Giants prospect Madison Bumgarner is a mess

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Madison Bumgarner was the 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft and ranked as the game’s ninth-best prospect by Baseball America heading into last season, one spot ahead of Rangers flamethrower Neftali Feliz.
He lived up to the hype, going 12-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 25 starts between Single-A and Double-A, and reached the majors a month after his 20th birthday. Unfortunately once there Bumgarner’s velocity was well below his peak levels, with his average fastball clocking in at 89.2 miles per hour.
Certainly plenty of 19-year-old pitchers tire late during a season, so Baseball America ranked him as the game’s 14th-best prospect this season and Bumgarner’s declining velocity wasn’t a huge story until he showed up at spring training to compete for the fifth spot in the Giants’ rotation. His fastball rarely topped the mid-80s and he predictably got rocked for a 6.43 ERA while handing out seven walks with zero strikeouts.
Bumgarner lost the fifth-starter competition to veteran Todd Wellemeyer and reported to Triple-A, where things have gotten even worse. He gave up 11 hits over three innings in his debut last week and was pasted for seven runs on 10 hits in four innings yesterday. Through two starts Bumgarner has a 14.14 ERA and .538 opponents’ batting average after coming into the season with a 27-5 record and 1.65 ERA in the minors.
In the span of just a couple months he’s gone from elite prospect competing for a rotation spot at age 20 to likely midseason call-up to … well, now it’s tough to figure exactly what the Giants plan to do with Bumgarner. His fastball is missing 5-10 miles per hour and Triple-A hitters are teeing off on him. Something clearly isn’t right with him physically at this point and the Giants need to figure it out before things get totally out of hand.

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.