Year in Review: Justin Turner


October baseball is in full swing, and while the fans of eight teams are still stressing with every inning and holding their breaths on every pitch, we as Mets fans are left to reflect on the year that was and wonder whether or not 2013 will bring us more than 74 wins. But before turning to Chapter 52 in this Amazin’ timeline, let us flip through Chapter 51 and examine all the pieces that made 2012 the year it was for the New York Mets.

For the next month on Rising Apple, my colleagues and I will be writing Year in Review columns on the 40 most significant Mets of the past season. Think of it as the “was and is and is to come” of each player. These records will be twice-daily occurrences, with one review coming in the morning and another in the afternoon. The series will continue until October 27, so by then you should have a good idea of what Terry Collins’s 2013 roster may ultimately look like.

June 16, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets infielder Justin Turner (2) during batting practice before a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

This morning we start with a man who has seen the game from just about every angle this season, and we’re not talking about someone with that Postseason.TV feature from Here’s the Year in Review for Mets utility infielder Justin Turner.

How He Handled the Bat

Turner saw his playing time decrease significantly from 2011, which included a 62% drop in plate appearances. But while his 2012 was mostly defined by whipped cream pies and Carly Rae Jepson, Justin still produced at the plate when he needed to. His triple stash held pretty much steady at .269/.319/.392, giving him an OPS (.711) 21 points higher than the year before. What stands out the most is his 13 doubles as a pinch-hitter; he had 30 two-baggers last season and would have had around the same number this year at last year’s playing time.

His finest moment at the plate came early in the season when he dueled Heath Bell of the Marlins. Their 13-pitch battle, during which Justin fouled off four straight 3-2 pitches, resulted in the game-tying bases-loaded walk; the Mets won the game two batters later on Kirk Nieuwenhuis’s heroics (guess who would pay him back with the pie to the face afterward?).

How He Handled the Glove

Last year Turner, a second baseman by trade, helped New York stay afloat by taking David Wright’s place at third base for a couple months. This year Justin took the utility infielder image and vamped it up a notch. He split his playing time just about evenly between every infield position: 11 games (8 starts) at first base, 14 games (10 starts) at second, 10 games (8 starts) at shortstop, 11 games (5 starts) at third. While not outstanding anywhere, Turner was dependable, committing only two errors between the four positions and having a hand in 19 double plays.

Projected Role in 2013

With Daniel Murphy now firmly entrenched at second base, expect Turner to have about the same role next year as he had this year: a pinch-hitter, a stopgap wherever there’s an injury, an occasional platoon player when Murphy has the day off. Terry Collins has also come out and said Justin will get some time in the outfield this spring, so if you thought Le Grand Orange Jr. was a utility man this year, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Contract Status and Trade Rumors

Turner, who turns 28 in November, earned just under half a million dollars in 2012. He is a year away from being eligible for salary arbitration in 2014, and the earliest he can become a free agent is in 2017. When the Mets were still in contention before the All-Star Break, Sandy Alderson talked seriously about a trade involving Turner with the Colorado Rockies, who went after him in the previous offseason. With his ability to play anywhere in the field, I expect more teams will be interested in giving him a shot to play regularly. Alderson could package a mid-level prospect or two along with him and possibly get a reliever and an outfielder on the same level as the Rockies were offering in July. Intangibles aside, Justin Turner is expendable as a member of the New York Mets, and I’m sure he would welcome a chance to get back to playing at his 2011 level.

That does it for this morning’s Year in Review. Check back in the afternoon when Sam Maxwell will take a look at Dillon Gee’s year that was.

You can follow me on Twitter @MidwesternMet and at my own Mets blog of the same name. Thanks for reading, have a nice day, and L.G.M!