Ryan Braun: ‘Any good hitter has to be pitched up and in at times’

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We’ve written plenty in this blog today about Tony La Russa and the shenanigans in Tuesday night’s Cardinals-Brewers game, so while it’s been fun, I’m not going to rehash the whole thing again.

If you need a recap, go here, here and even here.

But I did want to point out that Ryan Braun, the innocent victim in all of this, handled the whole thing perfectly. If you’d like a lesson in maturity, Mr. La Russa, have a talk with Mr. Braun.

From Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“I get it; I certainly understand where he (La Russa) is coming from,” said Braun. “At the same time, i think any good hitter in this league has to be pitched up and in at times. I get it, Prince gets it. You have to throw Albert that way, (Matt) Holliday, Lance Berkman. You can’t allow guys to be comfortable.

“Occasionally, you have to make that pitch. Nobody wants to hit anybody. I don’t think that’s really the intent. Clearly, we weren’t trying to hit Albert on an 0-1 pitch, first and third with nobody out, and Holliday and Berkman coming up next. But I think any good hitter in this league has to be pitched that way on occasion. Again, the intent is never to hit anybody.

“In general, every good hitter, anybody that can consistently drive the ball and hit home runs, occasionally you have to throw them inside. That’s just the way the game works.”

There are plenty of good nuggets in the story, so click and read. Braun said the incident was over for him and he didn’t expect any lingering problems. He also said that he was surprised the Cardinals decided to hit him with the score tied late in the game, joking that “maybe it was an accident.”

And on a final note, Braun said that while walking to first base he told Yadier Molina that the Brewers didn’t hit Pujols on purpose, and that Molina agreed. La Russa has also stated that he didn’t think the Brewers hit Pujols on purpose, but that he needed to send a message by going inside on Braun.

But this begs the question: If the Pujols plunking was an accident, what message is La Russa trying to send? That he’ll do whatever it takes to protect his players from accidents? It’s all very silly, really, and Braun deserves praise for laughing at the whole thing.

On a side note, I tackled the issue of baseball’s unwritten rules last year, and Braun happens to be featured prominently in the piece. Check it out here.

You can follow Bob on Twitter here, or if Facebook is your thing, be his friend here.

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.