Dodgers: How Turner Ward Has Changed the Offense
Since the start of the 2016 season, the Dodgers have been one of the better offenses in all of baseball. This is due in large part to the arrival of their hitting coach Turner Ward. Ward has managed to turn some of the team’s hitters into the best in the league.
When Turner Ward arrived in Los Angeles fresh off of a stint with Arizona, I’m sure he was worried about his past with the team. After all, Ward was tossed from the game between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers in 2013, where a massive brawl broke out. Not exactly a great resume builder for the hitting coach. But Ward fit in almost immediately with Dave Roberts’ staff, gelling perfectly with the offensive unit. And since then, he has turned the offense into one of the best around.
Ward has managed to make almost every player on the team a better hitter. Most notably are Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal. Those three players are an integral part of the Dodgers’ present and future lineup, so Ward making them even better has proven vital to the team’s success. The team ranks near the top in almost every major offensive category, contributing heavily to their major league best 74-31 record. Puig’s stat line over the past two years stands out the most, showing significant improvements in his approach at the plate. Here’s a look at his stat lines over the past 4 years:
On Base %
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Puig has been in a slow decline since his breakout rookie season in 2013. His 2015 season was particularly disappointing, as injuries limited him and he simply could not produce even when in the lineup. Since then, Ward has helped him along considerably. His strikeout rate has dipped from striking out once every four at bats to once every five this season, and he’s being way more patient at the plate.
On a game to game basis, it’s easy to see him taking it slowly and waiting for his pitch this year. That has led to a much lower strikeout rate, and he’s crushing the ball when he gets the pitch he likes. Puig has already tied his career high in home runs, hitting 19 with 57 games still to be played in the season. All that to say, he has been a huge reason the Dodger lineup is potent from top to bottom.
But it’s not just Puig that Ward has been effective with. He has also spent significant time fine tuning the swings of Grandal and Pederson the past two seasons. Pederson has cut down significantly on his strikeout rate over the past two seasons, striking out every four at bats in 2017 compared to every 2.8 at bats in 2015. He has also managed to up his batting average to .243 up from an abysmal .210 in the 2015 season.
Grandal may not be cutting down on strikeouts or increasing his walk rate, but he is hitting way more home runs than he ever has in his career. Grandal has homered 41 times since Ward took over, and before that had only hit 40 home runs over his first four major league home seasons.
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Overall, Ward has led to Dodgers to 1st in the National League in the team on base percentage and team walks. It seems like he has been able to bring plate discipline and extreme patience to a team of free swingers. Ward has also led them to 2nd in slugging percentage in the NL, as well as 3rd in extra base hits. So he has essentially created a team of patient power hitters, a deadly combination in baseball.