In the month of June, six of the Mets eight regulars have an OPS over .800 and two regulars carry a sub-.600 OPS. It will surprise no one that Jason Bay is in the latter category. But many might be caught off guard that the other member of the poor-hit club this month is Justin Turner. In nine games this month, Turner has a .216/.268/.297 line, which earned him a day off Saturday night.
Turner’s slump started the last day of May, when he took an 0-for-4. Coming into that game, Turner had a .337 AVG and an .851 OPS. In 10 days, his overall line has fell to a .293 AVG and a .746 OPS.
Generally, the fan base very much likes Turner. He acquitted himself well in limited action last year and didn’t complain when he received only token consideration for the open second base job in Spring Training. But Turner saved his ace for when he was promoted to the majors in 2011. Nothing will endear you to fans more than hitting when you get your first real chance. Turner was installed as a starter for good on May 12th and in his first 17 games he batted .342 with an .899 OPS.
Meanwhile, fans have swallowed the Turner Kool-Aid and begun thinking of this as his true talent level, rather than a well-timed hot streak. I hate to break it to everyone, but Turner is simply not this good. Coming into this season, he merited just two projections from the systems available on FanGraphs. Marcel saw him producing a .702 OPS in 211 PA. ZiPS pegged him with a .697 OPS over 531 PA.
Now, projection systems are certainly not infallible. But these two systems saw Turner as virtually the same hitter. They saw him as someone who certainly wouldn’t embarrass you if you had to play him, but not someone you would want in your lineup at any cost.
Turner’s hot streak mentioned above came thanks to a .390 BABIP. It is simply not realistic to expect someone to maintain that BABIP over a full season. Guys like David Wright, who had a .394 BABIP in 2009, are the exception, sort of like seeing someone in the Chess Club being able to bench press 250 pounds.
Clearly, Turner is not a .513 OPS hitter, like he’s been in his last 10 games, just as he’s not an .899 OPS hitter. But where in the middle does his true talent lie? Overall this year, he has a .746 OPS, which is probably at the top end of what we should expect over a full season. ZiPS forecasts him to post a .702 OPS over the remainder of the season to finish the year with a .716 mark in the category.
A .716 OPS would rank 14th among full-time second basemen this season. Last year there were 17 second basemen who played enough to qualify for the FanGraphs leaderboards. Turner would rank 11th with that .716 OPS.
Meanwhile, the preseason projections on Daniel Murphy forecasted a better hitter. Marcel had him with a .748 OPS (46 points higher than Turner) while ZiPS projected a .764 mark (67 points higher). So far this year, Murphy has a .774 OPS, higher than what the two other systems forecasted, but beneath the .794 Bill James projection.
ZiPS sees Murphy putting up a .768 OPS the rest of the way and now projects Murphy to finish with a .774 OPS. That’s a difference of 58 points in OPS in end of year projections between Murphy and Turner, a pretty substantial amount. The difference is 66 points the remainder of the season.
At some point Wright and Ike Davis are going to come off the disabled list. And when that point happens, those guys should play their normal spots and Murphy should be the second baseman while Turner becomes the bench guy.
So, be grateful for the production that Turner gave the Mets when Davis hit the disabled list. He was the shot in the arm that the club so desperately needed. But do not look at him as a potential starter on a playoff-caliber club. As a starter, Turner is a place holder, someone to hold down the position until a better option comes along. And the Mets already have a better option in Murphy.