Justin Turner got off to a slow start for the Dodgers in 2019, putting up a .270/.370/.300/.670 line from March 28 to April 29. That’s not a completely horrid showing, but he was lacking any type of power (three extra-base hits, all doubles) and it was far short of his usual standard. Then April 30 hit, and it’s been roses ever since. JT has slashed .364/.429/.818/1.247 over the past couple weeks, emphatically announcing his return to being an impact force with the three-homer game on May 7.
The timing of his turnaround almost couldn’t have been more appropriate, as for whatever reason he has hit just three of his 99 career homers in April despite having 14% of his career plate appearances in the month, which is not far off from expected. Additionally, he carries an .730 OPS during that time of the calendar, his only month that’s below .800.
Everybody is aware of this trend by now and most chalked it up to some kind of fluke occurrence, including me.
Hell, they’ve become a meme now to the point where the man himself has acknowledged it.
But beyond the jokes, there’s been an under the radar adjustment that have seemingly made the difference for him, primarily closing his stance.
Specifically the change was implemented during the game on April 30 against the Giants, which was also the date of his first homer of 2019 and when he started to turn things around. In his first at-bat against Drew Pomeranz, he strikes out swinging using an open stance with his lead foot actually directed at the pitcher.
It was at that point that JT apparently decided enough was enough and closed off his stance and brought his foot square to the pitcher during his next plate appearance, which resulted in a walk.
JT may have continued to close it a bit in the series against the Padres, as this shot from May 4 shows, though it could just be the camera angle.
But just to rule out camera angles being responsible for any perception of change in his stance, here’s JT at Dodger Stadium on April 27 against the Pirates…
…and here he is prior to smacking his third dinger of the game on May 8 against the Braves.
The change is not exactly subtle, and it’s clear he’s taken action to remedy what had ailed him.
As far as exactly what that was, it hasn’t noticeably changed anything in terms of positions during his swing, so I think primarily it was just a move to get him into a different state where he feels comfortable executing his swing consistently.
That said, I do think if you get a look at the swings he takes before and after the change, you can see a difference in his balance at leg lift and weight distribution at foot-strike, especially on off-speed pitches.
The videos of those swings are just examples that work best because they were both off-speed pitches, from lefties, and on the inner half, but it’s a consistent improvement I observed after going through his plate appearances.
Probably uncoincidentally, his first homer of the year was hit later that night off Ty Blach and it came on a change that was down and away but that he stayed on and drove to center. I don’t believe that was something he could do earlier in the month.
While Justin Turner’s career April struggles might usually be completely random, and so could his subsequent turnarounds in previous years, at least in 2019 it was anything but coincidence.
Rather, there was a conscious adjustment that took place which has sparked his outburst of production, and the Dodgers seem primed to reap the benefits of having this version of him for most of the year after it took him until August last year to really hit his stride.