Planes, trains, and automobiles … and Chone Figgins

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T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com tells the amusing story of Chone Figgins being a last-minute addition to the All-Star game when Evan Longoria was scratched with an infected finger literally hours before the first pitch:

Chone Figgins was asleep at his Southern California home in Newport
Beach. He was peacefully oblivious to the fact that the American League
was frantically trying to reach him on Tuesday morning and get him to
Busch Stadium as soon as possible. … His plane was scheduled to land
at 5:20 CT, but it arrived about the same time as Air Force One.
President Obama was flying in for the game, and Figgins’ plane had to
wait.

Figgins joked that he thought about asking the president for a ride
to the game. “That would have been nice, but I don’t think that would
have worked,” said Figgins, who received a police escort instead. “We
still had to take an alternate route because of the president. But
having a police escort was cool. That was my All-Star parade.” He
walked into the clubhouse at 6:30 p.m., about 10 minutes before it was
time to go out for the player introductions and opening ceremonies.

Wake-up calls, cross-country flights, police escorts, arriving minutes before going on the field. And of course Figgins didn’t actually play in the game.
“It’s never disappointing,” Figgins said. “Obviously somebody thought I
was deserving of being an All-Star and worked hard to get me here.
That’s all that matters. I would have loved to have gotten in the game,
but for one night I was able to stand on that line and say I was an
All-Star.”

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.