Rich Harden to return from DL to start for Athletics on Friday

3 Comments

No, this isn’t a dream. Rich Harden is about to pitch in a real live major league baseball game.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Harden will be activated from the disabled list to start Friday night against the Diamondbacks. In turn, Graham Godfrey will move to the bullpen to pitch in long relief.

Harden has been sidelined since spring training with a strained lat muscle, but has impressed over his first two minor league rehab starts with Triple-A Sacramento. He threw 4 2/3 innings in his last start Saturday, so Godfrey could theoretically piggyback him if the A’s have him on a pitch-count Friday.

This will be Harden’s first major league start since last September 29. He posted a 5.58 ERA and 75/62 K/BB ratio over 92 innings with the Rangers last season and was subsequently left off the playoff roster. Of course, Harden was originally drafted by the A’s in 2000 and posted a 3.42 ERA over parts of six seasons with the club. His injury history speaks for itself, but the A’s could use his upside while they wait for some of their other pitchers to return from the disabled list.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.