“If the Yankees are stealing signs, they suck at it”

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Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba made headlines by yelling at Andruw Jones during Wednesday’s game for what he believed was stealing signs and relaying them to other Yankees hitters while at second base.

Mark Teixeira revealed that Torrealba also complained to him about the same thing during Tuesday’s game, Rangers manager Ron Washington told reporters that Alex Rodriguez is known for stealing signs, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi naturally didn’t like the entire line of questioning.

Meanwhile, there are two interesting issues at play here. One is that, even if the Yankees are stealing signs, so what? That goes on all the time with most and perhaps even all teams, and the general consensus seems to be that it’s the other team’s responsibility to keep their signs under wraps as long as the thieves aren’t being extraordinarily obvious about the whole thing. Torrealba even indicated that he thought it was a relatively minor offense and was simply trying to crack down on it.

Beyond that is the issue of whether or not the Yankees are significantly helping themselves by stealing signs and … well, the evidence seems to suggest no. Or as David Cameron of Fan Graphs put it via Twitter last night: “With a runner on second base the Yankees have a .683 OPS. If they’re stealing signs, they suck at it.”

Sure enough, New York has hit .208 with a .683 OPS when a runner is on second base, which is much worse than their hitting .260 with a .798 OPS overall and .258 with a .787 OPS with no runners on base. Not quite conclusively proof either way, since the sign-stealing surely doesn’t go on every time a runner reaches second base, but situations like the one that angered Torrealba haven’t exactly allowed Yankees hitters to dominate.

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.