Phillies star Trea Turner chases throws – and responses – during worst slump of career

Phillies star Trea Turner chases throws – and responses – during worst slump of career

PHILADELPHIA — The fight went 10 throws, and at the end there were different methods to analyze it. Trea Turner was eliminated on Sunday afternoon. From the dugout, Phillies manager Rob Thomson approved. “I saw a really good batting,” Thomson said. Kevin Long, the club’s veteran hitting coach, didn’t disagree. He thought Turner could be happy that every pitch he swung across was in the zone – except for the last one, a tough slider down and in.

“Or you can see it from the other side,” Long said, “which I know is the way he’s going to look at it.”

Long has known Turner for years, and during the worst crisis of the star shortstop’s career, he acted as both coach and therapist. “I know he’s really hard on himself,” Long said. This is apparent from any conversation with Turner.

“I sucked,” he said Monday afternoon.

He chased 37% of the pitches he saw out of the zone – the highest rate of his career – and that’s an underlying reason for his .256/.303/.390 batting line. Turner has struck 55 times in his first 45 games. It was the most he had ever struck out in 45 games.

“Honestly,” he said, “I probably haven’t played this badly in my entire career.”

Turner reviewed that 10 at bat with Long after Sunday’s game against the Cubs. He looked at the cursor he had missed.

“A good throw,” Turner said. “I’m okay swinging on that slider. But, for me, I was a lot angrier missing six fastballs in the area. That’s how I feel like the whole season has gone summer. “

This goes back to the original problem – hunting.

“I think that stuff snowballed on me because of that,” Turner said. “Like every time in my career, I thought, ‘Okay, let’s go to the middle of the zone and don’t chase and swing on good pitches,’ and then I miss pitches that I should be hitting. J I’ve always been aggressive when I’m well. My head stays still. I see the ball. I’m ready to hit anything.

“So I think a bit of that has been that. Try not to hunt, try to walk. And I don’t think that’s the player I am. There is a fine line. Of course, I want to walk. I don’t want to hunt. The question is: How do you make this happen? How are you doing that? And that’s what I fought against.

Long, going from hitting coach to therapist, offered his assessment.

“At this point, I honestly think he hasn’t relaxed yet,” Long said. “He was not comfortable. And once there, everything falls into place. But the to try is probably a little too much sometimes. So he’ll deal with it and he’ll start to feel a lot more comfortable and relaxed about himself.

It had been 33 days since Turner came to bat with runners in scoring position and delivered a hit. During that span, he had 23 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. He knocked 11 times. He has often looked like someone trying to atone for weeks of poor results all at once.

“I think it’s just natural, right?” said Kyle Schwarber. “When you arrive in a new place and you are going to stay there for several years, you want to make a good statement about yourself. When you feel that you are not meeting your expectations, you feel a little embarrassed. And I don’t don’t say that to him. I’m saying I felt that way last year at some point early in the year when I was getting into fights.

Turner, finally, had a hit on Monday night with a runner in the scoring position. He fouled on two throws in the area, then slapped a slider just off the plate into right field for a scoring single. It didn’t change the result of the game, a 6-3 loss to the Diamondbacks.

Everyone around the Phillies was waiting to see the dynamic version of Turner. And, on the list of concerns generated by their 22-25 start to the season, Turner ranks low. There’s confidence in the track record that landed Turner a $300 million deal last offseason as one of the sport’s best players.

Trea Turner’s home runs against Boston earlier in the month. (Kyle Ross / USA Today)

Turner, after that single and a ninth-inning walk on Monday, didn’t proclaim himself fixed. “My first three hits were brutal for the most part,” he said. “Just this consistency that I talk about. When I can do that for four or five hits a day, then for a week, then a month, I’ll feel a little better. But he thinks his swing has been good for two or three weeks.

It’s a matter of making better decisions now.

“I’ve been getting advice from everyone and their moms over the past two weeks,” Turner said. “I don’t mean that in a bad way. You know, people see me in trouble and they want to help. It’s nice to see how many people are really attentive or caring. Not just the clubhouse people. Just people who know me in general. It’s hard when you’re in trouble. It’s like, ‘Hey, let’s try this. Let’s try this. Let’s try this.’ You keep bouncing, keep bouncing, keep listening. In the end, you just have to play better.

It’s something Long tweaked. Last Saturday, Turner did not play for the first time this season. Thomson considered it a hard reset. But Turner spent more cage time with Long for weeks. “We went really, really hard,” Long said. “Our workload has sometimes been almost too heavy.” So with this reset, Long backed off.

“Trea,” he told her, “you know how to do that. I give you a lot of information. We tried. Let’s just trust what you’ve done and your abilities. Let’s see where that takes us.

That stayed with Turner.

“Exactly,” he said. “We have to listen to each other. And that doesn’t mean that all these people I talked to didn’t give me good advice, you know? As I keep saying, I cracked up. I haven’t really found a way to play better or be more consistent. And that’s kind of what I’ve been doing all my career — just be consistent. Do not write off. Put the ball in play. Do these things. And I just didn’t do that. That’s why it wasn’t great. I think it’s just on me, man. It’s up to me to play better. »

“I honestly think he hasn’t relaxed yet,” Kevin Long said of Turner. (D. Ross Cameron/USA Today)

Turner heard boos from the Phillies crowd on Sunday. He doubled in his last at bat, but the day still felt empty. The boos came again Monday night when he stopped at shortstop in the fifth inning. Long has known Turner long enough to understand how he thinks. He’s not content with just a few hard hit balls that are caught. It is results-oriented. Strikeouts are driving Turner crazy.

His chase rate went from 26% in 2021 to a career-worst 33% in 2022. It only intensified in 2023. It’s a concerning trend.

“Every year you kind of realize you’re a different player,” Turner said. “Your body is different, neither in a good way nor in a bad way. Maybe you made a habit and now you feel strong in that area and weak in that area, or vice versa. So you just go with what you got, right? I feel really good sometimes, and (on Sunday) that double was great. But then, like, what was I doing for my first three fights (Monday)?

“That’s the most frustrating part. I’ll be so lost and then I’ll feel good and then I’ll be so lost. It annoys me. I hate that.”

The Phillies have faith in Turner and, when the breakthrough comes, it will be something worth watching. They wait longer than expected. He’s just one of the reasons all this didn’t go well as June approached.

Before Monday’s game offered some positive signs, someone suggested that this might be the day things change for him.

“Well, I said it every day for 30 days,” Turner said. “SO …”

Maybe Tuesday is the day.

(Top photo: Bill Streicher/USA Today)

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