There have been some calls for Justin Turner to be extended by GM Ned Colletti. Turner, who turns 30 in August, is having the best season of his career by far and has provided the Los Angeles Dodgers with a very valuable bench bat.
However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves in dubbing him a cornerstone of the franchise. It’s time to take a deep breath and keep the numbers he’s put up in context.
There is no doubt that Turner has been one of the Dodgers’ best hitters this season. His line of .332/.397/.462 through Sept. 21 is remarkable. It’s also far beyond his career norms.
Prior to 2014, Turner was a .260 hitter. His career OPS was .684 and his career BABIP was .296. In 2014, his OPS is nearly .200 points higher and his BABIP is .401. That’s the second-highest mark of any player with at least 300 plate appearances in baseball this season; the leader is Drew Stubbs of the Colorado Rockies.
Turner’s secondary skills haven’t changed much. He’s walking more, which is good but could also be related to his increased performance. His power is up a little, as he’s collected a career high five home runs in 102 games.
Looking at his batted ball types, there’s no real explanation there either. His line drive rate and groundball rates are up, which bodes well for his BABIP (and, therefore, his batting average), but looking at his previous two seasons, there’s no correlation.
In 2012, Turner’s BABIP was .301. In 2013, it was .327. However, his line drive rate was higher in 2012 than it was in 2013 and he hit more flyballs last year.
All this leads me to believe that Turner’s numbers this year are the result of of luck on balls in play. Obviously, a .400 BABIP can’t be sustained for an entire season. However, credit him for providing the Dodgers with a potent bat off the bench.
Turner was signed as a utility infielder, but in reality, he’s a third baseman. For some reason, manager Don Mattingly has started him at shortstop on more than one occasion and also has had him spell Dee Gordon at second base. To put it gently, the results haven’t been great.
Turner’s defense is passable at second base, though he doesn’t quite have the range to remain up the middle. As for his defense at shortstop, the three errors in one inning wasn’t pretty.
The good news is Turner’s been solid at third base. The bad news, for him at least, is that Juan Uribe is one of the best defensive third basemen in the league. Uribe is also signed through 2015. However, with Uribe’s age comes regression and it will be nice to have a backup option like Turner.
Next Page: Turner Conundrum