Justin Turner is having himself quite the 2017 season. With minimum 250 PA, he is leading the MLB in batting average by .024 points. He’s only got 11 home runs but is still 10th in slugging percentage. Despite Aaron Judge going absolutely insane on MLB pitching this season to the tune of a 186 wRC+, Turner is just 6 points behind with a 180 wRC+. Besides the two, no other hitter in the MLB has higher than a 165 wRC+. Turner has yet to qualify for the batting title, missing some time with an injury earlier in the season, but sits just 2 plate appearances shy as of this morning.
So what does Justin Turner’s 2017 have to do with Hall of Fame 3B Chipper Jones and Wade Boggs?
Justin Turner’s Impressive OBP
The most impressive thing for Justin Turner, however, is his OBP. At the moment, Turner leads the MLB in OBP over second place Bryce Harper by a sizeable .035 points. In fact, his .469 OBP is the 12th highest overall in a season going back to the 2000 season. The names on that list are some very impressive ones, with Barry Bonds, of course, heading the list with five of the top 6 seasons. We also see two seasons from Jason Giambi, and then a season each from Mark McGwire, Joey Votto, Chipper Jones, and Carlos Delgado. With names like that, Justin Turner is sitting with some elite company.
Digging even deeper, we start to see that Turner’s .469 OBP is even more special than at first glance. If you go by just 3B, Turner’s 2017 OBP is the highest going back to 2009.
Once we get into 2008, we have Chipper Jones’ exceptional season hitting .364/.470/.574, which is extremely similar to Justin Turner’s 2017 line of .374/.469/.584.
Heading back further we see Chipper Jones and Justin Turner leading all 3B in OBP at .470 and .469 for the last 28 years! It’s not until 1988 when we see Wade Boggs in the picture with his marvelous .476 OBP.
As we go further and further back, you’ll notice that nothing changes at the top of the leaderboards going back decade by decade. In fact, it is not until you get back to the 1900 and 1901 seasons by John McGraw that we ever see a higher OBP than Boggs, Jones, and Turner by 3B in a single season. Of course, McGraw did this at a time when baseball was a completely different game than the one Boggs, Jones, and Turner had and currently do play now, underscoring just how incredible it is for the trio to have done.
What This Means for Justin Turner
With the All-Star game having been played just last week, we are at the beginning of the second half of the MLB season. The Dodgers still have 69 games remaining on their schedule, which is a whole heck of a lot of games to be played. This means that Justin Turner is going to have to keep up an incredible pace to remain in the historic spot he is currently sitting.
Steamer projects Turner to hit .295/.372/.490 in 210 PA for the rest of the season, which would give him an overall line of .339/.428/.543 in 497 PA. This would not only put Turner about 6 PA short of qualifying for the batting title but tied for 30th in OBP going all the way to 1900 by a 3B.
There is some support for the .372 OBP projected by Steamer, seeing that Turner has a .361 OBP for his career. However, there are some interesting reasons I believe Turner could have a .400-plus OBP the rest of the way, keeping his overall 2017 OBP in elite territory:
- Over the last four seasons with the Dodgers, Turner’s OBP is .382 in 1670 PA.
- In those last four seasons, his OBP year by year are .404, .370, .339, and .469. Turner is a completely different hitter now than he was years ago, and the only blip on the radar here was his 2016 season with the .339 OBP. However for the first two-plus months that season, he was recovering from a knee surgery and didn’t wasn’t 100% until around June when he caught fire in the batter’s box.
- Turner has been able to take a walk well enough and was never someone who struck out a lot. This season he’s walking at the highest rate of his career at 11.8% and striking out just 10.1% of the time. With the approach he’s had, it seems within reason that he could keep up these numbers for another 200-300 PA this season which would highly aid his attempt at a .450-plus OBP.
- Turner’s soft hit % in 2017 is the third lowest in baseball. Some other players in the top 10 are Miguel Cabrera, Corey Seager, Miguel Sano, Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter, and Aaron Judge. If he keeps up his hard contact, more balls are going to fall in for hits and that OBP will have a continued high chance of being sustained.
Justin Turner and the Dodgers’ Record Books
Looking at Justin Turner and the Dodgers franchise, his .469 OBP is their best ever going back to 1900. Babe Herman had a .455 OBP in 1930, and the most recent seasons near the top were Gary Sheffield in 1998 and 2000 with OBPs of .444 and .438 respectively. The highest OBP by a Dodger since the 2000 season was Manny Ramirez in 2009 with a .418 OBP in 431 PA. Otherwise the last qualified Dodgers hitter since the 2000 season was Matt Kemp in his MVP runner-up season in 2011, sitting at a .399 OBP.
Going specifically by 3B, the previous OBP leader in Dodgers franchise history was Jackie Robinson all the way back in 1953 at .425. As shown above, if Turner hits his Steamer projection of .295/.372/.490 in 210 PA, he will end at a .428 OBP. This would put him as the all-time Dodgers single season OBP leader by a 3B ever.
There are still many games left to be played, but Justin Turner has been playing at a historical pace so far in 2017. If he stays exactly where he is, Turner will have the third highest OBP for a 3B since 1902, behind some all-time greats in Wade Boggs and Chipper Jones. If he somehow manages to up his OBP by .008 points, Turner will be king of the mountain since the Dead Ball Era and have passed the two Hall of Fame 3B in the process.
No matter how things go from here, watching what Justin Turner hit will be an exciting experience. Maybe, just maybe, we will see him do something truly special by the end.