Yankees fans can't just write off A.J. Burnett

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I understand why they may want to write him off, because boy howdy has he been awful.  He got shelled last night. He’s been shelled a lot this year.  While he has had some bad luck in recent starts due to weather and other things, it’s hard to argue against the notion that he has earned that 10-15 record and 5.33 ERA.

It’s a performance — combined with Phil Hughes’ nice outing on Sunday — that almost certainly means that Burnett won’t get a start in the ALDS.  The Yankees could go Sabathia-Pettitte-Hughes and use Sabathia once on short rest if need be. It’s certainly what I’d do.

But if they make it beyond the first round they pretty much have to use Burnett, because I can’t see Sabathia AND Pettitte AND Hughes going on short rest, nor can I see the Yankees as an organization using Ivan Nova over Burnett unless there is just no shot whatsoever that Burnett can throw some half-decent baseball. And while he’s been bad, he hasn’t shown that he’s utterly lost or hurt or something.

Boo him today Yankees fans because, let’s face it, he’s earned it. But you’re going to have to get behind A.J. Burnett if the team is to go deep into the postseason.  Well, maybe you don’t have to get behind him, but you’re going to have to depend on him.

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.