Cliff Lee just doesn’t know how to pitch to the score, apparently

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There’s a humdinger of a column over at the Philadelphia Daily News. It’s from Sam Donnellon.  The premise: a very 2003-era column excoriating stat nerds — he makes a non-ironic allusion to mother’s basements — who have the gall to tell him that the things he sees with his own two eyes aren’t true. You’ve heard it all before a zillion times, so there’s no sense in sharp-shooting every willfully ignorant point.

But if Donnellon is going to rest his world view on the value of his two eyes and his memory, it’s probably worth seeing how good those two eyes and that memory is. Let’s take one easily checkable assertion.

Donnellon talks up Jack Morris by talking up the value of the won-loss record. He cites his colleague David Murphy’s arguments that a won-loss record is one of the more irrelevant measures of a pitcher’s value. Then:

Murphy has mentioned Cliff Lee’s 2012 season as recent evidence of this. There is no doubt that Lee deserved better. But the naked eye, the one that watched the season in its entirety, recalls at least a handful of times when he received substantial leads and could not hold them. Morris would say, I suppose, that in those cases, he failed to pitch to the scoreboard.

Clearly, statistics are not irrelevant. But they should be used to support the naked eye, not create an alternate reality.

I don’t know what you would consider a “substantial lead,” but if you call it three runs or more, Lee blew such a “substantial lead” exactly once last year. On June 10 against the Orioles, when he frittered away a three-run lead. And that game he left with the score tied and got a no-decision. In contrast, he left games that were tied or with the Phillies ahead nine times.

But yes, I’m sure it’s all because of his poor moxie or inability to pitch to the score or something that Donnellon could tell you that he saw with his own two eyes.

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.