Jordan Zimmermann makes first start in 13 months

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The event was overshadowed a bit by the introduction of Bryce Harper and the concern over Stephen Strasburg, but Jordan Zimmermann made his long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery in last night’s wild 11-10 extra-innings victory over the Cardinals.

Zimmermann looked decent enough over the first three innings, giving up one run on two hits and a walk, but the wheels came off after he served up a solo home run to Albert Pujols to begin the top of the fourth inning. The Cardinals would score four runs on five hits in the frame, ending Zimmermann’s night. The young right-hander allowed five runs on seven hits over four innings while striking out three, walking one and hitting a batter.

Considering that it was his first major league start in 13 months, you can bet the Nationals aren’t all that concerned about the results just yet. Besides, he showed excellent velocity, averaging 92.3 mph on his fastball, and told Bill Ladson of MLB.com that he walked away from the outing feeling healthy. That’s the important part.

“I felt good the whole time,” Zimmermann said. “The first three innings
were good. The fourth inning, I wish I could have over. Pujols hit that
home run. I was a little frustrated, and then I left a couple of balls
up and I got hit around a little bit.”

There’s still plenty of reason to believe he can build upon the promise of his rookie season. Unfortunately, it’s anybody’s guess when Zimmermann and Strasburg will actually be in the same starting rotation.
 

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.