Teixeira not critical to Boston's future

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Two stories about how the Red Sox missed out on getting Mark Teixeira this past offseason, one in the Boston Globe:

. . . come the end of this season, particularly if the Red Sox fail
to retain Jason Bay, the Yankees’ signing of Teixeira at the Red Sox’
expense could loom as a pivotal turning point in baseball’s fiercest
division . . . [Teixeira] might have been the centerpiece of the Boston
lineup for years to come. Given the struggles of Ortiz, the Sox’
failure to sign Teixeira now leaves them with something of a long-term
predicament offensively.

And one in the New York Times, which ties it specifically to the Sox-Yanks rivalry, with the headline “Teixeira Altered Dynamics of Red Sox-Yankees Rivalry.”

The question caused Alex Rodriguez to put his palms on the side of
his head, smile and utter, “Wow.” It was Rodriguez’s animated,
one-syllable response to how dramatically different the rivalry between
the Yankees and the Red Sox would have been if Mark Teixeira had signed
with Boston . . . The Red Sox positioned their off-season around
signing Teixeira, a player who would have fit snugly into their desire
for shrewd, patient hitters who play stellar defense. If the Red Sox
were assigned the task of building the perfect player, they would have
constructed someone who hit, fielded, walked and talked like Teixeira.

Only brief mention of the facts that (a) The Sox have yet to lose to
the Yankees this year, so the dynamics haven’t been altered that
much; (b) that the Red Sox have a really good first base prospect in
Lars Anderson; and (c) even if Anderson doesn’t pan out, it’s been a
very long time since the Red Sox were a team that allowed itself to
have gaping holes anywhere. If Bay bolts, they’ll find a way to patch
the holes and will remain competitive. That’s just what they do. So
yes, having Mark Teixeira in Boston would have changed things a bit,
but I think it’s really easy to oversell this storyline. They’ll find
someone else. They always do.

But hey, the Yankees are playing the Red Sox this week, and overselling everything that goes with that is part of the territory.

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.