So the long-discussed debut of Justin Turner, outfielder, happened last night late in the game against the Chicago White Sox. At first blush, it seems awfully odd.
After all, Justin Turner doesn’t really hit well enough to be a second baseman. His career OPS is .688. Second basemen are putting up a .696 this year so far in the National League. But many of those at-bats are taken up by players who can’t hit much, but field the position well. Turner does not. His career UZR in 783 2/3 innings at the position is -12.8.
So how exactly does it make sense to send him to left field, where National Leaguers are posting an .800 OPS, or right field, still a respectable .735?
By NL talent logic, it doesn’t. But as we were discussing on Twitter today, it makes sense because league average isn’t the standard, or the competition, within the Mets’ outfield right now.
The Mets outfield, collectively this season, has an OPS of .680. And that is including Lucas Duda, whose .913 OPS in the most plate appearances of any outfielder masks the true depths of the rest. Duda’s fielding, alas, gives back most of these gains above replacement level. Not league average. Replacement level.
So if Turner can provide minimally competent defense and a .688 OPS in one of the outfield positions… why not? He’s not blocking someone better. He’s probably not blocking someone who will be better down the line, unless you are convinced on the prospect bona fides of both Juan Lagares and Jordany Valdespin. And clearly the Mets aren’t: hence, Turner’s in the outfield.
And before you propose the righty Turner for a platoon with Duda, or Valdespin, or who knows which other outfielder, remember that he has a reverse split: .658 against lefties, .704 against righties. So that’s a no go.
I guess he could platoon with Marlon Byrd in right field.
This is a long way of illustrating that for most teams, taking the guy who doesn’t hit well enough to stick at second and putting him in the outfield doesn’t make sense. And it doesn’t make sense because even the the Triple-A talent on hand, let alone the bench talent, makes the move nonsensical.
Not so this bench. Not so this Triple-A team.