Giants have to fix Madison Bumgarner before Game 5

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The Giants entered the postseason with Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner in the rotation and no certainties after that. Following Bumgarner’s latest shaky outing against the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS, they have to be wondering whether they can afford to pencil the lefty in for his expected Game 5 start.

Bumgarner was pounded for six runs in 3 2/3 innings by the Cardinals in Sunday’s defeat. He also gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings in his Game 2 loss to the Reds in the NLDS. Dating back to the regular season, he’s allowed four runs in seven of his last nine starts. He’s turned in just one quality start during that span.

As of Aug. 20, Bumgarner was 14-7 with a 2.83 ERA for the season. Since that date, he’s struggled with his location and demonstrated less fastball velocity. He has a 37/19 K/BB ratio in 44 2/3 innings in his last nine starts. Before that, he had a 160/32 K/BB ratio in 171 2/3 innings.

Unless they can go the next three games without using Tim Lincecum, the Giants aren’t going to be in a position in which they can afford to replace Bumgarner. That seems like a long shot, since it’d likely involve Barry Zito going deep into Game 4. Most likely, they’ll take their chances again with Bumgarner in Game 5, but keep him on a very short leash in the process. They’ll almost certainly need more from him then if they’re going to reach the World Series for the second time in three years.

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.