Trea Turner: “People tell me [to hit the ball on the ground]. And I’m like, ‘Shut up.'”

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Nationals outfielder Trea Turner, formerly the Padres’ first-round pick in the 2014 draft, has bolted out to a .537 slugging percentage in 224 plate appearances since a mid-season call-up. But what has impressed both fans and teammates more than his power has been his speed. As Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post reported earlier this week, Statcast measured Turner at 22.7 both from home to first on an infield single and from home to third on a triple.

Turner’s baseball coach from North Carolina State, Elliott Avent, texts Turner every time he hits a home run urging him to bunt for a hit more often. Consultants advise Turner to hit the ball on the ground more. Turner says, “People tell me that. And I’m like, ‘Shut up.'”

Turner is already at 2.4 WAR this season, according to FanGraphs, over a full season, that projects to a nearly seven-win season which would put him in the MVP conversation with the likes of Kris Bryant and Corey Seager. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify on leaderboards, his .537 slugging percentage would put him in the top-20 in baseball. And his .192 isolated power, which is slugging percentage minus batting average, is more than 40 points better than the major league average for center fielders.

Plus, it isn’t as if Turner hasn’t been using his speed at all. He has 21 stolen bases in 24 attempts for an exquisite 87.5 percent success rate. His stolen base total prorates to over 60 over a full season’s worth of plate appearances. According to Baseball Reference, Turner has taken the extra base — first to third, first to home, second to home, etc. — 53 percent of the time, well above the 40 percent league average. Turner has even stolen third base three times, more than the Cardinals as a team (two) and nearly as many as the Dodgers (four).

Some people seem to fetishize non-power baseball as if it’s somehow superior. But the facts are clearly in: power baseball rules. It’s the most efficient way to score runs. Not only does a home run score as many base runners as there are on base, it requires only one event to do so whereas a team would need to string together three singles on average — or a single, a stolen base, and another single — to score one run.

Using weighted on-base average, a Sabermetric statistic that individually weights each way a player contributes offensively, we can clearly see how much more valuable a home run is than a single. Using FanGraphs’ “Guts” page, we see that in 2016, a single is weighted .878 while a home run is weighted 2.009. If Turner were to focus on hitting balls on the ground more, he would have to hit more than two times as many singles for every one home run he loses in doing so. To be clear, that’s on top of his current rate. And to be fair, it’s not quite that cut and dry, because singles can lead to more stolen base opportunities, but Turner would still have to ramp up his attempt rate by a lot. Stolen bases are weighted at .200 by wOBA.

In short, Turner’s doing it right, and he’s right to tell those attempting to get him to change his game to shut up.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.