Getty Images

Russell Martin and Freddie Freeman to join Team Canada in 2017 WBC

2 Comments

Reports from Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi and Ben Nicholson-Smith confirmed two more additions to Team Canada’s roster for the upcoming World Baseball Classic: Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin. Martin is pegged to start at shortstop during the competition, which is scheduled to kick off in March.

Freeman, 27, had a breakout season with the Braves in 2016, batting .302/.400/.569 with 34 home runs and a .968 OPS in 693 PA. Martin’s season got off to a bit of a slower start, and he finished his second year in Toronto with a .231/.335/.398 batting line, 20 homers and a .733 OPS through 535 PA. The 33-year-old has not played shortstop at the major league level in any of his 11 seasons, though he did make an appearance at short during the World Baseball Classic in 2013, partly to avoid the stress of handling an unfamiliar pitching staff.

Freeman and Martin will join free agent first baseman Justin Morneau and right-handers Eric Gagne and Ryan Dempster on Team Canada, per earlier reports from Davidi on Saturday. Gagne, 41, has been playing in the Canadian-American Association on and off since his departure from MLB in 2008, while Dempster has not played pro ball since his retirement in 2014.

As for those who are skipping the WBC this year, Davidi lists Mariners left-hander James Paxton and Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon as two who have declined to appear so far. Nicholson-Smith adds that while free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has expressed interest in signing on with Team Canada, he’ll wait until he picks up a contract for the 2017 season to make a final decision.

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.