Dontrelle Willis is in the best shape of his life

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Boy, it’s a rare treat to get a BSOHL story in July, but we have one! It’s Dontrelle Willis, who was scratched from his start down at AAA Louisville yesterday. The speculation was that he was going to get called up to Cincinnati to fill in for Bronson Arroyo, who was complaining of dizziness, but it seems Arroyo is better now.

Willis is good too: he has a 2.63 ERA in 13 starts and — key for him — he has a 3.35 K/BB ratio, suggesting that he may have a handle on what has been ailing him these past few years.

But the real story here are the words of Willis’ agent, Matt Sosnick, who puts us in mind of spring training with his assessment of his client’s state of health:

“I feel strongly that he has turned the corner.  He’s in the best shape of his career and is throwing with the highest velocity he’s ever had.  I feel very confident that he will be an impact player in the Major Leagues this year and for many years to come.”

All that’s missing for perfection is something about how Willis has been working on a new pitch.

(thanks to Hannah for the heads up)

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.