Dodgers’ Trea Turner breaks from postseason history with hot NLDS start

LOS ANGELES — Trea Turner has a World Series ring for his October efforts and that’s all that really matters.

But the Dodgers shortstop has not been the same dynamic player in the postseason that he has annually been in the regular season. A career .302 hitter with a batting title (2021) already to his credit and an .842 OPS at age 29, Turner has only hit .233 with a .606 OPS in 41 postseason games – even with home runs in each of the first two NL Division Series games against the San Diego Padres.

“I’ve had a lot of diving plays made on me, a lot of balls hit hard at people, small sample size,” Turner recounted. “BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is lower in postseason play (.299) than it is in the regular season (.344 over his career).

“You can look at it a lot of ways. … (I’ve) hit a lot of balls to the warning track, had a lot of balls that first basemen made diving plays on me. Could be triples, doubles. Could look a lot different. But I know where I stand and I feel good.”

That he enters this postseason feeling good already makes this postseason different for Turner.

Early in the 2019 season, Turner suffered fractures in the index and middle finger on his right hand. The non-displaced fracture in his index finger didn’t heal properly and he had surgery following the season. Playing with the bad finger, he hit .233 during the Nationals’ postseason run including just 5 for 31 (.161) in their seven-game World Series win over the Houston Astros.

Last year, Turner suffered another hand injury in July when he jammed his hand on a slide. That left a slight fracture in one of the knuckles on his left hand which he played through. It didn’t stop him from winning the batting title. But Turner was not himself in the postseason again, batting .216 during his first October run with the Dodgers.

“Yeah, I played with a broken hand last year. Played with a broken finger in ’19. Played with plenty of injuries over my career,” Turner said. I don’t know if it has anything to do with it or not (his lack of postseason success). I feel like if I can play, I play. I played a lot of games with both those injuries. The postseason is what it is. The regular season is what it is. No rhyme or reason.”

Turner didn’t head into the postseason this year at his best either. Physically, he was fine. But a season-long discontent with his swing had reached fullness down the stretch. Turner hit .260 from Sept. 1 on and .226 in the final 14 games of the regular season. He went a month without a home run off of an actual pitcher (he did hit one off of Padres outfielder Wil Myers on Sept. 11).

Turner was a frequent participant in early batting practice during the final weeks of the season. He took swings in sim games against Blake Treinen and Dustin May as well.

“Trying to suck less?” Turner said of his goal during that work. “I just feel like I’ve created a lot of bad habits this year. I’ve been trying to make adjustments to get back to where I was last year. I feel like I’ve been making adjustments based off of my swing through this season. And now I’m trying to make adjustments to get back to my swing from last season.

“Sometimes I feel like just swinging it out is what helps me kind of figure things out. I don’t love doing it because it’s just a lot of wasted swings almost. But sometimes I feel like I need to do it.”

It appears to have worked. Turner was 2 for 4 with a home run in the regular-season finale and started the NLDS with two home runs and a double in his first nine at-bats. Even his outs in Game 2 were hit hard – a 102.9 mph exit velocity on a ground out and 99.6 mph on a lineout.

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“Just timing. Getting my front foot down early and correctly,” Turner said of the key difference. “I feel like I was doing a lot of things and I knew I was doing things wrong and I was trying to fix them. But my front foot wasn’t hitting the ground at the right time, for the most part. If I get that front foot on the ground when I’m supposed to, a lot of things sync up and the strike zone discipline gets a little better and when I go to swing the bat the ball’s where I think it should be and I make good contact.”

Turner’s defense was troubling in Game 2 – he booted one ball, opening the door for the Padres’ go-ahead run in the 5-3 defeat and he was slow to second base on another grounder, extending that inning as well.

But Dodgers manager Dave Roberts knows the regular-season version of Turner can be a difference-maker in the postseason.

“It just changes the whole dynamic of our ballclub,” Roberts said. “This is a guy that can steal a base. He can hit for power.

“When he is on base, it creates tension. When he is on base and Freddie (Freeman) is up, I don’t think there’s anybody better in baseball hitting with guys on base than Freddie, let alone in scoring position. When Trea is taking (good) at-bats, seeing pitches like that … it’s death on pitching.”

A hot start to the #Postseason for Trea! pic.twitter.com/seM2tM1mBt

— MLB (@MLB) October 13, 2022

TREA TURNER GOES YARD FOR THE EARLY LEAD

(via @MLB)pic.twitter.com/3rzufmeusu

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 12, 2022