A.J. Hinch talks about his firing

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Former Dbacks’ skipper A.J. Hinch was on KTAR radio in Phoenix yesterday talking about getting axed.  He’s mostly diplomatic, talking about how wins and losses are all that matter, but there are times when it seems pretty clear that he resents the fact that his team basically mutinied on him right after he got the job.  Stuff like this:

Handling players, getting people to calm down, I wish I would’ve
been able to do that quicker last summer and been able to move on. … For
the first part of my tenure, it wasn’t about the baseball. It was about
my age and my inexperience as a manager and the hostility on our team.

I don’t know that there’s any way to deal with that kind of skepticism other than to win like a mofo right out of the box. Hinch’s Dbacks lost six of his first seven games, and you can bet that by game five the “who in the hell does this guy think he is” meme had taken hold pretty firmly.

Like I said last week: hiring Hinch was unconventional thinking. I kind of like unconventional thinking so part of me wanted to see the Dbacks’ little experiment succed, but baseball in general does not.  Hinch was probably doomed from the get-go, and as a result, I bet we don’t see a team hire someone without either coaching or managing experience again for a long, long time.

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.