To glove or not to glove, that is the question

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I was sitting here in the press box, slowly losing track of the many mid-game substitutions and watching my scoresheet turn into a mess of misspelled names and inaccurate notations when — suddenly! — a ball was fouled back behind the third base line. A fan reached up and … it clanged off his glove.  This was that fan:

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His name is Tyler Jack and he hails from South Lake Tahoe, California. The jersey he’s wearing is a sweet Matt Williams number.  But the real issue is that glove on his left hand.

My reason for seeking Tyler out in the stands was because the issue of grown-ass men wearing gloves to ballparks has long been debated around here. I’d by lying if I said, however, that anything other than a small minority thinks it’s OK for anyone besides (a) kids; or (b) the actual players to wear gloves to the ballpark. Still, I don’t know that we’ve given the issue a full and fair hearing, and I wanted to get Tyler’s side of the story. And what we learned was, I think, pretty critical.

Seems that Tyler usually takes a glove to the park.  I asked him if he had ever gotten a foul ball.

“Yes,” he said.

“Where?”

“In Anaheim. At an Angels game.”

“Ah, cool. So you had the glove then too? It worked out for you?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “I didn’t have the glove then.”

Just as he said that another foul ball went into the stands farther down the third base line.  Another grown-ass man with a glove reached up for it and … missed it.

I just feel like there are life lessons to be learned here. I feel like this is sort of a turning point for human progress. And I worry that we’re making choices that are dooming us.

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.