Knee injury, 6.81 ERA get Washburn skipped

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Asked yesterday about reports that he’s been pitching through a knee injury, Jarrod Washburn said: “It’s not new news. It’s been bothering me for three or four months.” Of course, three or four months ago Washburn was pitching well in Seattle and now he’s sporting a 6.81 ERA in six starts with Detroit.
This afternoon manager Jim Leyland announced that the Tigers will skip Washburn’s next scheduled turn in the rotation, with Armando Galarraga returning from Triple-A to take his place Saturday against the Rays. For now the plan is for Washburn to take a week off and then rejoin the rotation on September 10 against the Royals.
“I got skipped once earlier this year in Seattle and it helped quiet it down a little bit so the pain level was tolerable,” Washburn said. “So we figured it was worth another try. Any doctor that’s seen it told me there’s probably some cartilage damage in there, so it’s probably not going to go away.”
Galarraga was a mess prior to his demotion, going 6-10 with a 5.05 ERA in 24 starts thanks largely to the least-effective fastball in the league. Fortunately for the Tigers they have a 4.5-game lead in baseball’s worst division and, unless the Twins turn things around in a hurry, they can focus on getting Washburn as healthy as possible for the playoffs.

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.