Pirates fans are coming out of the woodwork

61 Comments

This is by no means a scientific analysis but I think Pirates fans are starting to accept that this team is not going to crater on them and leave them sad for the 20 some-odth year in a row.

I base this on the fact that I wore my Pirates cap out in public last night and people got excited. It wasn’t for a long time. I only wore it to grab some food. But in that short amount of time out I had two people comment on it. Comment one was a long thing from the guy at the bar talking about how, finally, it’s “our” year and how “we” can finally wear Pirates gear with pride.  The other one was just a thumbs up and a “go Pirates” from a guy who was entering the restaurant as I was leaving.

I didn’t have the heart to tell either of these guys that I wasn’t a Pirates fan and that I tend to wear caps from any of a half dozen different teams at any given time simply because I like caps.

As for these guys: I didn’t get a sense of bandwagoning here. I mean, I can’t be sure, as there are now all kinds of Steelers fans in Columbus that never existed here before they got good again in the 90s and 2000s, and perhaps there is just some local affinity for winning Pittsburgh teams at work.  But I was here in the early 90s too and no one really got on the Pirates bandwagon then, so I sort of doubt this is what’s going on. These are people who probably always liked them but simply had nothing to cheer about for years and years. Now they do and, God, how good it must feel to finally be able to say something nice about their rooting interest.

But whether they’re bandwagon or genuine fans, I expect I’ll see a lot more of this over the next couple of months. I assume the Pirates will become a fashionable rooting interest among the otherwise non-aligned. And those who were always aligned, albeit silently, will finally be able to enjoy some October baseball. And we should enjoy that for their sake.

At least until they become insufferable like every other fan of every other winning team eventually does.

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.