Link-O-Rama: Saito getting expensive for Red Sox

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* Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reports that Takashi Saito’s next appearance out of the Red Sox’s bullpen will earn him a $500,000 bonus, and then after that he gets another $500,000 for every five outings. So far Saito’s incentive-laden contract has paid him $5 million for 48.2 innings of a 2.59 ERA and 46/21 K/BB ratio.
Boston holds a 2010 team option on Saito that is based on his final 2009 salary, which makes any bonus money he earns this month particularly important. Right now my guess is that the 40-year-old won’t be back with the Red Sox next season, but he’s certainly pitched well.
* Venezuela defeated the United States in the World Cup opener last night, as Marlins minor leaguer Nate Field served up a grand slam in the 11th inning. Team USA will now have to beat both Germany and China to advance to the second round.
* Boxing promoter Bob Arum and Yankees officials talked yesterday about possibly holding marquee fights at the new Yankee Stadium. Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com notes that Arum was the promoter behind the Muhammad Ali-Ken Norton fight at the old Yankee Stadium in 1976.
* Not only has reliever Craig Breslow posted a 3.00 ERA and 37/16 K/BB ratio in 45 innings for the A’s since the Twins misguidedly put him on waivers, he might be the smartest player in baseball.

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.