Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt win the Hank Aaron Award

9 Comments

ST. LOUIS — Major League Baseball just announced the winners of the 2013 Hank Aaron Award. It’s Miguel Cabrera in the AL and Paul Goldschmidt in the National League.

The award is intended to honor the best offensive performers in each league. Which, given that the MVP Award has become almost exclusively the province of hitters and given that the MVP voters have had the habit of not including defense in proper proportion, it’s a defacto hitting award too, but let’s leave that for another day.

We’ll also leave advanced metrics at the door, as the Award is voted on by a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron, with a fan voting component added on for good measure.  This is not the stuff of WAR leaders and the like.

If we are looking at offense and offense alone, and if we are looking at more traditional metrics, it’s hard to go wrong with Cabrera in the American League. He had another fantastic year, hitting .348/.442/.636 with 44 homers, 137 RBI and 90 walks. He led the league in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS and OPS+. Same with Goldschmidt in the NL. He hit .302/.401/.551 with 36 homers, 125 RBI and 99 walks. He led the NL in homers, RBI, slugging, extra-base hits, OPS and OPS+.

Each of these two will be contenders for the MVP Award, with Cabrera likely the favorite in the AL. Advanced metrics will matter there a bit more, but probably not enough to carry the day for those who look better under said metrics’ illumination.

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.