History Lesson: even great careers rarely end well

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Lar at Wezen-Ball reflects
on the presumptive end of Tom Glavine’s career by looking at how other
first-ballot Hall of Famers — a club Glavine will almost certainly
join — ended theirs:

With everyone talking about the Braves and Tom Glavine this week,
and how unfair the whole situation seems to be, it’s good to remember
that there are many all-time greats whose careers ended in a similar
(or worse) way than Glavine’s seems to have ended. It’s the sad nature
of the game, though, especially as players like Tom Glavine or even Tom
Seaver age beyond the ability for their bodies to come back from
injury.

Still, as true as that may be, we shouldn’t fret. Yes, we all
remember Willie Mays falling down in the outfield as a New York Met or
Dave Winfield failing to make the postseason roster in his final year,
but that’s neither the lasting image nor the last feelings that we have
of these greats. Instead, we remember their power and their grace and
their energy and their attitude from back in their prime. That’s why,
when you think of Babe Ruth, you see him swinging for the fences in
Yankee Stadium or leaning on a bat grinning, and why you see Willie
Mays running out to centerfield to catch that ball when you think of
the Say Hey Kid.

Before reaching that conclusion, Lar runs through excerpts from the
final game stories of multiple legends. Eye-opening stuff for those of
you who think of Reggie Jackson as a Yankee, Dennis Eckersley as an
Athletic, and Steve Carlton as a Phillie.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.