ALCS, Game 4: Red Sox-Tigers lineups

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Lineups for Game 4 in Detroit …

Red Sox:
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF Shane Victorino
2B Dustin Pedroia
DH David Ortiz
1B Mike Napoli
LF Daniel Nava
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS Stephen Drew
3B Will Middlebrooks

SP Jake Peavy

Switch-hitter Daniel Nava and his .322 batting average versus right-handed pitching is finally back in the lineup after Red Sox manager John Farrell repeatedly benched him in favor of righty bat Jonny Gomes. Beyond that it’s a typical Boston lineup.

Tigers:
RF Torii Hunter
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
DH Victor Martinez
LF Jhonny Peralta
C Alex Avila
2B Omar Infante
CF Austin Jackson
SS Jose Iglesias

SP Doug Fister

See, now this is interesting. Tigers manager Jim Leyland has dropped slumping leadoff man Austin Jackson into the eighth spot and moved everyone else up, which means Torii Hunter is batting leadoff for the first time since 1999 and Miguel Cabrera is hitting second. Statistical studies have shown that a team’s best hitter should typically bat No. 2, but obviously most managers don’t buy into that. Cabrera has hit second just twice in his career, both in 2004 when he was a 21-year-old with the Marlins. Jhonny Peralta is back in the outfield, with Jose Iglesias manning shortstop, and perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire lineup is that Leyland didn’t find a way to start Don Kelly somewhere.

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.