Francona: Marco Scutaro is our shortstop

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There has been some chatter lately about how Jed Lowrie could take over the Red Sox shortstop job from Marco Scutaro. Theo Epstein said as much himself last week. Terry Francona gave a press conference today, however, and he says nope, not happenin’:

“Scutaro’s our shortstop. (Lowrie) gives us something not a lot of teams can say they have. A switch hitter than can play first, second, third or short and play a lot. He can play for a week, he can play it for a day, he can play it or two weeks. That at some point is going to probably save us. How many times have you seen where everybody stays healthy?”

I assume that Francona has Scutaro’s health most closely in mind with that last comment.  He was hurt last year, he’s in his mid-30s, and he’s coming off a .275/.333/.388 season in which he played poor defense.  Lowrie, on the other hand, had a great season at the plate in an admittedly small sample size.

Francona may very well envision Lowrie getting a ton of time out there in 2011. But he has absolutely zero reason, from a clubhouse management perspective, to say anything apart from “Scutaro is our shortstop.”

 

 

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.