Los Angeles is the city of stars. From Kobe Bryant to Clayton Kershaw, Hollywood Blvd. to a night at the Griffith Observatory, stars can be seen on a nightly basis in LA.
However, a lesser known utility infielder may be the MVP of the Los Angeles Dodgers so far this season.
Nobody made a huge deal when the Dodgers signed Justin Turner, who still has arbitration years left and cannot become a free agent until 2017. The 29-year old has played at first, second, third and short this season, giving the Dodgers an extremely viable option despite lingering injuries to Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe.
Most baseball fans probably wouldn’t be able to pick Turner out of a lineup up redheads and couldn’t tell you the first thing about him. However, Turner has arguably been the most valuable Dodger this season.
With all due respect to Yasiel Puig, Kershaw, Dee Gordon and Adrian Gonzalez, Turner has had an unbelievable impact on the Dodgers. I was extremely sad when I saw that the bench squad from last year would not be returning. Mark Ellis, who was the starting second baseman, moved onto St. Louis. Nick Punto traveled up the 5 to Oakland, and Skip Schumaker took his versatility and relief pitching talents to Cincinnati. When the Dodgers signed Turner, my exact thoughts were “ehh, I guess?”
The Long Beach native and former Cal State Fullerton Titan has been one of the most impressive Dodgers this season.. As Vin Scully has so often described him, Turner is one of those players who will always have a dirty uniform by the end of the game. He brought the same grittiness that Punto and Schumaker brought last year, and has been extremely valuable. He was a backup plan for Alexander Guerrero, who would probably have gotten his chance if he didn’t get his ear bitten off by Miguel Olivo. But that’s baseball right?
Earlier in August, Fangraphs wrote an article on the best benches in baseball based on WAR. WAR is an imperfect stat, but it crowned the Dodgers’ bench as the best in baseball (4.6 combined WAR). The reason was Turner, who had a 2.1 WAR on August 11th, which Fangraphs pointed out was higher than the total for every other teams’ bench except for Oakland.
Turner currently has a 2.2 WAR, which is the fifth highest among Dodgers position players. He only trails Yasiel Puig, Dee Gordon, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez. His WAR is .2 points above Ryan Braun‘s, despite having played in 20 fewer games.
WAR is a weird stat, but Turner has been just as impressive with his basic numbers. Only two Dodgers have higher batting averages than Turner: Kevin Correia and Clint Robinson, who have four and 10 plate appearances respectively. His .313 average leads the team among qualifiers, and his OBP is second among qualifiers, only trailing Puig. Turner isn’t a home run hitter and doesn’t steal a lot of bases, but he goes out there and helps the team win every night, and that’s all you can ask out for of a bench player.
Turner has come through when the Dodgers have needed him. Before Tuesday night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Dodgers were hitting .272 with runners in scoring position. Turner was hitting .396 before the game, and added two singles with runners in scoring position to up his average to .420.
The Dodgers probably would not be in first place if it weren’t for Turner. He doesn’t make the headlines and doesn’t make remarkable plays every night, but Turner has been the epitome of consistency and has been the most underrated signing of the offseason. Plus, his walkup song is Turn Down for What. So you can’t argue his awesomeness.