Dodgers: Justin Turner is Quietly Heating Up at the Plate
By Hector Ponce
After an unfortunate end to spring training that saw Justin Turner get hit with a pitch that fractured his wrist, the “Red Dream” is slowly heating up. He has managed to do so under the radar with the likes of Matt Kemp, Max Muncy and Joc Pederson stealing the show.
When Turner went down with an injury during a spring training game, fans were disappointed that the all-star third baseman would miss the beginning of the season. Add to that the season-ending injury to Corey Seager and the debacle that was the beginning of the season and fans were chomping at the bit to see Turner return to the club.
He finally did return May 15th against the Marlins and though he had a nice series against a bad Marlins squad, he did not look the same. Something was just missing, he was hitting the ball hard but some pitches that JT would’ve feasted on in 2017 were just routine fly outs in 2018.
His return to the Dodgers started with a bang, as he racked up 6 hits in 3 games against Miami. But, he started to look a bit rusty once he saw better pitching in Washington and against Colorado.
Turner has not been bad this season, he just has not been the same player Dodger fans have been accustomed to seeing. Something has just been a little bit different with him this season and it makes perfect sense, considering he is coming off a significant wrist injury.
The thing that has stood out the most is his lack of power thus far. Last season he had a .530 slugging percentage and early on this year he is at .426. He also has just 5 home runs this season. In addition, Turner just has not looked right.
Well, that was up until recently. Turner has quietly been getting back into the groove of things. Finally having those pesky Turner at-bats that he has become known for. He is getting deep into counts and also getting himself into nice hitting counts and has taken advantage of the success of others around him.
That was part of the problem early on. With the Dodgers struggling and with no Corey Seager to protect him, Turner was not getting pitched to. Other than Matt Kemp, Turner was the only other real threat in the lineup, with Bellinger and Taylor having forgettable starts to their seasons.
One would expect Turner to thrive in that position, taking walks and working at-bats, but for a player who was trying to get back into the swing of things, it was a recipe for disaster.
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The normally patient Turner was reaching for pitches out of the zone and swinging at pitchers pitches. He still was putting those balls in play because of his elite hand-eye coordination, he just wasn’t being productive, or rather wasn’t being as productive as before.
However, now with the emergence of Max Muncy and the career renaissance of Joc Pederson, Turner finally has protection in that lineup. He has found himself on base a whole lot recently. Turner has reached base in 9 consecutive games that he’s started entering Wednesday.
In June JT was back to his old self approach-wise. He was able to have more walks than strikeouts and looked to be getting back on track for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
His numbers have not shown it, but if you have been watching him swing the bat lately you can tell his wrist is feeling a lot better. He finally has been putting that jolt into balls that had been lacking for the majority of the season. Even though he has not yet been putting more balls over the fence, he is inching closer and closer to breaking out.
Early on in the season, pitches that Turner put good swings on would not sound good off the bat and end up being a shallow fly ball, now those same swings on those pitches are being hammered. Not yet over the fence because Turner is still getting his legs completely under him but he has been scorching balls into the outfield rather than those lazy fly balls we were seeing early on in the season.
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It was just a matter of time before the beast of Justin Turner was awaken, now it looks like one eye is open and the second is twitching. Turner looks to be on the cusp of returning to his 2017 form and helping an already very deep lineup at the moment.