The Cubs praise Greg Maddux

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Lots of love from the Cubs about all the help Greg Maddux have them as a special assistant/jack-of-all-trades in Mesa this spring:

The former Cubs and Braves pitcher dabbled in a variety of duties
this spring, from watching pitchers to scouting to even throwing a
little batting practice. One day this past spring, Minor League catcher Chris Robinson was at
Fitch Park, and the Cubs were short of coaches to throw batting
practice. Maddux volunteered, threw a couple times to warm up, then
asked Robinson what he wanted to work on. Maddux then pinpointed the
pitches exactly where Robinson wanted . . .

. . . On a rainy day in February, Maddux was standing behind pitcher Jeff
Stevens, who was throwing in the batting cages. Stevens’ assignment was
to throw 20 pitches, rest, then throw another 20. After he began, Maddux
made a suggestion. “He’s pretty soft-spoken,” Stevens said. “He’d whisper one thing to you
— you’re going to trust him. He said, ‘Throw a slider here.’ He would
help me with sequence and gave me perspective.

And then you see what happened to the Cubs yesterday and you realize the full depth and breadth of the Braves master plan. It begins with Greg Maddux: double agent.  Step two will be revealed tomorrow.

Why no, I’m not bitter or jealous that my favorite player of all time has foresaken the team with which he had the most success and provided me the most joy for the team that never loved him the way we, er, I mean, the Braves loved him. No sir.

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.