Random Opening Day Thoughts while watching the Yankees and Red Sox

25 Comments

I turned the Red Sox-Yankees game on at 1pm. There are other games, but the TV with cable next to my desk doesn’t have the Roku player on it, so this one was just easier to do while still actually pretending to work.

We’re not live blogging or anything, but I will be chiming in with some random thoughts on this and other games throughout the afternoon. Some random thoughts:

  • Joba Chamberlain kept the awful mustache out of camp. Brave choice.
  • Lou Piniella threw out the first pitch. He bounced it. Surprised he didn’t then argue with it and get thrown out.
  • CC Sabathia started the actual game off with a fastball to Jacoby Ellsbury. I’ve now seen three Opening Day first pitches counting last night and they were all fastballs down the middle. No one ever starts the season out with some offspeed junk in the dirt. I feel like there are opportunities being lost here. UPDATE: OK, it’s now 4-0 in the second. Maybe Sabathia doesn’t look as good now as he did in the first.
  • That said, Sabathia struck out two of three while giving up a meaningless single to Pedroia. He looks like he could pitch for 50 more years. It’s weird given that he’s the ace of the Yankees, but he may be one of the more underrated pitchers in the game.
  • Heck, the Yankees of all teams may be underrated this year. How we got to this point I have no idea, but there has been more unwarranted hype thrown at a half dozen other teams in the past three years than the Yankees ever got.
  • Robinson Cano reached on a strikeout/passed ball thing. I always like that. Free David Ross.
  • Listening to Rick Sutcliffe and Aaron Boone do color commentary — and listening to Orel Hershiser and John Kruk during last night’s game — and I renew my loathe affair with ex-jock analysts. Baseball is a pretty simple game. There’s nothing wrong with pointing out simple things like “the good player is good” and “scoring runs is how you win.” Yet so many of these guys feel like they have to come up with counterintuitive or obscure points of analysis as a means of justifying themselves and their expertise. They analyze the hell out of everything when life would be so much better if they just let us watch.  Oh well, this is a battle I’ve been resigned to lose for many years now, so I probably shouldn’t complain.

Not that it’s too deep a complaint. I have the sound down low. I may or may not be enjoying a cold one. Baseball is on. It didn’t feel totally right last night, but this afternoon it feels good. The structure of my life is back.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.