Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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I’m gonna level with you: thanks to the vacation, I have no freakin’ idea what happened last week. Oh, I quickly glanced at scores most mornings, but I didn’t think hard about it or process any of it. I have a very weak grasp on who’s hot and who’s not. And, even if I can gain some insight into that from the standings and last week’s results, I really have no idea why they’re hot or not. Baseball is something with which you have to engage every day in order to really be on top of things, and I haven’t been doing that for a while.

So yeah, this week’s rankings are probably off by several degrees. Sue me. I’ll do my best to catch up this week and make the necessary adjustments for next week’s edition. In the meantime:

1. Phillies (1): Before Philly fans jump on my case for taking so long to rank them as the sole number one, know that if I would have done a ranking last week they would have been by themselves at the top then too.  That said, I presume some Philly fans will still got on my case for the above disclaimer about my vacation as evidence that I’ve slighted or disrespected them somehow. In other news, the best thing about my vacation was that I didn’t meet or interact with a single Phillies fan.

2. Red Sox (1): Stolen factoid from Gleeman’s Twitter feed yesterday morning: “There are only 25 non-Red Sox hitters in the AL with a higher OPS than the Red Sox have as a team.”  If Gleeman stole it from someone else, apologies to the whoever else it was who first observed it.  But hey, finders keepers.

3. Yankees (3): This has to go in a bathroom, right? I mean, is there anyplace else it can go apart from a largish guest bathroom? And that’s not a slam. Kate Winslet keeps her Oscars in her bathroom, and she’s pure class.

4. Brewers (7): A lot of their recent wins have come against the Astros which should barely count, but a lot of them have come against the Cardinals too, which means everything in this division at the moment. Milwaukee is getting the job done when given the opportunity.

5. Braves (4): I’m pretty sure that last week was the longest I’ve gone without watching a Braves game during the season in, like, a decade. Even on past vacations I’ve caught one or two randomly. I see they took to my neglect quite nicely. Must process this.

6. Rangers (5): Big four game set against the Halos starts tonight. Can they put the division away?

7. Diamondbacks (8): Next six games come against Philly and Atlanta. If they come through that and they’re still in first place, San Francisco — and maybe Philly and Atlanta — have a lot to think about in terms of the postseason implications.

8. Angels (10): Big four game set against the Rangers starts tonight. Can they keep the division in play?

9. Rays (11): Desmond Jennings must be all smoke and mirrors. I mean, in the past three weeks his OPS has plummeted by over 50%!  Oh, wait. It started up above 2.400?  Never mind then.

10. Giants (6): A tough series against the Braves to start the week off, but then they get 12 games against the Astros, Cubs and Padres. Seven of those 12 against the Astros, actually. Then they meet Arizona. Now would be a good time for San Francisco to win some baseball games.

11. Tigers (12): I was in northern Michigan for my vacation.  You see a lot of Tigers gear up there, worn by vacationing Detroiters. Everyone under 12 or so wears Justin Verlander stuff. Everyone over 30 wears stuff with Trammell and all of those old guys on it. I have no data, but I have a hunch that Tigers fans are a more nostalgic group than most fans.

12. Cardinals (9): Just as an FYI, they were a half game back in the standings when they traded Colby Rasmus, acquired Edwin Jackson and generally re-shuffled. Now they’re … not.

13. Reds (17): I am really sad that I missed the Yonder Alonso follies last week.

14. Indians (15): Another team taking care of divisional business when they can. And save it: while it was admirable that they took two of three from Detroit last week, I don’t think that makes them a better team overall.

15. Blue Jays (13): Unlike the Cardinals, the Jays have more or less stayed steady, at least in the standings, since the Rasmus trade. This is no sharp commentary on the trade, though. Just observin’.

16. White Sox (18): Winners of eight of ten and a series against the Tribe starting tomorrow night. Can they leapfrog into second? Is my preseason pick for the AL Central gonna actually pan out?

17. Mets (13): Let’s find a silver lining. How about this: there are two third place teams in baseball with worse records than the Mets, and both of them — the A’s and Rockies — were considered by many to be contenders this year. Does that make anyone feel better?

18. Nationals (22): I don’t think there has been a team that has had a higher ratio of interesting minor league news to interesting major league news than the 2011 Nationals in many years.

19. Pirates (16): Remember when everyone was on that Pirates bandwagon? Seems like a million years ago.

20. Rockies (20): Random: their first game against a divisional opponent in the month of August doesn’t come until this Friday.

21. Dodgers (24): I swear, with the exception of Philly, every single time I’ve seen a National League team on a modest win streak this season, I look up and see that they just got done playing the Astros. It’s uncanny.

22. Marlins (19): Lost in all of the Logan Morrison stuff was the fact that the Feesh also released Wes Helms.  Common denominator: Helms has also called out Hanley Ramirez in the past.  Was Ramirez somehow settling all family business last weekend?

23. Cubs (29): The funniest thing about the Zambrano stuff is that it came during a stretch of nice play by the Cubs. They had won 9 of 11 at the time of his blow up. I’ve defended Zambrano more than some folks have in the past, but really, I can’t think of anyone who is more detached from his teammates and the general vibe of the world than he is. He’s just not cut out for this whole team sports thing. His temperament is like some second-tier tennis bad boy of the late 70s.

24. Athletics (21): Apropos of nothing, Brandon McCarthy has great taste.

25. Padres (25): A 6-4 road trip ain’t bad.

26. Mariners (27): Two out of three from the Bosox ain’t bad either.

27. Twins (23): People I talked to continued to say that we gotta watch out for the Twins as recently as two weeks ago. Whatever. The Twins gotta watch out for Kansas City.

28. Royals (26): A 1-6 week. Ick.

29. Orioles (28): Sign this guy!

30. Astros (30): Seriously: how many bona fide major leaguers are on this roster right now?  I’ve seen expansion teams with more red meat.

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.