Justin Turner Is Maybe Not As Bad As I Thought

During Sunday's broadcast on PIX11, Gary Cohen, apparently without irony, referred to Justin Turner as "a revelation." I figured he must've meant it rather literally, as in someone apparently told someone else (i.e., revealed) that Turner was good, and then a bunch of other people believed it without really looking too closely. If extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, then ordinary claims mustn't require much proof at all.

I've historically been no fan of Turner's. He's got grission, sure, but he doesn't hit for much power, he doesn't draw many walks, and his defense doesn't look very good. I suspect I've been a tad harsh on the lad, though, as mediocrity is surely relative.

Turner's .699 OPS is unspectacular by almost every measure you can think of. Heck, even Jason Bay's .704 OPS is higher, and Bay is Canadian! But relative to other second basemen this season — National League second basemen, specifically — Turner is decidedly average.

Justin Turner, 2011: .266/.338/.361
NL Second Basemen, 2011: .257/.318/.379

And while he doesn't look (to me, at least) like much of a fielder, the advanced defensive metrics coalesce around averageness, with Total Zone and Plus/Minus rating him slightly below average and UZR registering a tick above average. His baserunning is slightly above average, too.

Very few people strive for averageness in anything. An average baseball team will win around 81 games. However, the average big league second baseman made $4.9 million in 2010, and Turner is making about one-tenth that amount this season and figures to make only marginally more than that in 2012.

We read a lot about market inefficiencies in baseball and elsewhere, and while market structures change and individual commodity values certainly fluctuate, sometimes wildly, one thing is nearly universally true: paying ten cents on the dollar is always a good investment. If Turner continues to be merely average, the Mets will pay hardly anything for his services and get considerably more in return. If, on the other hand, he tanks, and like so many other would-be revelations winds up crumbling under the weight of close scrutiny, the Mets, financially at least, will have given up practically nothing.

Whether Turner is a better option at second than Daniel Murphy or Ruben Tejada is a different question altogether. The short answer is No, that Murphy is enough better offensively and Tejada enough better defensively that either should be given the starting second baseman spot over Turner, preferably in that order (Murphy then Tejada then Turner), at which point Turner's value, particularly as a weak-hitting bench player, becomes much less clear.

Perhaps he can cheer the team on.

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