Once again, we see baseball’s incessant Midwest bias

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It is so typical of Major League Baseball. Favoring one group of teams over another. Over totally petty stuff. Like, you know, geography, when it comes to the 2013 schedule:

None of the teams in the Central will travel more than 30,000 next season, while every other team in the league — save for the Orioles — will travel more than 30,000 miles. And the disparity between the least-traveled team (the White Sox) and the most-traveled team (the Mariners) is startling: Chicago will travel only 22,695 miles in 2013 while Seattle will travel more than double that, at nearly 53,000 miles.

OK, I’m just being a jackass. That article by Wendy Thurm makes a good point over and above things that can’t be controlled like mileage between cities: that some teams make more multi-city road trips than others, and some teams make more coast-to-coast trips than others.

Not that she or I is saying there’s anything that can be done about it. There are, after all, about 15 competing priorities when it comes to schedule making.  But it is worth noting that our unbalanced schedules are more unbalanced for some than others.

 

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.