Robertson thriving as Yankees' secret weapon

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In previewing the Yankees’ playoff pitching staff most of the focus was understandably on the CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte three-man rotation and the Mariano Rivera, Phil Hughes, and Joba Chamberlain three-man bullpen.
Because of off days and matchups those six guys figured to do just about all the relevant pitching for New York in the postseason, but two extra-inning games and Joe Girardi’s quick hooks have caused the Yankees to also rely upon David Robertson and the 24-year-old right-hander has emerged as another outstanding late-inning option.
Robertson has made a pair of appearances in the playoffs so far, working out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the 11th inning of ALDS Game 2 and then pitching a scoreless 13th frame in ALCS Game 2. He picked up the victory in both outings, which as Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes isn’t exactly how things were supposed to go for a rookie who missed most of September with an elbow injury.
However, when healthy Robertson shutting down hitters shouldn’t come as a surprise. He had a 3.30 ERA, 63/23 K/BB ratio, and .216 opponents’ batting average in 43.2 innings during the regular season, posting the highest strikeout rate among all big-league pitchers with at least 40 innings. And in a 25-game stint with the Yankees last season he struck out 36 batters in 30.1 frames.
Robertson’s minor-league track record is impeccable, with a 1.30 ERA and 215 strikeouts versus just 85 hits allowed in 152.2 innings since the Yankees selected him in the 17th round of the 2006 draft from the University of Alabama. Robertson’s emergence this season not only gives the Yankees an extra late-inning option during the playoffs, it gives them the flexibility to make Chamberlain and/or Hughes full-time starters in 2010.

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.