Derrek Lee is sick of the Marlon Byrd-Milton Bradley comparisons

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Derrek Lee swinging.jpgIt’s been one of the more predictable and boring storylines early in camp, as referenced here and here, and Derrek Lee has already had enough. During an appearance on a Chicago radio show, the Cubs first baseman said the following regarding the Byrd-Bradley comparisons:

“It’s ridiculous,” Lee told Bruce Levine and Jonathan Hood on ESPN
1000’s “Talkin’ Baseball” Saturday morning. “If it was a white guy who
came over [to the Cubs] would he be [called] the ‘anti-Milton Bradley’?
It just makes no sense. Marlon’s a completely different guy. He wasn’t
traded for Milton. He signed here as a free agent, so why even bring
Milton Bradley’s name into it? It really makes no sense and it’s just,
again, the media trying to make something out of nothing.”

It would be pretty reckless to couple Byrd with Bradley based solely on race, and I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of that in the press. They’ve been stressing the contrast, if anything. I can’t help but think that these comparisons were inevitable, even if the Cubs signed Rick Ankiel or Scott Podsednik, but the fact that the two were teammates in Texas plays into this, at least a little bit.

While this is ultimately a needless distraction, Lee laments that comments by former Cubs Bradley and Jacque Jones could keep other African-American players away from Chicago:

“It’s definitely not a positive when you’re looking at coming to
Chicago,” Lee said. “But I think overall, the positives do outweigh the
negatives and we’re baseball players, so we’re pretty good at kind of
blocking out all of that outside stuff and focusing on in between the
lines. And in between the lines, Chicago’s a good place to play.”

Kerry Wood recently acknowledged that he personally witnessed African-American players who received hate mail during his time with the Cubs, but it would be very dangerous to single out Chicago when we know that this goes on in other places. We just don’t hear about 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.