Let’s take a moment to appreciate Justin Turner and how good he’s been in the second half

Photo: Stacie Wheeler

Justin Turner continues to be the consummate leader of the Dodgers, both on and off the field. The Dodgers still have a lot of work to do to capture their sixth straight NL West division title, but Turner’s second half offensive production is a big reason they are still in the hunt at all.

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Despite Turner’s .280 on-base percentage over his six games prior to the Colorado series, he busted out of his brief slump in the series finale. Turner had four hits, including a home run. He reached base in all six plate appearances on Sunday in the Dodgers’ 9-6 win over the Rockies, carrying the Dodgers’ offense in a very important game with playoff implications.

For a moment, the Dodgers’ clubhouse was filled with optimism after the team, without their closer Kenley Jansen, survived and conquered the torture that is often associated with Coors Field. They moved within a 1/2 game of the NL West division lead.

Then they dropped two straight games to the Reds and fell back in the standings. Turner wasn’t in the starting lineup Tuesday, getting some much-needed rest after playing every inning of the Colorado series. Keeping Turner fresh down the stretch is key, because he’s the heart of the lineup and the team. Dave Roberts said he’ll play Turner the rest of the way, and he was back in the starting lineup for the series finale at Great American Ball Park.

The offense, led by Turner and Yasmani Grandal on Wednesday, fueled the Dodgers to a dominating 8-1 win to stave off an embarrassing sweep by Cincinnati. Once again, Turner stepped up in a big way and drove in three runs on two hits.

It makes sense, because once he got healthy, Turner’s been one of the best hitters in all of baseball this season.

Indeed, Turner’s leading baseball with a .373 average, .468 on-base percentage, 1.155 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 211 wRC+ since the All-Star break. He’s slugging nearly 300 points higher in the second half than he did in the first.

After returning from the 10-day disabled list Aug. 2 with a sore leg, he’s slashing .374/.471/.687/1.158 and has collected 24 extra-base hits including 8 home runs and 23 RBI in 34 games going into Wednesday’s game, in which he collected two more hits including a RBI double.

His hot August earned him NL Player Of The Month honors, and he led all of baseball in batting average (.402) and on-base percentage (.491). What’s even more impressive is that he was extremely clutch on a team that has been dubbed one of the least clutch. With runners in scoring position, he hit .429 with 12 RBI. With runners on base, he hit .487.

With a wide open NL MVP race, it really sucks that Turner missed out on a big chunk of the season. His current pace of 3.5 fWAR and 347 plate appearances would place him at the top with 600 PA.

NL Position Player fWAR Leaders (As Of 9/12/18)

1. Lorenzo Cain 5.4 (558 PA)

2. Christian Yelich 5.3 (576 PA)

3. Matt Carpenter 5.2 (607 PA)

4. Paul Goldschmidt 5.2 (634 PA)

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The 2018 season has been an odd and frustrating one, not only for the Dodgers but also for Turner. He started off the season on the disabled list and missed the first 40 games of the season after suffering a small non-displaced fracture of his left wrist when hit with a Kendall Graveman pitch during a spring training game on March 19. Luckily for Turner and the Dodgers, the injury didn’t require surgery. It did hamper Turner’s start to the season and certainly sucked the air out of the stadium at Camelback Ranch for those who were in attendance at the game, myself included.

The injury sapped some of his power after he returned from the DL, but that didn’t bog him down for long. Good thing too, as the team’s offense was forced to lean on Turner, who has credited his turnaround to improved health and the acquisition of Manny Machado. He’s hit ahead of Machado in the Dodgers’ modified lineup in the second half, and both players have benefited since Manny prefers hitting third.

“I feel healthy. That’s probably the most obvious answer. A little flip-flop in the lineup, flipping me and Manny around (Turner batting second, Machado third). Things have gone really well since that happened. It’s always good to hit in front of a guy that’s got 35 homers and close to 100 RBI, a professional hitter like him.”

Turner has just been so good. When we take a look at his overall stats since becoming a Dodger, it’s quite astonishing. In fact, since the Dodgers signed him to a non-roster minor league contract in 2014 after the Mets foolishly non-tendered him, Turner’s been one of the top offensive players in the NL per FanGraphs’ WAR statistic.

Top 10 NL Position Player fWAR 2014-18

  1. Paul Goldschmidt, 26.7
  2. Joey Votto, 23.1
  3. Anthony Rendon, 23.0
  4. Kris Bryant, 23.0
  5. Freddie Freeman, 23.0
  6. Nolan Arenado, 22.6
  7. Anthony Rizzo, 22.3
  8. Christian Yelich, 21.9
  9. Bryce Harper, 21.9
  10. Justin Turner, 21.2

Some of the players below Turner on the list include Buster Posey, Matt Carpenter, Andrew McCutchen, and Giancarlo Stanton. Not bad. Thanks again, Mets.

Better yet, Turner has proved to be both a regular season and a postseason hero. He set a Dodgers record with 14 RBIs last year in one postseason, including the dramatic walk-off home run in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs, forever etched in our collective memory along with legendary Dodgers postseason home runs like Kirk Gibson‘s iconic 1988 World Series homer. For his remarkable performance in the series, he earned co-MVP honors with teammate Chris Taylor.

JT has been an invaluable offensive and defensive part of this team since joining the Dodgers in 2014, rising from a NRI in Spring Training to a bonafide star. He’s played an instrumental role in the Dodgers’ quest for a sixth consecutive NL West title this season despite time lost and his rhythm slowed due to injury. Now the Dodgers have 16 (!) more games to complete the task at hand. The desired result may not be guaranteed, but Turner’s contributions to the team is one thing that never wavers.

About Stacie Wheeler

Stacie Wheeler
Stacie Wheeler, born and raised in So Cal, has been writing about the Dodgers since 2010. She wrote daily as the co-editor of Lasorda's Lair for five long years, and she has also written for Dodgers Nation, Dodger Blue 1958 and The Hardball Times. She currently contributes to True Blue LA. Stacie graduated from the University Of Southern California with a bachelor's degree in Cinema-Television. You can also watch her videos on her YouTube channel, DishingUpTheDodgers.