Daily Dose: Dodgers kennel O-Dog

Leave a comment

Orlando Hudson has been a very nice pickup for the Dodgers, batting .288/.357/.417 in 139 games after inking an incentive-laden one-year contract this offseason, which is exactly the type of production that you’d expect from a career .283/.347/.431 hitter. However, the three-time Gold Glove winner’s defense has slipped a bit on the wrong side of 30 and Ronnie Belliard’s hot bat since joining the team has Hudson benched.
Belliard started at second base Sunday for the third time in four games and manager Joe Torre indicated that he’ll stick with the midseason acquisition who’s hit .304 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 18 games since arriving from Washington. Los Angeles has a postseason spot locked up, so who plays second base for the next two weeks is of little importance, but Hudson is a better player and should play in the playoffs.
Along with the on-field impact of benching Hudson for Belliard, the off-field impact is that the incentive-filled one-year pact pays Hudson $10,000 per plate appearance at this point. He stands to lose $100,000 or so down the stretch, but deserves credit for saying all the right things when asked about the situation. Hudson has earned about $4 million in incentives along with $3.4 million in guaranteed money so far.
While the Dodgers decide to shake things up with about eight percent of the season remaining, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Marco Scutaro came into this season as a 33-year-old lifetime .261/.325/.377 hitter, but has obliterated his previous career-highs in almost every key category by batting .282/.379/.409 with 12 homers, 35 doubles, 14 steals, 90 walks, and 100 runs in 144 games for Toronto. Scutaro always showed that type of promise as a minor leaguer, but for whatever reason that plate discipline and power rarely surfaced previously.
Unfortunately his breakout season may be over thanks to a lingering heel injury that he aggravated Sunday. “I’m pretty sure that he’s probably not going to play the rest of the season,” manager Cito Gaston revealed Monday. As an impending free agent Scutaro has earned himself a ton of money during the past six months and should be able to at least quadruple this season’s $1.1 million salary on the open market.
* Aroldis Chapman hasn’t made many headlines since defecting from Cuba in July, but the 21-year-old elite pitching prospect took the next step toward becoming a free agent Monday by establishing residency in the small European country of Andorra. He’s petitioned MLB for free-agent status and may officially be on the open market at some point within the next month.
Some people question Chapman’s true age and there’s plenty of disagreement about his long-term upside, but there’s no doubt that he’s about to become a very rich man. Expect a bidding war between the usual big-payroll suspects like the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Angels, and Dodgers. If eligible for the draft Chapman would almost surely be a top-five pick, but he’s not necessarily ready to make a fantasy impact in 2010.
AL Quick Hits: Denard Span left Monday’s game after being plunked on the helmet by a pitch, but walked off the field under his own power … Chad Gaudin has officially replaced Sergio Mitre in the Yankees’ rotation … Jarrod Saltalamacchia underwent surgery Monday for thoracic outlet syndrome and hopes to be fully healthy for spring training … Daniel Hudson showed some promise in his first MLB start Monday, but took a loss against Minnesota … Junichi Tazawa was placed on the 60-day disabled list Monday with a mild groin strain … Rob Johnson injured his ankle celebrating the Mariners’ walk-off victory Friday night … Kevin Millwood triggered his $12 million for next season by going over the 180-inning mark Monday … Nick Blackburn turned in seven shutout innings Monday to give him almost identical numbers to last season.
NL Quick Hits: Cecil Cooper was fired Monday after managing Houston to a 171-170 record in two-plus seasons at the helm, with third-base coach Dave Clark taking the interim title … Jose Reyes (hamstring) took batting practice Monday and still hopes to play again this season … J.J. Hardy started Monday over Alcides Escobar for the third time in four games … Pittsburgh will reportedly pursue free agent Rick Ankiel this offseason and may also try to re-sign John Grabow … Troy Glaus (oblique) may sit out the Cardinals’ entire nine-game road trip … Ted Lilly has been scratched from his scheduled Wednesday start with shoulder soreness, so Jeff Samardzija will take his place … After another mid-game benching, it seems as though Yunel Escobar is wearing out his welcome in Atlanta … Sidelined since July with a broken foot, Reed Johnson returned from the disabled list Monday … Brett Myers is unavailable out of the Phillies’ bullpen because of shoulder soreness.

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.