wander Franco, who never misses a chance to reach base.
Many national baseball viewers don’t have much Rays exposure. They assume they’re a pitching factory that vaults up a dink-and-dunk offense predicated on bunts and hit-and-runs. Based on the 2020 World Series, it was fair to assume this year’s squad would have the same offensive troubles, especially when the lights got brighter.
This year’s Rays team is a distinctly modern offense, though. They strike out. They strike out a lot. They drill home runs. They drill long home runs. And if this year’s offense had met 2020’s pitching staff, LA’s drought might still be in progress.
We tried to run from fate. We tried to hide in the Wild Card Game.
But at the end of the day, it seems an entirely different group of dangerous Rays seem likely to get a shot at revenge when 2021 ends.
Just like absolutely nobody drew it up.