Justin Turner began his Dodgers career starting at second base on another continent, and ended it eight and a half years later as a designated hitter. In between, he was a quintessential Dodger, a community icon in and around Los Angeles, postseason hero, and at worst the second-best third baseman in franchise history.
Since all but one of Turner’s seasons in Los Angeles were in his 30s, it was only natural to wonder when the end of his incredible run might come. When he got off to a terrible start in 2022, the finish line never seemed more near.
Entering play on the last day of June, Turner was hitting only .217/.290/.344 with an 80 wRC+. Slow starts in the power department were nothing new for Turner, who has 10 career April home runs in 192 games, less than half his total from any other month. But here we were, the season nearly half over, and Turner hadn’t yet really gotten on track.
Highest wRC+, Dodgers history
Turner’s track record and stature afforded him rope to figure things out, and on June 30 — more on that below — he found something, with two home runs. After that, Turner was among the best hitters in baseball, slashing .349/.419/.549 in his last 59 games, his 174 wRC+ trailing only Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols (!!) among major league hitters.
In the end, it was in many ways a typical Justin Turner season. Home runs were down (13), but he added a career-high 36 doubles. His 123 wRC+ gave him nine seasons with at least a 120 wRC+ in nine years in Los Angeles.
Among all hitters age 37 or older with least 300 plate appearances in Dodgers history, Turner’s 123 wRC+ is tied for sixth. His 116 OPS+ is tied for eighth. The same eight seasons occupy the top eight years on both lists. It’s six players at age 37, including Jeff Kent, plus Kent’s age-38 and 39 seasons, too.
While Turner’s overall stats were well above average, there were signs of decline. Turner hit just .192 with expected batting average of .207 against pitches 95 mph or faster. His slugging percentage in at-bats ending on those pitches was only .231, and his expected slugging was .314.
All of those numbers were well below Turner’s recent history, and he faced more fast pitches than ever before. Even when factoring in his second-half resurgence, Turner’s numbers since June 30 on 95-plus pitches were a .250 batting average and .295 slugging percentage.
Justin Turner against 95+ mph pitches
Turner reached a few milestones with the Dodgers in 2022. His first-inning double on April 17 against Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle was Turner’s 200th double with the Dodgers, one of 19 players in history to hit that many doubles with the franchise.
His single against White Sox reliever Reynaldo Lopez on June 7 in Chicago was Turner’s 1,000th with the Dodgers, the 35th player in franchise history to reach that mark.
Turner’s place in Dodgers history is secure. Signed as a non-roster invitee before the 2014 season, he represents one of best $1 million the Dodgers ever spent. He was co-MVP of the 2017 NLCS, his Game 2-winning home run LA’s first postseason walk-off shot since Kirk Gibson 29 years earlier. There was the Superman tag to finish off a game-changing double play in Game 7 of the 2020 NLCS.
Turner was the offensive constant for the last nine of ten consecutive playoff runs, and is the Dodgers’ postseason leader in home runs, hits, doubles, total bases, runs, RBI, walks, and hit by pitch.
On the field, Turner was great. But off the field, he and his wife Kourtney were a force, helping thousands in need in and around Los Angeles. Turner was named the Roberto Clemente Award winner in 2022, for which he was honored at the World Series in Philadelphia.
“Everything in my life feels like it has really taken off since the day I put the Dodger uniform on,” Turner said. “Obviously it’s very special to me, growing up in Southern California, getting to wear that jersey, and getting to be a part of an organization that has so much history and as so many people who have impacted the game in so many different ways. I’m just trying to do my little part.”
Turner did that, and then some.
Stats: .278/.350/.438, 36 doubles, 13 HR, 123 wRC+, 2.0 bWAR, 2.4 fWAR
Salary: $16 million
Game of the year
On June 30 against the Padres at Dodger Stadium, Turner hit a solo shot off Joe Musgrove in the second inning, singled in the fifth, and added a two-run shot off Musgrove in the ninth, driving in every Dodgers run in a 3-1 victory.
Musgrove allowed only two other hits in this game and struck out 10 in seven innings. After the game he said of Turner, “When he’s in the box, I don’t feel like he’s a huge threat.”
Turner in 2022 had five hits in seven at-bats against Musgrove, with three home runs and a walk.
The Dodgers on November 10 declined Turner’s $16-million club option for 2023, instead paying him a $2-million buyout. Los Angeles opted for J.D. Martinez’s bat instead, and Turner signed a two-year deal with the Red Sox that includes an opt-out after 2023.