Giving Thanks: The National League East

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Admit it: you’d rather read this stuff than watch the Lions or the Cowboys today, right? I mean, they’re awful.

Anyway: that for which teams and their fans should give thanks on this most gluttonous of days:

Philadelphia Phillies: Finding the Blue Jays and the Astros when they were in a transition period. Really, if things didn’t break just right in those cases, the Phillies could be entering this winter with Cliff Lee leaving via free agency and a rotation full of Blantons and Kendricks and stuff.  Ick.

Atlanta Braves: Jeff Loria’s seeming aversion to competitive baseball. If the Marlins cared, they could have done a few relatively minor things over the past couple of years to have put them in a better position to have finished ahead of the Braves. But they didn’t. If the Marlins cared, the Braves wouldn’t have their new manager or their new second baseman, each of whom they acquired basically painlessly. But they didn’t. Thanks Feesh!

Florida Marlins: This is a stretch, because really, there’s nothing great about being a Marlins fan at the moment, but let’s try this: thanks to Jeff Loria for bringing back Edwin Rodriguez to manage on a one year contract next year. Yes, it will almost certainly lead to an unceremonious and likely unfair firing of Rodriguez next winter, but it will likely be to bring in Loria man-crush Ozzie Guillen, who wants desperately to manage in Florida.  I’m not sure that will make the baseball any better because Loria will still be a skinflint, but Guillen is great fun, ain’t he?

New York Mets: Alderson. Alderson. Alderson. Alderson. Alderson.  There is finally an adult in charge.

Washington Nationals: The anticipation. Remember all that fun you had waiting for Stephen Strasburg to make the team? Now you can do it again with Bryce Harper! And once he’s up and established, you can wait for Strasburg to come back! And if Harper figures out a way to injure himself, the process can start all over again. Really, we’re one bad slip on a wet sidewalk away from the Nats being in the process of waiting for superstars until both superstars are old enough to be thinking about how to get the hell out of Washington.

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.