The Royals are going to give Kyle Farnsworth a chance to start

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Kyle Farnsworth.JPGI’ll give Royals fans a few moments to clean up the coffee they just spit all over the screen.  Done? Good. Let’s continue. Here’s Royals’ pitching coach Bob McClure:

“Kyle Farnsworth is competing for a job in the rotation. We’re going to lengthen him out and see how it goes. Because what he showed me last year was the ability to back off a
little bit and not pitch with his hair on fire. And, to be a starter,
you have to be able to just kind of go pitch-by-pitch.”

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a pitcher who has done less with more than Kyle Farnsworth. His fastball is not what it once was, but it’s still impressive. He strikes out a lot of people. While he’s no Joel Piniero, he doesn’t walk as many people as a guy with his velocity might be expected to.  He’s had flashes of brilliance. At the same time his ERA is pretty high and almost every time he’s been asked to close or do something moderately more important than get one or two outs in the sixth inning or whatever, he’s failed spectacularly.

What’s his deal?  I’ve never met the guy, but there’s a strong sense out there that he’s a few fries short of a happy meal in the brains department, which manifests itself in a Nuke LaLooshian tendency to throw gas when gas is not necessarily called for. That he just isn’t wired to think about stuff like “this guy sat dead red last time so I should maybe try a curveball this time.” Instead, he thinks “this guy sat dead red last time so I’ll go dead redder.”

All that said, this is probably worth trying if you’re the Royals. They paid Farnsworth too much money to come in and be a middle reliever, so rather than just leave him as a middle reliever, why not see if you can’t squeeze some extra value, or at the very least, extra innings out of him? If he beats the overwhelming odds against him and becomes a serviceable starter, fabulous. If he doesn’t? Well, it’s not like his failure would be the difference between winning the division or not.

In other words, I kind of like it.

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.