Justin Turner: A starter?

Over at Amazin’ Avenue, Eric Simon examines Justin Turner’s rookie season. While the conclusion makes sense — Turner should be relegated to the bench with Daniel Murphy starting at second and Lucas Duda at first — I’d add a couple of points to defend our man Turner:

First, though Turner’s batting average on balls in play may have been extremely high before June, it was also extremely low in June, and now back up in July. Across the largest possible sample — the whole season — it’s a very reasonable .312; these things have a way of evening out.

Turner’s .277/.343/.365 line does not appear to be aided by luck, and is in fact slightly better than the Major League average .256/.319/.379 mark for second basemen in 2011. By wOBA, Turner has been right around the middle of the pack of second basemen with more than 300 plate appearances.

Of course, the idea is to have good hitters at every position, not just average ones. And if Murphy can capably field the keystone, the Mets might very well have that in house. But Turner — based on his first half-season, at least — appears more than adequate in a utility role or filling the short half of a platoon at second.

That’s worth something. Remember how we all went on and on about how teams should be able to find a cost-controlled guy for the Alex Cora job that’s better than Alex Cora so they don’t have to pay Alex Cora? Here you go: Justin Turner.

And yeah, I realize that saying a guy is better than Alex Cora is pretty much the definition of damning with faint praise, plus none of this contradicts any of what Simon said in his original post. I guess I’m saying we should be thankful that the Mets are now in a situation wherein we can legitimately argue that a 26-year-old second baseman with an above-average OPS for his position should be benched, because it shows how quickly the new administration (and the last one in its final days) have worked to foster organizational depth.

I’d still give Turner some starts against lefties to keep him in the mix, though he hasn’t demonstrated any platoon split to speak of. I’ll add that it’s funny how first impressions work: It seems like there are a lot of Mets fans ready to anoint Turner second-baseman-for-life and send Duda packing on the next bus to Buffalo.

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