Sports Illustrated Writer: contract the Pirates!

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Paul Daugherty, usually of the Cincinnati Enquirer, but writing here for Sports Illustrated, saw just about all he needed to see from the Pirates last week:

In the seven days between April 20 and 26, the Pirates were outscored
72-12. Not by the Yankees, or even the Jets, but by the Brewers and the
Houston Astros. This isn’t Major League Baseball in any way, except
embarrassment.

Break up the Pirates.

No, really.
Dismantle them player by player. Melt them down. Paperweights and
doorstops for everyone.

Daugherty bases his argument on more than just the shellacking at the hands of the Brewers and Astros, of course. The 17 years of futility enter into it, as well as charges that the Pirates don’t spend their revenue sharing money to actually make the team better.

Which doesn’t exactly square with the union’s position, which I wrote about last week.  The union believes that the Pirates are not, like the Marlins, squandering money to make the team better or otherwise acting poorly as an organization. Sure, that’s just one group’s opinion of the matter, but doesn’t it follow that the first ones to scream if the Pirates were mismanaging the store would be the union?

And as for those 17 years, the vast majority of them occurred under different ownership and different management.  It’s cold comfort to Pirates fans who can’t necessarily be expected to care what regime is presiding over the bad on-the-field product, but Daugherty knows that different people are in charge now, and unless he’s in radical disagreement with most people who know a little bit about the subject, he has to acknowledge that things are better now than they were just a few short years ago.

I know it’s bleak in Pittsburgh, but it’s not hopeless, and this brand of overreaction doesn’t seem to reflect what’s really going on in the organization.

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.