The greatness of Ivan Nova is yet to be fully appreciated

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It’s fair to say Ivan Nova is on pretty nice roll right now. He is 11-0 dating back to early June and 7-0 with a 3.45 ERA over seven starts since returning from the minor leagues at the end of July. This includes seven innings of two-run ball in a win over the Blue Jays last night.

Nova is building a pretty strong case to be the Yankees’ No. 2 starter in the playoffs and with 15 wins, he should get plenty of votes for the American League Rookie of the Year award. Most sane baseball fans should be content to leave it at that, but Rob Parker of ESPN New York is here to tell you that the greatness of Nova is yet to be fully appreciated.

New York hasn’t seen a rookie stud pitcher like this since Doc Gooden went 17-9 for the Mets in 1984. Of course, Nova doesn’t have the strikeout magic that Gooden had. But he gets outs and wins.

Yes, that just happened. Parker is comparing Ivan Nova and his 3.99 FIP to Dwight Gooden, who had one of the best rookie seasons of all-time when he posted a 1.69 FIP for the Mets in 1984. Making this an argument about wins is about as intellectually lazy as you can get.

I don’t want to take anything away from Nova, because he has pitched quite well recently, but his numbers are actually very close to Jon Niese, who posted a 4.20 ERA (4.10 FIP, 3.89 xFIP) as a rookie with the crosstown Mets last season. A nice year, yes, but Nova’s contributions wouldn’t look nearly impressive if he was pitching somewhere else.

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.