Kevin Long knows how talented Trea Turner is, but the 27-year-old shortstop managed to surprise even his hitting coach in 2020’s 60-game season.
“He did some things that really surprised me,” Long said early this spring. “One was the amount of power that he possessed the other way.
“That kind of shocked me. I wasn’t expecting him that have that kind of opposite field power. But we saw that kind of play last year.”
Turner explained that opening up the opposite field was a big thing for him, and something he embraced as a means of improving his game.
“I think that’s huge,” Turner told reporters at the end of the 2020 season.
“It’s just backing the ball up and I think that makes you make better decisions. It’s still tough though, especially in this ballpark [Nationals Park], for me, I feel like I’ve hit a lot of balls the opposite way pretty well and they’ve ended up being outs. And it’s hard to buy into I guess your approach when you’re doing everything right and still not seeing results at times, but if you stick it out and remain the course, I feel like over a long season it’s going to show up and it has showed up for me.”
“I started off a little slow,” he continued, “but then stuck with it and kind of took off after that, so yeah, I think it’s all been not necessarily hitting the ball the other way, but just backing the ball up and being okay with hitting the ball the other way. I’m not necessarily hoping to hit the ball the other way, I’m trying to hit the ball where it’s pitched, but just making good decisions and relaxing at the plate a little bit is helping me do all of that.”
Turner finished the 2020 campaign with a .335/.394/.588 line, 15 doubles, four triples, 12 HRs, and 12 stolen bases, playing in 59 of 60 games, with 259 plate appearances, in a 2.7 fWAR season.
Through Sunday’s game, Turner, who went 2 for 4 with two home runs, one out to left field in the third and another to right-center, over the out-of-town scoreboard in the eighth, had a .308/.357/.596 line early this season, with the home runs on Sunday his 3rd and 4th in 13 games and 56 PAs to that point.
The fact that he hit one out each way was a positive sign for where he is at the plate, Turner said.
“It’s good,” he explained. “Made some adjustments during the game. First at bat was pretty bad, and made a little adjustment the second at bat, third at bat was bad, and made a little adjustment fourth at bat. So, I think just making those small adjustments is a good sign for me and kind of knowing where I am and whatnot, and lucky they were homers, but for me just having good at bats as opposed to having bad at bats.”
The adjustments, he said, were more in his head than mechanical. “It’s more like a thought or a concept in my head that basically gets me on time,” he said, “... and gets me in a good position, so it’s a little bit of everything, or multiple things compacted into one.”
Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez too was asked what Turner’s power display to both fields told him about where the shortstop is at the plate right now.
“His swing is pretty flat to the baseball,” Martinez said. “He’s staying behind the baseball, and he’s able to put a good swing on it.
“He’s being patient and he’s getting balls in the strike zone, which is awesome.
“He hit a ball out to left-center field, pretty good, and then he stayed on a ball and hits a ball out to right-center, those are the things I think the whole lineup can do.”