Pitchers to test padded hats in effort to reduce head injuries

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In what seems like a compromise between their current lack of protection and wearing a full-on helmet on the mound MLB will have pitchers test a padded hat in an effort to reduce head injuries.

Willie Weinbaum of ESPN.com reports that “at least a dozen” pitchers have been given the padded hats made by Unequal Technologies Company to try and offers some more specifics about the product:

Unequal’s padding for each cap weighs 4.3 ounces, is one eighth-of-an-inch thick and is made of a three-layer synthetic composite that includes military grade DuPont Kevlar and a polymer with the properties of rubber. He also said Unequal could mass produce the cap padding and sell it as an insert for about $60 apiece retail.

Unequal isn’t alone in providing pitchers headgear for MLB’s consideration. MLB senior vice president Dan Halem said Monday that discussions are being held between Unequal and five other companies whose products are in different stages of development and use different materials.

Apparently the padded hats have been in development for a while now, but MLB and the various companies pushed up the timetable following head injuries to Brandon McCarthy and Doug Fister this year. However, in McCarthy’s case it’s unclear if the padded hat would have protected him based on where the ball struck.

According to Weinbaum the products could be used in the minor leagues as soon as this upcoming season.

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.