PEORIA, Ariz. -- Justin Turner went from hitting 16 home runs in 2015 to 27 in 2016. By design."Yes, I definitely changed and made a conscientious effort to get more balls in the air," said Turner, who homered and singled in a run in the Dodgers' 12-7 win over Seattle
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Justin Turner went from hitting 16 home runs in 2015 to 27 in 2016. By design.
"Yes, I definitely changed and made a conscientious effort to get more balls in the air," said Turner, who homered and singled in a run in the Dodgers' 12-7 win over Seattle on Wednesday.
"Today, with the way defenses shift, if you hit a ground ball, you're out. Especially if you don't run that good. There's so much information out there that tells them where to play you. So, it is a conscious effort to get more balls in the air."
Here's his secret how.
"I don't think it's necessarily a change in swing to create loft," Turner said. "You're just trying to get to the bottom of the ball more versus the center the ball. Hit the bottom of the ball, it's easier to make the ball go up."
This is a dramatic change from the old-school admonition to hit down on the ball and create backspin.
"If you hit down on the ball and hit the top of the ball, you're still hitting a ground ball," said Turner. "If you hit the center of the ball, the margin of error is so tiny to create backspin, you have to be really, really good to do that. That's where this new swing plane comes in. This loftier swing plane makes it a lot easier to hit the bottom of the ball. It's definitely a mindset.
"You're in the box and telling yourself to hit something in the air, this helps you swing at better pitches because you have to look for certain pitches you're capable of lifting. And secondly, you're consciously trying to get balls in the air, and if you miss a ball and it does go on the ground, now it's a harder hit ground ball than trying to hit the middle of it and hit the top of it, instead of trying to hit the middle of it and you hit the top of it and it's just a ground ball."
Turner said he doesn't change his approach, even when defenses shift the third baseman to the pull side.
"When you see these lefties getting shifted all the time, and they try to figure out how to beat the shift, those guys that try to beat the shift by slapping balls the other way, the other team is winning," he said.
"You don't beat the shift by hitting around it or through it, you beat the shift by hitting over it. I had several games last year when my only goal was to hit four balls in the air. I just didn't want to hit a ground ball. If I fly out four times, I had a great night, because I didn't hit a ground ball."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.