Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner has enjoyed the month of June. With 20 steals and a better hitters eye, his performance is rising.
The second-year wunderkind has 20 stolen bases this month. His 33 leads Major League Baseball. Oh, he got engaged too. Not a bad month.
Coming into this year, Turner felt the pressure of high expectations. A second-place finish in last season’s National League Rookie of the Year voting and a red-hot.342 average had many of us pronouncing his super-stardom. He felt the pressure.
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April started well. Hitting behind Adam Eaton in the two-hole, Turner was a doubles machine with seven and a .312 average. Stolen bases were down with four, but sandwiched between Eaton and Bryce Harper, there were times a steal of second would have led to an intentional walk.
Between Eaton’s ACL tear and Turner’s hamstring injury, landing him on the disabled list, May was a slow month. Pressed back into the leadoff spot, where he excelled last year, he froze. Not selective in pitches, and swinging at bad ones, his strikeout rate rose and batting average plummeted to .239 for the month.
The last four weeks show a comeback.
In his first 42 games this year, Turner drew six walks. Over the last 25, he walked 11 times. He swings at better pitches and his speed literally steals infield hits. No longer trying to drive balls out of the yard, his approach raised his on-base percentage from a paltry .262 in May to .358 in June.
Good things happen when the leadoff guy reaches nearly 36 percent of the time. On top of his tremendous 20 stolen base month, Rickey Henderson numbers, Turner scored 23 runs. He crossed home plate 30 times in his first 42 games and now has 53 runs over 67.
The lack of stealing early concerned fans. Paired with Eaton, who has a good set of wheels himself, most figured the duo could combine for 75-100 bags this year. Even with Eaton gone, they still might if Turner continues his approach.
Forget the five times caught stealing. Turner is an intelligent runner who is wonderful reading pitchers.
A good defensive shortstop, he uses that speed to cut off grounders and his jump throws from the hole are growing Turner’s legend. Back at his normal position from a short voyage in the outfield last year, he gives off every appearance of being comfortable.
Matched with the rest of this productive offense, Turner has shaken off a sophomore slump and re-emerged as one of the feared runners in the game. Amazing what a month can do.