Rangers and Giants: Teams of Destiny

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In the past 72 hours I have been on a handful of radio shows, and each time the host has asked me if I agreed that the Rangers looked like a “team of destiny.”  Well, not all of them. Some of them have asked me if I agreed that the Giants looked like  a “team of destiny.” Some quick Googling reveals multiple articles and forums in which the media covering and the fans rooting for both teams are considering whether their guys truly are fated to win this thing. The only person I’ve seen dismiss the concept out of hand is Jeff Francoeur, and since he’s wrong about just about everything maybe there’s something to this.

As a guy who doesn’t believe in fate or destiny or any related form of magical thinking, these questions have flummoxed me. I mean, man, even if the invisible hand of fate was making all of this happen, you’d think it would find a more efficacious avatar than Juan Uribe through which to work. But like I said, I’m out of my depth here.

But a lot of people do believe in this kind of thing, bless their little hearts. They truly believe that their team is destined to win. Which is fairly nuts. I mean, even if you find a Yankees fan with the most stereotypical sense of entitlement imaginable, they never say that theirs is a team of destiny. They think the Yankees win because of fairly simply yet immutable laws of nature, perfectly observable by scientists. And they’re probably closer to being right than the team of destiny crowd. There’s probably a lesson in here too: it’s only fans of flawed underdogs who believe that their team is a Team of Destiny. I mean, something had to help them get past the Phillies and the Yankees of the world, right?

The saddest thing about this is that one of the teams is going to have to win, thus making half of the Destiny Crowd believe they were right.  Who knows what other silly beliefs such a turn of events will bolster? If the fates deigned that their baseball team worthy of a championship, maybe they will make Junior’s strep throat go away without antibiotics. Maybe they’ll make that work-from-home business pan out.  One of these teams winning is going to screw up the social order, dammit, I just know it.

And for the losers? For the people who believed in fate, yet had their hopes and dreams crushed by a World Series loss? A descent into nihilism. Which is way worse than even believing that your team is fated to win.  I mean, say what you like about the tenets of Divine Predestination,  Dude, but at least it’s an ethos.

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.