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And now HardballTalk’s 2016 Predictions

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By now I don’t need to tell you how silly it is to predict the outcome of a baseball season in which over 2,400 baseball games are played by over a thousand players, all of whom are subject to injury and/or wild variation from past performance or reasonable expectations. Baseball is freakin’ chaos, my friends. And while that is one of the top things to recommend it, it’s also the thing that makes predicting its outcomes a fool’s errand.

Let no one say that Bill and I aren’t fools. We’re gonna make our picks anyway, because that’s what we do. You can see our top-to-bottom divisional picks in our individual previews, but know that we have the following teams winning divisions and wild cards:

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Royals
AL West: Astros
AL Wild Cards: Blue Jays, Rangers

NL East: Mets
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Cards: Pirates, Giants

We diverge a bit on our playoff/World Series picks:

Bill: Red Sox vs. Astros in the ALCS; Mets vs. Cubs in the NLCS. Cubs vs. Astros in the World Series and . . . CUBS WIN

Craig: Red Sox vs. Royals in the ALCS; Giants vs. Cubs in the NLCS. Giants vs. Red Sox in the World Series and . . . GIANTS WIN

No, I don’t think the Giants are the best team in baseball. I was just burned in 2010, 2012 and 2014 by them and I’ve decided that going with dumb even year juju is a better system than one in which I pretend I know anything. Honestly, if someone put a gun to my head I’d probably pick the Cubs or Red Sox, but everyone’s gonna do that this year and where’s the fun in that?

Obviously, based on that bit of incoherence, Don’t take this exercise terribly seriously. No battle plan survives engagement with the enemy and such. If you save these and throw them back in our faces come October, well, you’re sort of missing the point. Unless we’re right, of course, in which point we’ll make a big show of how right we were because we control the posts that go up on this website and our egos are very, very fragile.

Anyway, there is only one thing you can definitively take away from this: we hate your team. Yes, yours. And yours too. God, how can you root for them?

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.