New second baseman Trea Turner ignites Dodger offense on successful road trip
I promised you I’d do a weekly Dodger round-up. Monday seems like a good day for that, so here we are!
The Dodgers are 72-46. They have the second best record in all of baseball. Unfortunately, the team with the best record—San Francisco—sits four games ahead of them in the NL West with 44 to play. People ask me daily if I think the Dodgers will catch the Giants or if their streak of eight straight division titles will end this October.
To be honest? I don’t know. The Dodgers seem like the much better team on paper, but that paper might look differently with the benefit of hindsight. I’m sure Giants fans thought Chris Taylor and Max Muncy (and Justin Turner!) were washed up nobodies who would eventually regress to Triple A. All three became legit all-stars. LaMonte Wade Jr. might be headed there. Wilmer Flores does not look like a fluke. Buster Posey’s hip has healed. Kevin Gausman looks like the guy he was supposed to be back when the Orioles took him fourth overall in the 2012 draft. We will see if they can overcome this not being an even year.
The Dodgers have won seven of their last eight. They just boat-raced the Phillies and Mets, two teams with decent playoff odds. But they did not gain any ground on San Francisco. If both teams continue to play .700 baseball, the division will be decided when the two teams play each other in San Francisco on September 3rd, 4th, and 5th. The Dodgers will probably need to win all of those games.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The first reason they even have a shot to pick off the Giants is that they traded for Max Scherzer, who won again yesterday to bring his Dodger record to 3-0. The second reason they still have a chance to peel off their ninth straight division title is that they traded for Trea Turner.
I’m biased when it comes to Turner. I first heard about this kid who could hit the ball to the wall and then outrun it all the way home when he was in college at NC State. I’m in a fantasy baseball keeper league where we roster 60 players: 30 major leaguers and 30 minor leaguers. I took Turner in our amateur draft right after AJ Preller and the Padres took him 13th overall in the 2012 MLB draft. (Same draft as Gausman! But unlike Preller, I did not trade Turner in package for Wil Myers, then try to renege on the deal when I realized how good he was).
I knew Turner would be good for the Dodgers, especially at the top of the order with Mookie Betts out with a hip injury. I did not know he would re-invent base running and become a pop icon during his first week with the team. Things are going pretty well for you personally when your slide into home makes the Today Show.
In his nine games for Los Angeles it has felt like he’s been the best player on a field of all-stars, and the crazy part is he hasn’t even been that good. His OPS sits at just .686—nearly 200 points lower than his career .840 OPS. But if he seems to score every time he gets on base, it’s because he does. Turner has collected nine hits and three walks as a Dodger. He has scored 10 runs. He’s literally scored a run 83% of the time he’s reached base safely. That is…insane.
And if you watched the games last week you know why. It’s not just that he’s stolen three bases, though that gives the Dodgers’ offense a dimension it did not have before. Turner almost always goes from first to third on singles from the guys behind him. Then with one out he scores easily on a sacrifice fly. He’s so fast he can single, steal second, then somehow score without the Dodgers getting another hit in the inning.
How valuable is that?
I have no idea how the Nationals ever let this guy go. His speed seems like the antidote when Dodger bats all go cold at once. Once his bat heats up he legs can slow down because he will start hitting baseballs over fences.
OK, fine. I’ve talked myself into a prediction. If Betts can get healthy, the Dodgers will catch the Giants in the NL West. And if they do catch the Giants, Turner will have been the MVP of the stretch run. He’s that good. He’s that valuable.
He is Trea magnifique. The Dodgers had to give up a lot to get him. So far he has been more than worth it.