Depending on how things shake out this year, the Mets might need to turn to Justin Turner a lot more this year than they anticipate.

Turner turned in a solid 2011 campaign batting .260 with four home runs and 51 RBI’s in 435 at-bats while chipping in at second base, third base and in a pinch at shortstop.

With the Mets suffering from so many injuries last year (Daniel Murphy, Jose Reyes, Ike Davis, David Wright etc.), Turner was thrust into the lineup when he got called up from Buffalo. Once he was called up on April 19, Turner gave the Mets a bolt of energy right off the bat. Turner appeared in 117 games and was one of the more productive RBI’s hitters for the Mets, routinely hitting well in the clutch.

So, what kind of role can we expect Turner to have in 2012?

Initially, expect Turner to come off the bench and provide a nice bat off the bench, while filling in at second, third; maybe even at first, or possibly shortstop(although that seems very unlikely with the signing of Ronny Cedeno).

However, given the Mets track record of sustaining multiple injuries year after year, expect Turner to get enough playing time in 2012.

Consider this. In 2011, Davis, Murphy and Wright all missed at least 52 games. Expecting that core to stay sturdy and relatively healthy all season maybe asking for a lot.

While Turner is arguably (and I stress arguably) better defensively than Murphy at second base, he is nowhere near the batter that Murphy is. The Mets want the second base position to be more of an offensive position going forward, and while Turner is no slouch, Murphy is the preferred choice at second base. And with Davis and Wright entrenched at first and third, respectively, Turner will find himself squeezed out of a starting job.

We all know the best laid plans often go awry and to not think Turner will see significant time in 2012 is a bit naive.

A crimp in the plans, though, is how the franchise views the prospects of second baseman Reece Havens and if he’ll get a shot to earn a spot on the Mets’ roster. It’s not inconceivable for Havens to win a spot on the Mets this spring or earn a promotion over the summer if he proves to be healthy. Staying healthy has long been the downside of Havens.

The moral of the story here is Turner has to keep proving it. Turner has to compete for his playing time. They say competition breeds success.

So if Turner keeps working hard and plays with a chip on his shoulder, then maybe we can expect an even stronger season for Turner in 2012. For now, the only place for Turner is on the bench unless injuries play a significant part of the Mets’ 2012 season.

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6 comments on “What kind of role can we expect from Justin Turner this year?

  • Brian Joura

    In his first 185 PA last year, Turner had 32 RBIs. In his final 302 PA, he had 19 RBIs

    • Steve S.

      Turner wasn’t going to continue on that pace. And maybe there were fewer man on base for him later on.

      • Brian Joura

        Baseball Prospectus has a stat called OBI% which calculates how many of the runners on base you drive in (Others Batted In). I noted during the season that Turner had a 25.4 OBI% after his first 178 PA last year, which was the top mark in the majors among those with 100 PA. He had 30 RBIs at that point, and two home runs, so he drove in 28 runners besides himself. If he had a 25.4 OBI% with 28 OBIs, he had 110 runners on base.

        Turner finished with an OBI% of 16.7%. He had 282 runners on base for the entire season. So, in his final 309 PA, Turner came to the plate with 172 runners on base. He drove in 21 runs in that span, including 2 HR, so he had 19 OBIs. So he finished the year with an 11.0 OBI%

        Early in the year, he had an average of 0.62 runners on base for each PA
        End of the year, he had an average of 0.56 runners on base for each PA

        Early in the year, he had a 25.4 OBI%
        End of the year, he had an 11.0 OBI%

        If we give Turner the same ratio of runners on base at the end of the year and keep his OBI% we get:
        309 PA * 0.62 runners on base = 192 * 11.0 OBI = 21 RBIs

        Since he had 19 OBIs, Turner lost 2 RBIs because of having fewer runners on base compared to earlier in the season.

        But, if we give Turner his end of year runners but his early OBI% we get:
        172 * 25.4 OBI = 44 RBIs

        He lost 25 RBIs because of his actual production.

        • Steve S.

          Wow, what an analysis! Thanks! So I was right: He wasn’t going to keep up that pace and he had fewer runners on base (albeit slightly so).

          • Brian Joura

            I think the takeaway should be that Turner has no special RBI skills.

            He drove in a bunch of runs in May when he was hot overall (.325/.378/.458 for an .836 OPS and 20 RBIs) but other than that he was all over the map. He drove in more runs than he probably should have in June (12 RBIs/.579 OPS) and August (9/.639) and fewer runs than he probably should have in July (4/.682) and September (5/.741).

            And it just seems that his May is so out of character with what he did the rest of the year that we should just chalk it up as a fluke. I feel pretty confident that we’ll never see a nearly 200-PA stretch from Turner where he has a 25.4 OBI% ever again.

  • Metsense

    I’m a Justin Turner fan but I don’t see how he fits on the team anymore. His sole purpose would be as a rh ph but is he really good enough for that? He doesn’t have enough power. He isn’t a good defensive 2B and with the acquisition of Cedeno as a backup 2b, is there really a need for him? This winter would have been a good time to move him while he has value. His 2011 stats made him a very avg starting 2b in the NL. There is no shame in that but with Murphy/Cedeno there is also no need.

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