Barry Zito and Bruce Bochy have closed-door meeting to discuss release rumor

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I wrote this morning about Bruce Jenkins’ column in the San Francisco Chronicle, which suggested that the Giants are considering releasing Barry Zito and eating the $65 million remaining on his contract.

The whole thing seemed far-fetched to me and the logic Jenkins employed appeared to be particularly lacking, with the goal seemingly being to stir up some controversy.

Zito apparently read the column too, as Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the veteran left-hander had a closed-door meeting with manager Bruce Bochy to discuss what Jenkins had written, including several criticisms from unnamed sources.

Here’s what Zito told Baggarly (try not to be confused by the presence of two Bruces):

Bruce [Bochy] called me in, first thing. He just said, “This is the first we’ve heard of this.”

I thought Bruce [Jenkins] and I had a good relationship. At the end of the day, we don’t all wear the same uniform. The thing about being out of shape, I have no idea who his sources are. Nobody I’ve talked to–trainers, strength coaches, the coaching staff–they’ve never heard anything about that. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the nature of the business.

I suppose this means Jenkins accomplished his mission of stirring the pot around Zito, but I still don’t see why the Giants would possibly release a pitcher who has a 4.09 ERA during the past two seasons. He’s overpaid, but cutting him won’t change that and none of their other rotation options figure to be any better. Baggarly agrees, writing that “it’s hard to fathom the Giants really eating the rest of Zito’s salary.”

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.