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Dodgers: Justin Turner’s Defense Stands Out in 2020

Working with Driveline coaches in the offseason may have changed JT’s remaining years in baseball.



In 2016, Justin Turner very well could have been a Gold Glove winner at third base. Without Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon in the league, the then 31-year-old likely would have added some hardware to the trophy case. Since then, the Dodgers’ third baseman has shown some signs of his age.

Fangraphs rates defense utilizing Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR. A player with a UZR of more than 10 is entering into Gold Glove territory. Anything below 0 is below league average and trending to bad. Turner had a UZR of  9.2 in 2016 with the Dodgers. Unfortunately, he saw that drop off to -6.7 in 2019.

That alone warranted some changes to his game. Working with Rob Hill, Turner adopted some of the practices of Driveline Academy, a popular destination for Dodgers’ pitchers this past offseason. Manager Dave Roberts talked about a few of the things he worked on. 

He’s been doing a lot of plyo balls and strengthening his arm. This is as good as I’ve seen his arm since I’ve been here. Defensively, he’s moving to his right considerably better as good as I’ve seen since I’ve been here as well. He’s playing deeper, which he’s gotten to be comfortable with. I think that helps the metrics. He’s just done a really nice job for us. 

The idea to play back game from third base coach Dino Ebel after seeing JT’s arm strength change. That allows his more time to react to balls hit to third, likely resulting in the uptick in defense we are seeing. And it couldn’t come at a batter time, as the Dodgers need all of the defense they can get right now. 

Turner ranked dead last among qualified third basemen in UZR and just 13th in defensive runs saved last year. That is quite a fall from his 2016 numbers. But if the Dodgers hope to win it all this year, JT will need to continue to turn up the heat at third base. He turns 36-years-old this November. 

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Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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  1. Glad Turner has been able to improve this year. I am curious what type of contract they will offer him as Rios is proving to have great potential and has improved his defense. Plus with Seager continuing to hurt his legs and back a move to 3rd might be necessary.
    I am hoping the MLB moves to allowing the NL to continue with the DH in the future. It protects the very valuable pitchers and allows older players to rest and stay in the game and contribute at bats. Plus the Dodgers have so much depth the DH truly helps them. Between the 3 batter rule for relief pitchers and the DH the games have been faster which is a great thing.

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