Fans reject Manny and A-Rod for the right reasons

Leave a comment

There are all kinds of interesting angles to take on the All-Star
rosters that were announced yesterday, and we’ll certainly be getting
to those over the coming days. One of the ones I don’t
think anyone here at CTB would be inclined to take, however, is how the
failure of Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez to make the All-Star team
represented an anti-PED statement by the voters. That doesn’t stop MLB.com’s Mike Bauman, however:

A record 223.5 million votes were cast for the 2009 All-Star Game
selections. Without pandering to the audience, this process had both
quantity and quality. And it was notable not only for which players the
fans elected, but which players the fans did NOT elect . . . In the
latter category, the most prominent names would be Manny Ramirez and
Alex Rodriguez. Both were linked this year to performance-enhancing
drugs. Rodriguez was forced to admit his usage of PEDs . . . The voters
are to be congratulated for not turning a blind eye to these offenses .
. . By omitting this pair, the fans and the players have essentially
taken a stand against the use of PEDs.

That’s one way to think about it. The other way to think about it is to
say that the voters have not turned a blind eye to the fact that Evan
Longoria is a heck of a lot more deserving than a guy who has hit .244
in limited play and that Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, and Carlos Beltran
(and Matt Kemp and a bunch of other guys) are all more deserving than a
guy who has played in only 35% of his team’s games this season.

Sure, the fans rejecting the cheaters en masse makes for a
nice story and everything, but it’s not like keeping Manny and A-Rod
out of the All-Star game requires some political statement. Neither is
deserving on the merits and neither made it. Given that, with the large
exception of Josh Hamilton, the fans did a pretty good job with the
votes, I’d offer that their exclusion was a baseball judgment, not a
political one.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.