When the Phillies signed Trea Turner to an 11-year, $300 million contract over the winter, the second-largest contract in franchise history, they were probably prepared for Year 11 to be a bit underwhelming, not so much Year One. Turner got off to an excellent start in Philadelphia, beginning the season with 12 hits in the first seven games with two triples. Once his seven-game hitting streak was snapped, the next four months turned into an unbelievable slog: .225/.282/.354 with 10 homers. On the morning of August 5, his OPS hit a season-low .656. But over the last month, Turner has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball.
During the hottest months of the summer, one of the most common questions I got was some variant of “is Trea Turner broken?” My usual answer was that he’d probably be fine, even if expectations had to be lowered a bit, but it felt a little less convincing. The zStats I ran for hitters in early August as part of the “full-fat” ZiPS saw Turner as having a better season than was reflected in his overall numbers, with a .728 zOPS compared to that .656 mark. That wasn’t enough to make the leaderboard, headed by Spencer Torkelson (with a .975 OPS since then), but it was still a significant gap. And I doubt the Phillies or the fans would have felt much relief even with the .264/.309/.419 line that zStats gave him.
Back then, I re-ran Turner’s long-term projections to see what kind of bounceback ZiPS was expecting. While the computer saw a pretty good recovery in 2024, it was well off his preseason numbers. There was also a lot more risk in the mix, significantly pushing his numbers in future years down.
ZiPS Projection – Trea Turner (8/5)
But from that low point, Turner has been absolutely smoking. Over the last calendar month, he’s fourth in the league in WAR and is the WAR leader among shortstops.
Top Position Players by WAR, 8/5 to 9/5
Turner has also hit the second-most home runs in baseball, behind only his teammate Schwarber, thanks to a five-game homer streak that was rudely snapped on Sunday. But his placement in these ranks is more than the product of a run of round-trippers. Even if you put the cutoff point right before the first game of his homer streak, Turner was still hitting .345/.378/.619 with 13 extra-base hits in 90 plate appearances.
How has he done it? Improved plate discipline has been a part of the equation. Turner has been a more aggressive hitter the last few years, and his out-of-zone swing percentage spiked to 36% last season with the Dodgers, easily the highest in his career to that point. For the first four months of 2023, that went even higher, to 39%. While he’s still remained aggressive over the last month, with his swing rate hanging steady at 52%, the types of pitches he’s swung as has changed; his out-of-zone swings dropped by five percentage points, and his in-zone swing increased by the same margin. This kind of improvement is harder than it sounds, as reducing out-of-zone swings more often than not results in fewer zone swings due to increased passivity. Staying aggressive while seeing these kinds of movements in the numbers reflects how talented a hitter Turner is.
Unsurprisingly, hitting better pitches has resulted in better results. Statcast hard-hit numbers stabilize quickly, and Turner’s 48% hard-hit rate over the last month is well above his 40% rate over the first four months of the season. His total of 17 barrels in that span almost matches the 20 he hit over the first two-thirds of 2023.
So has Turner restored his career back into the pre-2023 trajectory? Not quite, but things certainly look a lot sunnier than last month:
ZiPS Projection – Trea Turner
The back of the contract still looks unpleasant, but it was always going to, simply because we’re talking a 30-year-old shortstop’s projected performance in his early 40s. But the front end of the deal looks a lot nicer, and let’s be honest, that’s why he’s in Philadelphia, not because of what he would theoretically do in 2033. He entered the year with the best five-year projection of any shortstop in baseball; by August, that was down to seventh. In a single month, he’s climbed back up to third, behind Lindor and Wander Franco, whose future looks very murky as a result of some serious investigations in his home country. Turner has even got his Hall of Fame trajectory mostly back on track; ZiPS seems him finishing around 2,300 hits and 300 homers with 60 WAR, and while that’s a tough case to make based on history, those numbers put him right around Alan Trammell, who should absolutely be in the Hall.
For most of the summer, Turner was having a season that everyone wanted to forget. If he continues to hit like this and the Phillies go deep in the playoffs, nobody will remember his midseason struggles in 2023.