If you stayed up to watch the entirety of Wednesday’s game, perhaps the only drama in the late innings was to see whether or not Trea Turner would get another at-bat, and with it a chance for a second consecutive cycle. The accomplishment is laughably improbable; the career record for cycles is three, set by four players. The only player to match the feat since World War 2 is Adrian Beltre.
But had two of his teammates reached ahead of him in the ninth, Turner would have had an opportunity to set what would surely be an unbreakable record with a triple. And with his speed and Coors Field’s spaciousness, he would have had a decent shot.
After his three-hit performance, Turner is now hitting .326/.341/.628. Small sample size concerns aside, Turner is well on his way to posting a fitting encore to his sensational .342/.370/.567 rookie year.
Turner’s batting lines are sublime, but his peripherals are less so: Over the last two seasons, Turner has a walk rate of 4.1% and a strikeout rate of 18.6%. The strikeout rate is solid, while the walk rate is abysmally low. But despite them, he posts an amazing batting average. How? On the strength of an exceptionally high batting average on balls in play.
BABIP is commonly cited as an indicator of flukiness; a player with a high BABIP has simply had a stroke of good luck, and his ability is overstated by his statline. While that may be true for some, I believe Turner has an ability to post a higher BABIP because he can hit the ball harder and for line drives more often than most — a trait he shares with many elite hitters.
I’ve written about this topic before, but I have a few more numbers to further illustrate my point. Turner posted a 25.2% line-drive rate last season, a number that would have placed in tenth in baseball if he had enough at-bats for the batting title. The average BABIP for the nine players ahead of him was .347, and six of those nine are first basemen who lack the BABIP benefit Turner’s speed gets him.
Lest you think line-drive rate is fluky, rest assured that the names above Turner are terrific hitters. They aren’t 40-homer bats, but their line-drive approach makes them perhaps baseball’s most elite doubles hitters. Freddie Freeman, Joey Votto, DJ LeMahieu, and Jose Altuve posted rates above Turner’s; Paul Goldschmidt, Corey Seager, and Jonathan Lucroy were just below. But the list also includes the likes of Angel Pagan, Martin Prado, and Cesar Hernandez, albeit all below Turner’s rate, so a high line-drive rate is not exactly a guarantor of success.
In yet another article of mine about Turner’s BABIP (can you tell this fascinates me?), I note that Turner had a career .399 minor league BABIP as of last May. He has proven himself as capable of producing a high BABIP. His speed may be a factor, but I’ve shown here that he simply hits the ball hard and at the right angles.
So what does this mean for Turner going forward? I don’t know if he can sustain the .378 mark he has posted so far, but even .340 would make him a terrific offensive contributor. The next step for him is to improve the aforementioned strikeout and walk ratios. He struck out at just about a 20% rate in the minors, so no improvement may be coming there, but he walked about 10% of the time. Teams may be unwilling to throw him balls for fear of a stolen base, but if the lineup behind him continues to rake, they may have no choice.Tags: Nationals, Nats, Trea Turner, Washington Nationals