Getty Images

The Pirates are switching up their outfield alignment in 2017

3 Comments

The Pirates are shaking things up in the outfield this season, according to a team announcement that was made on Sunday. With the new alignment, Andrew McCutchen will vacate center field to take over in right, Gregory Polanco will switch from right to left field, and Starling Marte will move from left to center field.

Marte alluded to the change on Saturday, telling MLB Dominicana that he had officially made the switch to center field for the 2017 season. Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle issued the following quote in response:

McCutchen, 30, saw a sharp decline in his defensive skills during the 2016 season, delivering a career-worst -28 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and a -18.7 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) that contrasted negatively with the -8 DRS and -6.1 UZR he posted in 2015.

Polanco and Marte, meanwhile, produced more palatable numbers in 2016 despite suffering through multiple stints on the disabled list. Polanco posted two DRS and a 6.2 UZR from right field, while Marte earned Gold Glove honors in left field after turning in 17 DRS and a 6.2 UZR to complement an impressive offensive performance.

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.