How Justin Turner turned his 2016 season around

Back in May, Justin Turner was not a good hitter. He was playing great defense, but the hitting to which the Dodgers and their fans had become accustom was nowhere to be found.

I wrote about his power outage and some of the causes behind it.

“Justin Turner was one of baseball’s best hitters in his first two seasons with the Dodgers. Going by wRC+, he was in the company of guys like Edwin Encarnacion and Anthony Rizzo, Nelson Cruz and Jose Abreu.

Fast-forward to 2016, and Turner has been — so far — a shell of his former self. He owns a poor .232/.323/.352 triple slash with an 87 wRC+, and the main cause has been Turner’s power all but disappearing, even taking into account his two home runs in San Diego over the weekend.

It’d be easy to point to the microfracture knee surgery Turner had in the offseason — and that may very well be the cause of his power loss — but I want to dig a little deeper.”

Since then, he has taken off at the plate. I looked at a number of his peripherals — some of which were OK, others of which were not.

Peripheral 2015 Through 5.22 Since 5.22
BB% 8.2 9.1 7.0
K% 16.2 14.6 17.7
Soft% 11.6 12.6 13.0
Med% 56.1 58.0 42.3
SwStr% 7.2 6.5 7.1
Z-Contact% 87.2 88.9 86.5
Exit Velo 89.7 90.2 91.7
Launch Angle 13.7 15.7 20.3

He’s actually walking less, striking out more and making more soft contact. But, that’s because of a massive jump in power by hitting the ball harder and with a higher launch angle. Here are Turner’s red-flag peripherals from the May article and how they’ve changed since then.

Peripheral 2015 Through 5.22 Since 5.22
Avg. Distance 229.5 219.3 254.0
Avg. FB Distance 319.1 296.2 322.0
LD% 27.7 20.8 26.5
FB% 36.2 41.7 44.4
IFFB% 7.8 10.0 5.1
Hard% 32.3 29.4 44.8
ISO .197 .120 .298

The red flags are no more, and he has improved marked in every single category — the most impressive and important of which is isolated power (ISO). Since May 22, Turner has 20 home runs and 21 doubles, while in his previous 42 games, he had just 10 extra base hits (six doubles, one triple, three home runs). Whatever was ailing him early in the season, it certainly isn’t anymore.

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The microfracture surgery could very well be the biggest culprit. It could have interfered with his timing at the plate — which is much more important for him than almost any other Dodger because of his pronounced leg kick.

Turner went from being a guy who might not even get a qualifying offer from the Dodgers to a guy who could end up with a contract in the 4-year, $80 million range (depending on how he finishes the season). Bottom line is, the soon-to-be-32-year-old is going to get paid (and probably by the Dodgers, seeing as there is no legitimate internal replacement for him).

Combined with guys like Adrian Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager — all of whom have been hot at the plate — Turner and the Dodgers have regained first place on the strength of the offense.

Now, about that pitching…

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He does contracts and depth charts for FanGraphs and is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a one-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, California, and has yet to be shot.