The Cubs attendance is down, but let's not blow this out of proportion

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One thing you hear a lot from frustrated Cubs fans is that management often refuses to do the smart thing because “hey, they know Wrigley will sell out no matter what happens, man.”  I’m not sure that was ever really true, but it’s certainly not true now:

Does it seem like the Cubs are promoting “good tickets still available” this season more than in recent memory? There would be good reason. Attendance is down sharply at Wrigley Field.

After 36 home dates last season, the Cubs had drawn 21 crowds over 40,000. This year they have 11. Last year they had one crowd under 38,000 compared to 11 this season.

I don’t know if “sharply” is the right word to use, nor do I know if “crowds under 38,000” is the best way to measure such a thing.  Yes, attendance is down somewhat: the Cubs are drawing 38,475 a game this year compared to 39,611 last season.  While you have to note that we still have the summer months to get through which should up the averages a bit, attendance will likely be down a bit this year, though not dramatically lower.

But let’s not freak out about it either. Here’s some greater context: attendance last year was down from the 40,000+ a game the team drew in 2007 and 2008.  In the several years before that, however, the team had only a couple of years in their history in which they drew as well as they’re drawing right now. Indeed, if the season ended today, 2010 would be the seventh best year attendance-wise (per game) in the 95 years or so they’ve been in Wrigley Field.

So yeah, they’re down. But that’s from historic peaks, so let’s not get carried away, OK?

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.