Daily Dose: Philly close to signing Pedro?

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Reports surfaced early this week that the Phillies had renewed interest
in Pedro Martinez and now it sounds like the two sides could be close
to a deal. Martinez said Thursday that his agent is negotiating with
the Phillies after they scouted his workout Tuesday and a report out of
the Dominican Republic even claimed that a one-year deal worth $4
million was already in place.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. refuted reports of a done deal, but
clearly the Phillies are seriously interested in Martinez and an
official announcement by the end of the week wouldn’t be surprising. If
healthy he remains capable of being a solid fourth or fifth starter for
a contending team like the Phillies, but Martinez will probably need
some time to shake the rust off before being an NL-only option.

While the Phillies hope that Martinez has another half-dozen wins
left in the tank, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Joel Pineiro tossed his third complete game of the year Thursday
as Milwaukee managed just one run on three hits and no walks. Pineiro
is having a career year with a 3.20 ERA through 17 starts, yet with
just 48 strikeouts in 115.1 innings his strikeout rate is horrible
after previously just being poor. Instead of missing more bats he’s
simply become the most extreme ground-ball pitcher in the league.

He recorded 19 ground-ball outs Thursday and is the only starter in
the league to induce a ground ball on over 60 percent of his balls in
play, which is remarkable given that Pineiro never even cracked 50
percent grounders from 2000-2008. In the past hitters have teed off on
his low-90s fastball, but now he’s working in the high-80s with
significantly more sink and the results are amazing.

* Ozzie Guillen was very pessimistic Thursday when asked about
Carlos Quentin returning from his foot problems, saying that he expects
him to remain out for “a while.” Quentin has already played multiple
games on his rehab stint at Triple-A, so Guillen admitted that he
“maybe” ready shortly after the All-Star break despite wanting to avoid
rushing him back until “he’s ready to help us here.”

* Dusty Baker announced Thursday that he’s benching Jay Bruce for at
least two days in an effort to break the recent slump that has his
batting average down to .209. “I’m letting him clear his head, like
Jimmy Rollins … and Magglio Ordonez,” Baker said. While his average
isn’t pretty, Bruce is actually showing more power and plate discipline
than last year and his OPS is only down about five percent.

* David Price showed how great he can be when he actually throws the
ball over the plate Thursday, holding Toronto to one run over six
innings while out-dueling Roy Halladay with seven strikeouts and one
walk. Price has been maddeningly inconsistent while going 3-3 with a
4.70 ERA overall, but has 47 strikeouts and a .241 opponents’ batting
average in 44 innings. He’s very close to breaking out.

AL Quick Hits: J.P. Howell received Thursday off, so Dan Wheeler
picked up his first save of the season … Brandon Inge won the “Final
Vote” competition for the AL’s last All-Star roster spot, beating out
Ian Kinsler … Clayton Richard is in danger of being replaced in the
rotation by Bartolo Colon after struggling again Thursday … Ryan Garko
started in the outfield Thursday for the eighth time this season and
went 4-for-5 at the plate … Kevin Slowey (wrist) is slated to begin a
throwing program Friday … Mark Teixeira took Francisco Liriano deep
Thursday for his first homer since June 12 … Cardinals general manager
John Mozeliak indicated Thursday that he’ll contact the Blue Jays about
Roy Halladay … After having his rehab delayed by a knee injury, Jed
Lowrie (wrist) is set to come off the disabled list within the next two
weeks … Handed nine runs of support, David Huff couldn’t make it
through five innings to get the win Thursday.

NL Quick Hits: Manny Parra returned to the Brewers’ rotation
with seven shutout innings Thursday … Manny Ramirez went 2-for-2 with
two RBIs and two walks Thursday … Shane Victorino won the “Final Vote”
competition for the NL’s last All-Star roster spot, beating out Pablo
Sandoval … Raul Ibanez (groin) is slated to come off the disabled list
Friday after being out since June 18 … Matt Kemp went 3-for-4 while
again batting eighth in the Dodgers’ lineup Thursday … Javier Vazquez
has been scratched from his scheduled Sunday start due to a strained
abdominal muscle … Fernando Martinez (knee) and his .517 OPS landed on
the disabled list Thursday … Kyle Lohse (forearm) is scheduled to
rejoin the rotation Sunday … Orlando Hudson left Thursday’s game after
being hit on the knee by a pitch … Livan Hernandez coughed up eight
runs on 11 hits Thursday, finishing the first half at 5-5 with a 5.10
ERA … John Bowker could have some NL-only value after being called up
Thursday by the Giants.

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.