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Trea Turner has turned himself into one of the best hitters in baseball. Lacking project potential when he was drafted 13th overall in 2014 — Kiley McDaniel pointed to his upside as 10-12 home runs with a .420 SLG the following winter — Turner continued to become much more than that. slash-and-burn of many ideas. The past three seasons have been particularly impressive. Playing with the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, he posted a brilliant .316/.364/.514 line with a 139 wRC+. Also, his right-handed hitter has produced 87 home runs over four non-COVID campaigns.
Turner — now with the Philadelphia Phillies after signing an 11-year, $300 million contract in December, and currently playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic — talked about the hit before a recent spring training game.
David Laurila: Let’s start with one of my favorite icebreaker questions: Do you see hitting as more of an art or more of a science?
Trea Turner: “I think it’s more artistic, but we try to use science to measure it. Sometimes people have good swings, but then you go into a game and you can’t necessarily hit. The game is more art than the swing.”
Laurila: Why some players with good swings can’t hit in games?
Turner: “I think there are an infinite number of answers to that. I remember talking with one of my coaches in college and he said that some people are swingers, and some people are hitters. There is a difference. For me, hitting is being able to make adjustments and hit different pitches. And if you don’t have the best swing that day, you still have to be able to get hits and work. The best attackers can have such a plan in the way. “
Laurila: At what point in your life did you go from swinger to hitter?
Turner: “Oh, I’ve never been a swinger. I have been fighting since day one. I’m not a natural hitter. I don’t just wake up and step in the box like some guys, and be able to just naturally do it. I’ve worked hard on it, all my life. “
Laurila: Even at a young age?
Turner: “I mean, I was a good player when I was young, but I didn’t have the strength. I hit one home run at school. When I was young I couldn’t even catch a ball. I was too loud , that there are guys a lot bigger and stronger than me. I’m hitting the ball the other way because that’s all I can do. I’m going.”
Laurila: How old were you when you started being able to draw a ball?
Turner: “Ah, I don’t know. Maybe not until I’m in high school? Maybe more like 12-13 years old, or… I remember my dad would say he’d give me a dollar if I could draw a ball in a game. But yeah, I would say it wasn’t until high school that I really started to draw football.
“Right now, I think my strength is pulling the ball, which is a fun thing to do. But as a hitter who wants to use all the fields. The old saying that you want to hit the ball where you land is still true today.”
Laurila: How much of the power you’ve developed is from added power, and how much is to adjust your swing?
Turner: “It’s both. I’m definitely stronger than when I was younger, but I think it’s probably more about the swings. You gain strength as you grow, but you also learn your body, learn movements, learn techniques. So it’s more about making the most of everything you have. Sorting is a big thing right now. Making sure everything is sorted is something I’ve tapped into over the last four or five years. “
Laurila: Has that been gradual, or was there a defining moment where you adjusted and something started clicking?
Turner: “There have been a couple for me. In college, I started kicking, which helped me start a little more behind it. I didn’t have a lot of homers in the minors, but then in 2016, when I got called up, I hit a bunch and it made sure I could do it at a high level. That is another step. And then, in 2019 when I was working with K-Long [hitting coach Kevin Long], I checked how to do it in another way a little bit – not only draw the side, but the whole field. I’m not as strong as Kyle Schwarber – guys like that – but being able to tap into it a little bit more has made me better.”
Laurila: Has your navigation changed?
Turner: “I would say that you have a little bit. But I have always tried to have a flat swing because I feel like it will give me the most room for error and the most chance of success. Having a flat swing allows me to hit a lot of different pitches, and that’s always a goal. Sometimes you tinker a little bit. Your style changes, your style changes a little bit, and I’m always working on that. But yeah, I’m just trying to be flexible that sheet.”
Laurila: How much do you look at the data when working in the cage?
Turner: “Write. I’m not a velo exit person. I’m not at the top of those charts. For me, it’s not about that. It’s about getting hits. I can roll on ground balls at 150 mph and my exit velo will go up, and people will tell me I’m a good hero, but I’d rather stay inside a ball and hit a soft line drive to center field for a hit. . I think that’s where art and science merge. I think it’s more about art and less about science. “
Laurila: That said, is there any science that helps you become a better striker?
Turner: “I like to compare good and bad movements in physical technology, like what sold first and what. Here, and also in LA, they have technology where you can see all those things. So, I like comparing swings, but at the end of the day it’s about making solid contact on the barrel, and not necessarily hitting certain numbers or certain angles.”
Laurila: Does he hunt in between fastballs and adjust from there, or is his approach more nuanced than that?
Turner: “I would prefer not to talk about it… But yes, for each pot you have a game plan. Different people have different pitches, different arm angles, and different velos, so you have to adjust to the pitcher a little bit. You can’t just go up there with one mindset that works for everyone. I take many things into consideration. “
Laurila: Any final thoughts on hitting?
Turner: “I want pictures vs. audio. That’s a good debate to have because there’s no right answer. But I think sometimes the pictures are close to hit and miss. Everyone wants to walk, and there’s a launch angle . cool of the game.”