Anatomy of the Halladay swap

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Halladay Phillies.jpgIf you’re snowed in like me, or just
have a few minutes to kill before football dominates the day, I
recommend reading Andy Martino’s excellent piece from the Philadelphia
Inquirer
recounting Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro’s pursuit of ace Roy Halladay.



Of course, the Phillies tried for
Roy Halladay in July, but the talks were rekindled with one simple
conversation at the November GM meetings in Chicago, when Amaro and his lieutenants approached new general manager Alex Anthopoulos
waiting for an elevator at the O’Hare Hilton.

I want to ask you something,” Amaro said, according to Anthopoulos.

The two walked down a hallway and chatted about Halladay.

Amaro was direct and aggressive. “What’s your asking price?” he
said, before offering Anthopoulos a few days to think about his answer
and get back to the Phillies. 

But the Toronto GM did not need any time; he remembered the player he’d been most impressed with in July.

“We like Drabek,” he said.

Martino touches on all aspects of
the trade, including the failed attempt to deal Joe Blanton and the
subsequent decision to trade Cliff Lee, the almost-trade of Phillippe
Aumont and Tyson Gillies to the Blue Jays and the madness of the
“flunked physical” that wasn’t. It’s a fascinating piece, not just
because of the complexity of the trade, but Amaro’s overt determination
to have Halladay in Philadelphia at any cost, even if it meant dealing
away a postseason hero.

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.