Phillies sticking with Joe Blanton for Game 4 start … for now

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With the NLCS tied 1-1 following Roy Oswalt’s gem last night the Phillies are still planning to start Joe Blanton in Game 4 of the series Wednesday.

However, there’s plenty of speculation that Charlie Manuel would instead turn to Roy Halladay on short rest for Game 4 if the Phillies are down 2-1 and the manager did nothing to rule that out yesterday, saying: “We’ll just take it day to day and see what happens.”

Asked if bringing back Halladay on short rest was an option being considered, pitching coach Rich Dubee replied: “We haven’t talked about it yet.” Obviously the Phillies have “talked about it” and the attempts to avoid the topic seemingly make it clear that Blanton’s chances of starting Game 4 with the team down in the series are pretty weak.

It’ll be a moot point if Cole Hamels beats Matt Cain tomorrow, so Manuel and Dubee are smart not to delve into the issue unless they need to, but in this case the non-answers are almost as informative as answers. Blanton hasn’t started a game since September 29, but he pitched very well down the stretch and by moving Halladay up to Game 4 the Phillies would have to move Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels up as well, which would result in the final four games of the series all being started by pitchers on short rest.

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.