Astros shortstop Tommy Manzella breaks finger, out six weeks

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It’s a tough blow for a 27-year-old who probably isn’t in line for many chances to establish himself in the big leagues.
Tommy Manzella, who took over as the Astros’ shortstop when Miguel Tejada was allowed to leave over the winter, will miss six weeks after being diagnosed with a fractured left index finger. The team called up Oswaldo Navarro to replace him.
Manzella’s calling card is his glove, but he did improve to .289/.339/.417 in 580 at-bats in Triple-A last year, giving the Astros some hope that he wouldn’t be a complete offensive zero this season.
Unfortunately, he’s regressed substantially. Manzella was hitting just .212/.259/.254 in 189 at-bats. Not only wasn’t he showing any power, but he wasn’t even making contact, having struck out 57 times.
The Astros will use Navarro and Geoff Blum at shortstop for now.
Navarro debuted in the majors with the Mariners as a 21-year-old in 2006, but he hadn’t been back since until appearing in three games with Houston last month. He was hitting .298/.400/.466 while splitting time between short and second for Triple-A Round Rock, so he’s worthy of the opportunity. If he hits, then Manzella might not have a job awaiting him when he returns.
Blum, of course, offers oodles of veteran presence to go along with a 555 OPS in 115 at-bats this season and a third baseman’s range. With any luck, he’ll remain on the bench while Navarro is given a chance to seize the job.

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.