Joe Torre is somehow surprised that managers are using replay as it was designed to be used

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Ken Rosenthal talks to Joe Torre about replay today. Mostly about the delays and the number of challenges. It’s rather interesting to hear Torre’s general stance and demeanor about it all, as he sounds genuinely surprised about things he should not be at all surprised about.

Specifically, about the delays managers cause while waiting for their review team to tell him if he should challenge or not. And the sheer number of challenges. Here he’s talking about how there have been far more challenges than he and Tony La Russa anticipated:

“I know Tony was preaching this from Day One: ‘Guys, go out there if it’s an obvious miss . . . But there have been so many of these bang-bang calls that have been challenged, and a number have been overturned. Probably more have been challenged than we anticipated, especially in situations that didn’t seem (critical) — and, as a former manager, I know there is no such thing as an unimportant time in a game. I think we’ve had a lot more things challenged — man at first, two outs, things of that nature.”

Torre adds that he thinks a lot of managers are challenging — or at least walking out onto the field to consider challenging — based on the reaction of his players to calls on the field as opposed to a call clearly being missed and it having a real chance of being overturned.

I’m not sure why any of this is surprising to him. The biggest reasons managers get criticized and/or fired is by either appearing to be passive figures who let opportunities pass by or by losing the clubhouse. You give a manager a tool to get even a slight edge and to appear a bit more proactive, he’s gonna use it. You give a manager an extra chance to show he has his players’ backs, he’s gonna take it. Torre and La Russa should know that better than anyone.

To be fair, Torre is right that, overall, game times are only up by about three minutes a game. And I would say that, results-wise, replay has been a success so far. But the delays are annoying and the number of replays would be far, far less — and far, far less intrusive — if they were taken out of managers’ hands and placed in the hands of a person in the booth with access to the game and camera feeds who can overturn bad calls as he sees them. Such a person could exercise judgment on those bang-bang plays Torre and La Russa would like to see too.

Of course, I and many others argued this two or three years before this challenge system went on line. Major League Baseball didn’t listen then, so I doubt they have any intention of listening now, no matter how surprised they somehow are.

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.