Nationals GM “frustrated” and “disappointed” with failed attempts to improve rotation

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This afternoon the Nationals held a press conference to introduce Adam LaRoche to the local media, who naturally asked general manager Mike Rizzo about the team’s various failed attempts to improve the starting rotation this offseason.

They failed to sign Cliff Lee and Jorge De La Rosa, have apparently dropped out of the bidding for Carl Pavano, and fell short in trade attempts for Zack Greinke and Matt Garza.

Asked about those misses, Rizzo noted that top-of-the-rotation starters “are very difficult to obtain” and described his state of mind as “more frustrated, but a bit disappointed.”

Rizzo has tried to make big splashes since taking over as GM, but ultimately the Nationals might be better off that they didn’t acquire any of those big-name, high-priced starters this winter.

Washington is likely several years away from being serious contenders and their need for a top-of-the-rotation starter in the meantime is iffy. And by the time the rest of the team is good enough to warrant going after top-of-the-rotation starters, they’ll hopefully have one in Stephen Strasburg and perhaps a second one in Jordan Zimmermann. Free agent pitchers and trade partners spurning Rizzo’s offers has forced him to be patient and that might not be such a bad thing.

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.