Cardinals hoping to have Brad Penny back in the rotation by mid-June

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Kyle Lohse was back in the Cardinals’ clubhouse yesterday following forearm surgery that’s expected to sideline him for at least two months, but general manager John Mozeliak said the team is unlikely to pursue a veteran replacement for the rotation in part because they expect Brad Penny to return soon.
Penny is on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his upper back and has yet to resume throwing, but Mozeliak told Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he could rejoin the rotation as soon as the middle of this month.
Penny looked like another scrap-heap success story for pitching coach Dave Duncan when he started 3-0 with a 0.94 ERA, but he then lost four straight games while falling back into his old fastball-reliant habits and was placed on the DL following back-to-back ugly outings. However, in nine total starts he’s 3-4 with a 3.23 ERA and 35/9 K/BB ratio in 55.2 innings.
While the Cardinals hope Lohse can pitch again this season and wait for Penny to return, Triple-A call-ups P.J. Walters and Adam Ottavino have been forced into action as the fourth and fifth starters behind Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Jaime Garcia. As a group St. Louis’ rotation leads the NL with a 2.97 ERA, and San Diego (3.12) and San Francisco (3.26) are the only other teams below 3.60.

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.