Lou Piniella is going to retire at the end of the season

4 Comments

Last week Jon Heyman reported that people with the Cubs anticipated that Lou Piniella was going to retire at the end of the season. Today Bill Madden reports it as not suspicion, but fact, and given that Madden and Piniella are said to be quite close, it presumably came straight from Piniella’s mouth (UPDATE:  The Cubs have now issued a press release, making it official).

It’s been kind of sad to watch Piniella in Chicago these past two years, burdened with some truly wacko players and a roster laden with overpaid underachievers. I don’t know how long the managing fire would have continued to burn in his belly in more ideal circumstances, but I bet he would still be managing in 2011 if it hadn’t been for the headache after headache he’s had to endure with the Cubs.

We’ll have a lot of time for remembrances of Piniella’s career as the season goes on, as he talks about it some and when the curtain finally closes in October. But for now the craziest thing about all of this to me is that he has managed way longer than he ever played. Just seems odd somehow.  Unlike a lot of his contemporaries, I still think of him as more of a player than a manager.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.