The most important players of the 2020 World Series

The 2020 World Series was an exciting one, featuring some excellent individual performances and some inspiring narratives. But if you’re a typical college student or anyone with work to do, chances are you couldn’t catch every iconic moment of the championship games. So without further ado, here are the two best player stories you need to know after the 2020 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays.

“Some dude named Randy” is a complete beast

While plenty of players stepped up for both teams, Tampa Bay’s star rookie Randy Arozarena continued his insane postseason run during the World Series despite critics citing a “hot streak” at the plate that was bound to end. 

Despite the Dodgers’ talented pitching rotation featuring accomplished arms like Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, Arozarena managed to hit for a .364 batting average and a whopping 1.234 OPS, leading the Rays for the World Series, according to Baseball Reference

That just continues a streak for Arozarena this postseason, as his stat line for the entire playoffs for 2020 is just as eye-popping. MLB.com shows that Arozarena logged a .377 batting average and 1.273 OPS for the entire postseason in 2020, a set of data even more incredible when you consider he had more postseason at-bats than any other player, according to Baseball Reference.

The more astonishing part of this story is that Arozarena was a rookie this season. After playing in only a few games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019, Arozarena was traded to the Rays and exploded once the team made the playoffs. His unknown status prior to the playoffs led to him being dubbed “some dude named Randy” by fans everywhere, making for one of the most exciting underdog tales of this 2020 postseason.

Arozarena was flat-out dominant, but who else shined in the 2020 postseason? Corey Seager was a fantastic hitter for the Dodgers, but there is a more important Los Angeles player whose postseason glory was long overdue entering the playoffs this year.

Kershaw finally redeems himself

If Randy Arozarena’s rise to baseball stardom is the rookie story of the year, then Clayton Kershaw’s redemption arc is the grizzled veteran parallel to it.

Kershaw, the Dodgers’ star pitcher who has been dominating in the league for years and is a sure bet to make the Hall of Fame once he retires, has historically struggled in the playoffs. The most recent of these struggles came in last year’s playoffs — where he allowed back-to-back homers against the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS — leading to Los Angeles being eliminated from the postseason.

These struggles span beyond last year, though. Kershaw has also previously allowed an all-time record of 4 home runs in a single playoff game. Kershaw’s playoff record before 2020 was 9-11 and paired with an ERA over 4, according to CBS Sports

Perhaps the most striking thing about Clayton Kershaw’s lackluster postseason track record, however, is his ERA in elimination games: 5.77 prior to this year. That’s the second-worst ever.

But just like Arozarena came from nowhere to write a new narrative, so did the veteran Kershaw. Despite having a slower fastball than ever, despite his team playing in such a strange COVID-19 influenced environment and despite the rampant criticism about his postseason performances in the past, Kershaw dominated in the playoffs.

Kershaw notched a 4-1 record while racking up a 2.93 ERA over 30.2 innings pitched. The stats don’t set the world on fire, of course, but they showcase what Kershaw had failed to be in the playoffs until 2020: a dependable and great pitcher. 

It should be noted that the lone loss came in Game 4 of the NLCS where Kershaw was solid for six innings, only for the opposing pitcher Bryce Wilson to allow just a single hit over his six innings. In every other start of the postseason, Kershaw gave the Dodgers exactly what they needed and helped lead them to a World Series title.

Looking back on the 2020 MLB Postseason, it’s safe to say that the narratives and matchups did not disappoint. With the season over and champions crowned, MLB players, fans and executives will look towards the MVP and Awards voting and the offseason in the future.