Replay approved by MLB owners: Managers to only get two challenges

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As expected, baseball owners approved expanded instant replay for the 2014 season at the owners meetings today. The vote was unanimous. It now goes to the players union and the umpires union in January. Each of them will have to ratify it then.

In its current form it still employs a manager challenge system. Which, as we’ve argued ad nauseum, is an idiotic way to do do things if the goal is to actually get calls correct as opposed to (a) relieving umpires of the responsibility to get calls right and placing it on managers; and (b) introducing a needless strategic element into the game.

But there’s a twist! When the challenge system was unveiled back in August, managers were allowed one challenge in the first six innings and two more from the seventh through the end of the game. Now managers will get a maximum of two challenges that can be used at any point in the game. This too could change, however, as the league will negotiate further with the umps and players.

Bud Selig, who was long opposed to replay, issued a nice comment about it all after the vote:

“My father always said life is a series of adjustments and I’ve made an adjustment. There isn’t one play or one instance that changed my mind. It has just happened over time. I know we’re doing the right thing.”

It’s nice to see someone in a position of power change their mind about something as opposed to continuing to spend all of their efforts either telling you they’re right or changing their mind while pretending that they really haven’t.  Still: wish he’d change his mind about the challenge system.

 

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.