A potentially significant Cuban defection

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Via MLB Trade rumors comes word that a 21 year-old Cuban pitcher with a 100 m.p.h. fastball has defected (source, in Spanish, here).
His name is Aroldis Chapman — a guy who, if he harnesses his stuff and
makes the bigs, will likely go by the name “A-Chap” — and he pitched
for Cuba in the WBC. FanGraphs’ R.J. Anderson broke his stuff down during the tournament:

The 21-year-old left-hander will be remembered for his velocity
readings as much as anything since he threw more than 70% fastballs and
recorded an average velocity of 93 miles per hour. On his 12th pitch of
the afternoon Chapman hit triple digits with a staggering 100.2 miles
per hour. As the game’s announcers noted — in between giving us
updates on Chapman’s LiveJournal mood — Chapman has apparently hit 102
miles per hour in Cuban competition.

If you’re wondering why I’m not discussing Chapman’s off-speed stuff
much, that’s because he didn’t throw much of it it. Chapman’s slider
seems to have potential with excellent bend. It’s simply a matter of
harnessing control and command of the pitch. Something that may or may
not happen.

I think Crash Davis said it best: “Christ, you don’t need a
quadrophonic Blaupunkt! What you need is a curveball! In the show,
everyone can hit heat.”

Whether Mr. Chapman makes the show, then, will likely depend on
whether he can find that command and control Anderson was talking
about. Not that someone won’t give him a couple of million before then
banking that he can.

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.