Ryan Vogelsong: “I definitely have some questions whether the WBC hurt me”

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Ryan Vogelsong has struggled all season with injuries and poor performances, posting a 5.82 ERA in 16 starts for the Giants, and yesterday the 35-year-old right-hander pointed to his participation in the World Baseball Classic as a possible explanation.

While noting that breaking his finger swinging at a pitch on May 20 is what derailed his season the most, Vogelsong told Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com:

The WBC … it’s a valid question. I’m just not sure. The only way we’ll have an answer is to have an offseason of rest and come back next year. I plan on coming back strong and having a great year, and then we can blame this on the WBC if you want.

I definitely have some questions whether the WBC hurt me or no. But I doubt myself more for swinging at that pitch, because that’s something I could have controlled. It’s just been hard for me to explain to you what it’s like when you’re rehabbing in the middle of a season. It’s not easy to do.

It’s also worth noting that Vogelsong is 35 years old, which is an age at which pitchers often decline rapidly, and prior to 2011 he’d been a journeyman without much big-league success. So maybe it was the WBC, maybe it was the broken finger, maybe it was aging, and maybe it was some combination of everything.

San Francisco has a $6.5 million team option on Vogelsong for next season and while his performance certainly hasn’t been worth that money this year Baggarly writes that he’s “expected to return.”

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.