The Nats remove some seats from their ballpark

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And now, my nominee for “ballpark configuration change that no one would have ever noticed even if they had never issued a press release about it:”

The Nationals let media members know a few minutes ago that the ballpark’s capacity this season will be 41,506. That’s down from the 41,888 fans it held at its opening, though the park had been reduced to 41,546 by last season. A Nationals spokesman said in an e-mail the decrease was “due to the removal of a few seats and an adjustment to the suite manifest.”

There was a series with the Red Sox in 2009 during which the Nats drew more than 41,506 for three games. Otherwise, they’ve never drawn more in that joint, not even when the Philly faithful invade.

I don’t know what they’re moving around that’s costing them the seats, but I’ve always thought that teams that don’t draw consistently should mess around a bit to see if there aren’t better things that can be done with the space. The Indians carved out part of their home run deck in left field last year to put a little special seating area for bloggers and social media people.  There are probably a bunch of other things that could done.

Here’s a free idea: a couch section.  Take a couple of rows that will never be used while a given team fails to draw and replace some seats with a few couches or easy chairs or something. Set up a flat screen TV nearby (these seats are probably far from the action) and institute some special service like trained monkeys bringing beers (like actual monkeys).  You and a couple of buddies would pay a couple hundred bucks for that, wouldn’t you? Multiply that out by 81 games, subtract the cost of the couches and the monkeys, and it’s like printing money.

No, I never studied marketing. Why do you ask?

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.