Entering the 2016 season you’d be hard pressed to find a better hitting third baseman over the past two years than Justin Turner. Among third baseman with a minimum of 700 plate appearances since 2014, Turner ranked first in batting average (.314), on-base percentage (.384) and wRC+ (148), and third in slugging percentage (.492).
Last season, he hit .294/.370/.491 with 16 home runs, 60 RBIs, a .371 wOBA and 141 wRC+ in a career-high 126 games. MLB Network’s The Shredder, which uses an algorithm based on performance that accounts for offense and defense, ranked Turner a top-10 player at his position in February.
However, Turner has yet to find his stride this season and truly resemble the hitter he was over the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
One explanation could be the microfracture knee surgery the 31 year old underwent last October. The Dodgers were cautious in moving Turner along his recovery, which resulted in a later start to Spring Training.
While Turner hasn’t been the same hitter the Dodgers grew accustomed to, he’s batted second, third or fourth in the lineup in each of his starts. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained why he’s stuck with Turner in the upper half of the lineup, via Bill Shaikin of the LA Times:
“The reason I still have him at the top is because he finds a way to get on base,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s one of our top guys getting on base.”
Entering play on Saturday, Turner ranks fifth on the team with a .320 on-base percentage. That’s superior to the rate in which Yasmani Grandal, Kiké Hernandez and Yasiel Puig (now on the 15-day disabled list), among others, have gotten on base this season.
What’s more, Turner is tied for second with 53 games played. He’s appeared in all but two games this season, and made 46 starts. One noticeable dip in Turner’s production has come against right-handed pitchers.
Last season, he hit .313/.384/.524 against righties, and is currently batting .211/.296/.293 against same-side pitching. Turner has fared better against left-handers in roughly half the number of plate appearances, hitting .250/.389/.409.