Cherry on top of the Max Scherzer trade, Dodgers’ Trea Turner had an MVP-level season
Max Scherzer, after all, was treated like the prize asset; the future Hall of Famer who filled the Dodgers’ biggest need at the top of the rotation.
Turner, on the other hand, was the cherry on top; a first-time All-Star who added depth to an already star-studded lineup in the present, and just as importantly, solidified their plans at shortstop for the future in case Corey Seager isn’t re-signed this offseason. Turner mostly played second base since joining the Dodgers.
Both players were heralded as impressive acquisitions, but it was Scherzer’s name written first in all the headlines — including the team’s official news release announcing the trade. It was the pitcher’s nearly flawless run through August and early September that seemed to be making the biggest impact on the Dodgers’ late-season surge to 106 wins.
But down the stretch, Turner has emerged as one of the most important factors to the Dodgers’ bid to repeat as World Series champions too.
And entering Wednesday’s wild-card game against the St. Louis Cardinals, there are suddenly few players who seem more consequential to the team’s World Series title defense.
“Managing against Trea in a postseason game is scary,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He can beat you in so many ways.”
From the Shot Heard Round the World to the 2020 National League Championship Series, here’s the story of all 16 Dodgers winner-take-all postseason games.
Since arriving at Chavez Ravine, Turner has been one of the most dangerous hitters not just on the Dodgers roster, but in all of MLB.
In 52 games with the Dodgers, he hit .338 with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs. He stole 11 bases, scored 41 runs and clinched the National League batting title by finishing the regular season with a .328 average.
He was especially hot over the final week, hitting six homers, three doubles and reaching base in half of his plate appearances over the last eight games. What was once a tight race for the NL batting average lead ended up as a blowout, with Turner beating out his former Nationals teammate, Juan Soto, by 15 points.
“I thought I was going to have a little bit more pressure on me this last week or I was going to have to put pressure on him,” Turner joked Sunday of Soto, who finished in a 3-for-28 slump. “I thought it’d be a little bit more of a race. I’ll ask him what happened. Gotta see what happened.”
After Turner finished the season leading Fangraphs’ version of wins above replacement among position players with 6.9 WAR — he also finished seventh in Baseball Reference’s version of the stat — teammates Walker Buehler wondered why he wasn’t getting more MVP buzz.
“He’s had an extremely special year. He’s had a year that not many players can have,” Buehler said. “You can hit 100 homers or whatever, but Trea, we’ve seen it for a couple months now, and obviously what he did in Washington, he’s a special player, a game-changing player, and I think he needs to be on the minds of people, that maybe he’s not being spoken about enough.”
Turner’s talents could be center stage Wednesday.
While the rest of the Dodgers’ once-loaded lineup is facing question marks — Max Muncy is hurt, Cody Bellinger is still struggling to rediscover his old form and others have cooled off down the stretch — Turner has become a primary focal point of their offense, batting third in the lineup over the final 22 games
“Just feel like I’m more consistent with my leg kick and my load,” Turner said of his strong finish to the regular season. “It’s getting me in a better position to hit all sorts of pitches in different counts and just put the barrel on the ball.”
Roberts believes Turner’s other all-around skills can be especially impactful in October, too, speaking from experience after facing Turner’s Nationals teams twice previously in the playoffs.
The Dodgers said that Clayton Kershaw and Max Muncy won’t need surgery, but Kershaw will definitely miss the postseason.
“Whether it’s a slow roller or it’s the homer, the double in the gap or the walk,” Roberts said, “he just creates tension.”
Turner is also only one of two Dodgers hitters who has experienced a wild-card game before, having homered in the 2019 NL wild-card game to help the Nationals kickstart their World Series run.
Ahead of this year’s game, he was asked about the pressure of beginning the playoffs with a winner-take-all contest.
“It’s going to be fun,” he said.
On Tuesday, the comment made Roberts smile.
“That kind of mindset,” the manager said, “is helpful for any clubhouse.”
Especially when it comes from one of the team’s newest most important players.
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