Shane Victorino thinks the Phillies will win it all

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You know, if I had to make a prediction right now I’d probably say that the Red Sox were the favorites to win it all this season. But it wouldn’t be at all unreasonable to pick the Phillies either. Indeed, I bet something like 90% of the people who engage in the prognostication business will pick one of those two teams as champs in their spring predictions.

But even if everyone else is doing it — and even if it’s kind of a sucker’s game to project ahead eight months and pretend any of us knows anything about what will happen — people always seem to go crazy when a ballplayer makes the same sort of prediction.  Shane Victorino is about to find that out. Here’s what he said:

“I’m not one to sit here and make predictions or make bold statements to stir the pot,” Victorino said, “but I think if you look on paper, we’re the favorites to win it all.”

Seems like a plain and sufficiently humble enough way to say such a thing. Yet I am 100% certain someone will call him out on it because we don’t like it when ballplayers say it, no matter how reasonable it is. They’re supposed to play the “aw shucks, we’re gonna try our hardest and see what happens game” and never ever suggest that the team they happen to play for is the best.

I’d like to be pleasantly surprised and have there be no one who claims that Victorino is creating so-called bulletin board material or whatever, but I’m guessing someone will run with this in some loopy direction.

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.