Trea Turner's first season as the Philadelphia Phillies' starting shortstop has been quite a ride. There have been peaks and valleys and everything in between. Has he lived up to the expectations that the club and fans had when he was signed to a $300 million deal this past offseason? It is way too early to tell, but no one can be upset about his drastic late-season turnaround.
The expectations coming into the season for Turner were sky high. Prior to 2023, the newly acquired shortstop had posted an OPS of .800+ in every season since 2019. He was also a two-time All-Star and won the Silver Slugger Award for NL shortstops last season. Perhaps the performance that most elevated the hopes of Phillies' fans was Turner's performance in the World Baseball Classic this past spring. Everyone knew that Turner was one of the game's best and he had lived up to the hype as the regular season drew near.
Things did not necessarily go as planned to begin Turner's career as a member of the Phillies. Through the end of July, the 30-year-old was hitting just .242 with 10 home runs and an OPS of just .674. His struggles at the plate were clearly affecting him defensively as he was playing a poor shortstop as well. It all culminated on August 2nd when Turner went 0-5 then deflected a ground ball that should have been fielded into centerfield late in the game that would lead to a Miami Marlins win.
After that game, Turner was interviewed and took accountability for his struggles. He looked dejected as it appeared that he had hit rock bottom. In the days and weeks leading up to and including that point, there were people in the Philadelphia area— fans and media personalities— calling for Turner to be benched, sent down to the Minor Leagues, released, traded, or to have his contract "undone". All options that would have only made matters worse— or simply could not happen at all, but fans will be fans.
The standing ovation story has been played up so much in the National media that it seems redundant. While it may be cliché at this point, it is worth noting that since August 4th— the date on which Turner received the support of the crowd at Citizen's Bank Park— his season turned around drastically.
Since the first game of the home series against the Kansas City Royals, Turner has hit .337 with 16 home runs, has an OPS of 1.060, and has 181 wRC+. He also lowered his strikeout rate from 24% to 16.4%. He has looked more comfortable at the plate and has been able to lay off tough pitches on the outside part of the plate.
The contrast between the start of his tenure with the Phillies and how his season will end up could not be more drastic. It looked as if the first year of the signing would be a disappointment. Turner was signed to produce and be a huge part of a club that sought to make a splash in the postseason. He went from not producing and being second guessed to having an MVP caliber month and a half and helping get the Phillies to the playoffs again.
Turner— while still posting some numbers below his career averages— has turned the tide to his 2023 season. So much so that he was the player who addressed the fans on Fan Appreciation Day. With three games to go in the regular season, he is just two home runs shy of his career high set in 2021. He has also logged 30 stolen bases for the first time since that same season— he has not been thrown out attempting to steal yet.
Phillies fans hold their players to high levels of expectations. Since taking accountability and putting in the work to improve, Turner has ingratiated himself to the Philly faithful. While his time in Philadelphia has accounted for less than a season of his Major League career, Turner's 2023 season will remain one of the most complicated in recent memories. Hopefully 2024 and beyond is less of a roller coaster for the long-term Phillie.