Justin Turner has had two great seasons in Los Angeles. The Dodgers signed him to be a super utility guy with a little power to come off the bench and get some playing time around the infield. He was never supposed to be the starting third baseman. Turner was so comfortable playing at Dodger Stadium that he blossomed into a bona-fide power threat. He went from being an average utility guy with the Mets, to a .300 hitter with the Dodgers and their everyday third baseman. He was a revelation.
During Turner’s first two seasons with the Dodgers he posted quality numbers. In his first season in 2014 he batted .340 in 322 plate appearances and posted an .897 OPS. During his second season in 2015 he batted .294 blasted 16 home runs and posted an .861 OPS in 439 plate appearances. In last year’s NLDS against the Mets he batted .526 (10 for 19) and slugged six doubles in the five game playoff series. He was oh so dreamy. This season is a different story entirely.
This season his production has disappeared and he seems to have lost his gap to gap power. So far through 35 games he is batting .240 with a .324 OBP and just one home run and nine runs driven in. He has a .654 OPS in 139 plate appearances and has just 8 extra-base hits. He’s been awful and for some reason the Dodgers are stubbornly refusing to move him down in the batting order.
Turner has been primarily hitting third in the Dodger’s lineup behind Chase Utley, Corey Seager and in front of Adrian Gonzalez. When he is not hitting third, then he has been batting cleanup behind Gonzo. I don’t understand why the Dodgers don’t move him down in the order until he starts hitting.
It seems like Turner has regressed back to his days with the Mets when he was essentially a league average hitter. His production this year has been even worse. I know it’s early and a small sample size, but if you look at his numbers you can see they are back to where they were when he was in New York. Has that Turner magic worn off?
He never posted an OBP higher than .334 with the Mets. This season he has a .324 OBP. His WRC+ (for all you stat people) has fallen from 154 in 215 to 81 this year. It’s hard to say what’s wrong with him. His line drive percentage has dipped from 27.7% in 2015, to 22.8% this season. Although his LD% was 23.3 in 2014. So it doesn’t appear to have dropped that much. Another consideration to take in is that he’s pulling the ball less in 2016. His pull percentage has dropped from 37.0% to 31.7%. Turner also has some extreme splits this year. He hits .323 against lefties, but .211 against right handers. The Dodgers, who are a team that loves constant lineup shuffling and platooning, won’t platoon him.
So we know he’s not making hard contact as much as he was the last two seasons, and he is not pulling the ball like he was either. Perhaps his injured knee has caused an effect in his batting stance? He did have knee surgery last winter and had a slow start to the spring.
Whatever the problem with Turner is, he is mucking up the works. He’s hurting the club batting third. For a club that has been struggling to score runs for most of the season, it’s a big disadvantage having a number 3 hitter who can’t drive in any runs.
When batting third Turner is hitting just .207 (18 for 87) with one home run and 8 runs batted in. He’s had just five extra-base hits in the three spot. He hits a bit better when batting cleanup. In that spot he is hitting .276 (8 for 29). When he leads off an inning he is hitting just .133.
I don’t know what’s wrong with Turner this season. Whether it’s his knee, or just a slow start or whatever his problem is. He’s regressed, and the Dodgers can’t afford to continue to wait for him to magically come around. The Dodgers have to move him down in the order until he starts hitting again. Otherwise you have a .240 hitter batting third. Move him down in the order now before he completely turns into a pumpkin.