Mets' Reyes could bat third… for a little while

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Mets manager Jerry Manuel has already come up with his first big idea of the spring; he wants to bat usual leadoff man Jose Reyes third, though only until Carlos Beltran returns from knee surgery.
“Reyes, in my opinion, has evolved,” Manuel told the New York Post “I could really stretch our lineup out if he is able to handle that spot.”
By stretching out the lineup, Manuel means he could place his lousier hitters at both the top and bottom of the order, rather than congregate them all in the fifth-through-eighth spots.
Reyes told SNY that he would be OK with the idea:
“Whatever spot he puts me in the lineup, I’m going to be able to do it. Whatever is best for the team, I’m going to do it. So let’s see what happens. He said when Beltran comes back, I’m going to be the leadoff guy again. I don’t know if he’s sure right now. We just talked about it yesterday. He doesn’t know if it’s going to happen or not. He’s going to think about it… He’s the boss. Whatever he says I’ll do it. I just want to be on the field playing baseball.”
I naturally assumed that David Wright, the best OBP guy on the team, would bat third with Beltran sidelined. However, it looks like Manuel still wants him in the fifth spot. As things stand now, this could be the Mets’ Opening Day lineup, along with each player’s career OBP:
1. Angel Pagan – CF – .331
2. Luis Castillo – 2B – .369
3. Jose Reyes – SS – .337
4. Jason Bay – LF – .376
5. David Wright – 3B – .389
6. Jeff Francoeur – RF – .311
7. David Murphy – 1B – .331
8. Omir Santos – C – .290
Reyes’ career mark doesn’t describe the player he is now — he’s been between .350 and .360 each of the last four seasons (including the 36 games last year before he got hurt). But to say that he’s evolved is baffling. He took a huge step forward in 2006, but he hasn’t gotten any better at all since. There’s little if anything to be gained by moving him down to the third spot for a month, and it actually could spell disaster if Reyes thinks it means he should focus more on hitting for power than getting on base.

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.