Justin Turner — the MVP candidate
By Cary Osborne
Thus far, we’ve heard that Clayton Kershaw is a National League MVP candidate. And we’ve heard rookie Corey Seager as a possibility. But what about Justin Turner?
On June 6, through his first 55 games, Turner was batting .223 with three home runs and 17 RBI with a .649 OPS. The Dodgers were also 31-28 on that date — a .525 winning percentage.
From June 7 on, Turner has batted .325 with 15 homers, 41 RBI and a 1.054 OPS. The Dodgers are 24-16 since that date — a .600 winning percentage.
Three National Leaguers have a higher OPS in that time span: Arizona’s Jake Lamb (1.126), Cincinnati’s Joey Votto (1.087) and Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo (1.074).
Since June 7, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Clayton Kershaw, Joc Pederson and Hyun-Jin Ryu — five impactful Dodgers — have spent time on the disabled list. Since July 1, when Kershaw went on the disabled list, Turner has hit seven homers and OPSed 1.061 in 18 games.
The argument against Turner’s candidacy is his slow start lessens his MVP chances. But over the entire 2016 season, Turner has been one of the best defensive third basemen in the game. According to Fangraphs, he ranks second in the NL in total defense among third basemen at 7.8. He’s behind San Francisco’s Matt Duffy (8.9), but Duffy has played nearly 200 less innings at the position than Turner. Turner is fourth with five defensive runs saved. His three errors at the position are second fewest in the NL among qualifiers.
Overall, Turner ranks 10th in the NL in wins above replacement for position players, according to Baseball Reference, at 3.2 Seager is seventh at 3.5 and Kershaw is first among NL pitchers at 4.9.
According to Fangraphs, Turner is one of five National Leaguers who rank in the top 15 in WAR and total defense — the others are Seager, Colorado’s Nolan Arenado and San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey. (Seager is second in WAR and fourth in total defense).
Turner leads the Major Leagues in one interesting category — which describes how clutch he has been. He has 21 go-ahead RBI. His 11 game-winning RBI are tied for third in the NL. From the seventh inning on, he has a 1.006 OPS — which is fourth in the NL.
Turner’s value to the Dodgers — in numbers, in leadership, in presence — have been unmistakable this season. If he closes well, and the Dodgers continue to stay in playoff contention throughout the season, we should resume this conversation after game 162.