Could Felix Hernandez win the Cy Young for the wrong reasons?

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I’ve written more stuff about the American League Cy Young Award race than I ever wanted to, but the arguments keep going on, and I’m nothing if not a guy who likes to argue, so . . .

The latest incarnation is not about the award itself. It’s about the debates about the award (set phasers for “meta!”). Check out Tom Verducci’s awards column yesterday in Sports Illustrated in which he said:

Hernandez
will win this award fairly comfortably, a measurement of not only how
wins are better understood but also how fast and wide groupthink travels
these days.

To be clear: Verducci himself supports Hernandez, as he thinks he was the most outstanding pitcher. But he’s saying that many other voters who vote for Hernandez will be doing so — not because, like him, they decide he was the best pitcher — but because they’re easily manipulated people who were either tricked or brainwashed or browbeaten or shamed into doing so. 

I know a lot of you tire of the scouts vs. stats debates, but at least this is new wrinkle: Screw both the Sabtahia backers and the Hernandez backers! Only Tom Verducci and a few brave, like-minded men see things clearly here! You’re either wrong or are doing the right thing because you’re sheeple!

I hope Verducci is wrong about the groupthink thing. Because, really, I’d hate it if members of the BBWAA are so spineless that they can be forced into going against their own instincts simply because some statheads make fun of them. I disagree with the Sabathia/Price backers, but I’d hope they wouldn’t back down because they are worried about being ridiculed or something. Take your position and stand up for it, for God’s sake.

But I really hope he’s wrong because Verducci’s whole “I’m doing the right thing for the right reasons, but many will do the right thing for the wrong reasons” brand of commentary is kind of obnoxious. It’s certainly way worse than the whole “I’m right, you’re wrong, nyah nyah!” thing everyone has been complaining about.

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.