A 2020 World Series didn’t necessarily look all that likely back in mid-July. But 60 regular season games and 16 playoff teams later, we’re down to the best team in each league — or at least the one sporting the best regular season record.
And with Game 1 now just hours away, our staff has made their thoughts clear on how to bet the Glasnow vs. Kershaw opener (8:09 p.m. ET, FOX).
Let’s take a look.
Advanced Stats Glossary
FIP or Fielding Independent Pitching measures what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if the pitcher experienced league-average defense and luck. xFIP is a regressed version of FIP that adjusts or “normalizes’ the home run component based on park factors.
wRC+ or Weighted Runs Created Plus takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for critical external factors — like ballpark or era. It’s adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average, and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.
wOBA or Weighted On-Base Average is a catch-all hitting metric with more predictive value than on-base percentage. An average MLB hitter can be expected to post a .320 wOBA. xwOBA is a regressed version of wOBA that accounts for variables like park factors.
Sean Zerillo: Rays Moneyline (+155)
From Zerillo’s Game 1 Preview, on bullpens:
The Rays can present 14 unique arm angles over the course of a series, while the Dodgers can throw up to 10.
Here is what the Astros saw in Game 1 of the ALCS, for example:
Perhaps having a diversity of arm angles is the new way to gain that extra 2% win probability.
Bullpen stats can be misleading — the Rays often use Ryan Yarbrough as a reliever, technically, even though he throws starter-level winnings. And as you have likely noticed, the Dodgers won’t hesitate to use Dustin May or Julio Urias in relief in order to lock down a game.
With regards to Game 1, the Dodgers will likely want to keep both Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol in reserve. Treinen tossed five innings (52 pitches) over the final three games of the NLCS, while Graterol appeared three times in the final four games (40 pitches).
The Rays bullpen will benefit from getting an extra day of rest following the ALCS, with additional days of rest during the series to recover their best arms.
Michael Arinze: Rays Moneyline (+155)
After making their third World Series in four years, the Los Angeles Dodgers will go with Clayton Kershaw as their Game 1 starter while the Tampa Bay Rays have opted for Tyler Glasnow. This will be just the Rays’ second World Series appearance in history, and it’s no surprise to see them enter this series as underdogs. However, there should be plenty of spots where the dog in this series will have value, and Game 1 provides a great example.
The Rays come into this game with an extra day’s rest after wrapping up their series with the Houston Astros on Saturday. Glasnow last pitched on Wednesday last week and will be on normal rest while Kershaw will be on only four days’ rest. Kershaw already had to have a start pushed back in the NLCS after having back spasms so clearly he’s a pitcher you’d want to have on full rest.
Despite his Hall of Fame credentials, the Dodgers southpaw is just 11-12 with a 4.31 ERA in the postseason and 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in the World Series. For some reason, it hasn’t worked out for him in the playoffs, particularly in pressure situations, and it’ll be all eyes on him yet again in this Game 1 start.
Kershaw will need to be wary of a Rays team that has hit more home runs (25) than any other team in the playoffs. Per Baseball Savant, his best pitches — using whiff rate and PutAway% — are his slider (35% / 22.7%) and curveball (24.7% / 20.6%). However, he’ll be facing a Rays team that has had success this season against the slider (4.3 runs above average) and the curveball (12 runs above average).
As for Glasnow, he mixes in a curveball and changeup with an elite fastball that averages around 96.9 mph. His curveball is likely his best pitch as he generates a 52.8% whiff rate and 36% PutAway% with Uncle Charlie. While Los Angeles is batting 3.1 runs above average against the pitch, it’ll also have to contend with Glasnow’s fastball which can top out anywhere from 97 to 100 mph.
The Dodgers ability to create runs as evidenced by their league-leading 122 wRC+ rating makes them a slight favorite for me in this matchup. My model actually projects their odds at -130 with the Rays at +117. The fact that I can grab the Rays at +155 in the marketplace makes me inclined to grab the value and back the dog in this matchup.
I’m comfortable playing this down to +130.
[Bet the Rays at PointsBet tonight and win $125 if they get a hit.]
Mike Vitanza: F5 Over 3.5 (-124)
Both Clayton Kershaw and Tyler Glasnow have struggled over the course of their last few postseason starts.
Despite a stellar regular season, Kershaw has pitched to a 5.93 ERA and allowed seven earned runs — including three homes runs — over his past two games. On the other side, Glasnow has also not quite been what the Rays hoped for in October. Over 19.1 innings, he’s compiled a 5.88 FIP and allowed 2.8 HR/9. In fact, he’s allowed two home runs in three of four postseason starts this year.
When diving deeper into each pitcher’s career postseason history, the numbers bear a similar story. Kershaw’s struggles have been well documented — over 35 postseason appearances, he has a 4.31 ERA and has allowed 1.4 HR/9, both of which are substantially higher than the 2.43 ERA and 0.7 HR/9 he’s compiled during his career.
Glasnow has had a similar result. While he’s had considerably fewer postseason opportunities than Kershaw, he’s pitched to a 5.40 FIP and allowed 2.4 HR/9 over 26.1 total innings.
While this World Series game is between two ace-caliber pitchers, the postseason history for each has yielded a very different outcome.
Both of these offenses have proven capable of taking advantage of pitchers that were not on the top of their game throughout this postseason, which is something that I don’t expect to change for Game 1.
I’m taking Over 3.5 runs in the first five innings and am comfortable betting this up to -130.
BJ Cunningham: Dodgers Team Total Over 4.5 (+117)
Tyler Glasnow posted the third-best xFIP (2.46) among all qualified pitchers during the regular season. His effectiveness is dependent on his fastball, which averages nearly 97 mph and can top out over 100 mph, but it’s not just about power with Glasnow. He also has elite control of his heater, which he throws over 60% of the time.
Glasnow’s fastball is backed up by an elite curveball, which allowed a meager .120 batting average and produced a 52.8% whiff rate.
Even though Glasnow has great stuff, he hasn’t been elite by any means in the postseason. He’s posted a 4.66 ERA, 3.74 xFIP, and has allowed six homers in eight starts. The Dodgers are going to be the best lineup he’s faced all season, so he’d better improve his control or his World Series debut could be a short one.
The Dodgers owned right-handers in 2020, reporting a .355 wOBA and an MLB-best 126 wRC+ against righties. Mookie Betts, Will Smith and Corey Seager are three of the best players in the MLB when it comes to facing right-handers, as they all posted a wOBA better than .415 during the regular season.
And what happens to be the one pitch the Dodgers annihilate? Fastballs. LA was second best to only the Braves this season against fastballs, accumulating 53.9 weighted fastball runs.
Not to play into the storyline of Kershaw in the playoffs, but I really like the Dodgers matchup offensively in Game 1. So instead of taking the moneyline or run line, I’ll take the Dodgers team total Over 4.5 at +117 (I have them projected for 4.68 runs in Game 1).
That way if Kershaw implodes, my bet is still alive.
[Bet the Dodgers at PointsBet tonight and win $125 if they get a hit.]