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Mets Playoff Preview: How Justin Turner became an offensive weapon for the Dodgers

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The former Mets utilityman has thrived in two seasons with the Dodgers.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

From 2010-2013, Justin Turner was a middle-of-the-road Mets utility player who bounced around positions on the field and in the batting order while clashing with team executives, who decided to make Turner a free agent after the 2013 season.

From 2014-2015, Turner has been as reliable a hitter as any for the Los Angeles Dodgers following his Mets' release. In 673 at-bats with L.A., Turner is batting .314 with a .384 on-base percentage and .492 slugging percentage, all three of which are at least 45 points higher than they were during Turner's time with the Mets, when he hit .265 with a .326 on-base percentage and .370 slugging percentage over 814 at-bats.

So where did Turner's surge come from? Sources say Marlon Byrd was the key. People familiar with Turner refer to his relationship with Byrd, his teammate with the Mets in 2013, and how the veteran helped motivate Turner to get in shape during that offseason before the 2014 campaign when the two worked out together in southern California. Turner, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, also spent that winter working with Dodgers strength and conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel.

There's good reason to be skeptical that Byrd magically transformed Turner from decent to spectacular—if his tutelege were somehow repeatable he'd be in high demand as a hitting coach. Whatever the explanation, Turner has posted the fourth-best Wins Above Replacement on the Dodgers each of the last two seasons and will be one of the key non-pitching factors in the Division Series that begins Friday evening in Los Angeles.