The first difference I’ve noticed between Florida and Arizona

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As the next nine days unfold I’ll be talking a lot about the differences between Florida and Arizona spring trainings. But for now I’ll give you a preliminary observation: the fact that all of the Arizona spring training complexes are located in the same major city is convenient as all hell, but also a bit of a drag. At least so far. Let me explain.

The drag: last year when I made it to my first stop — Port St. Lucie — the whole area seemed kind of Mets crazy. The hotel clerks were wearing Mets jerseys. The clerk at the liquor store (I was there for research purposes) was telling me which players had been in that evening. There was a vibe, man — apparent within the first six hours of landing — that we were all there for a singular purpose and that there was nothing going on but baseball.

Within six hours of landing in Phoenix and I merely felt like I was in a big city. The Angels complex is right outside my hotel door, but there aren’t Angels fans milling about my mountain bunker. The only surprise I received at the liquor store — again, conducting research — was that there were still Christmas gift packs of my house pour for sale (Arizona State University area, consider yourself to be on notice).

Maybe this is a silly observation given that I haven’t been to any parks yet — and maybe it’s more about my excitement level last year as I embarked on my first spring training trip — but there is less of a buzz in the air. This is a big sprawling city going about its business. That’s cool and that may very well lead to many unexpected wonders over the next few days, but there is something fun and weird about places like Port St. Lucie and Viera and Bradenton. Their parks are old and far apart, but if you’re making the trip there at this time of year, you’re doing it for only one purpose and everyone’s pretty giddy about it.

Maybe I’ll find some giddy later this morning. I’ll be sure to let you know.

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.