When you think of “J.T.” who do you think of?
Justin Timberlake? Justin Turner? The mysterious JT from that Drake song?
If you’re a music fan, you more than likely think of Justin Timberlake. If you’re a Dodgers fan, you probably think of Justin Turner. Ironically, these two stars of their own respective fields have more in common than just their initials.
First and foremost, Turner’s walk-up song is “(Oh No) What You Got,” by Justin Timberlake off the Justified album. Besides their mutual admiration, they both live in Los Angeles, have won multiple awards in their fields, and each are synonymous with a single month in the calendar year.
Both Timberlake and Turner get excited when the month of April winds down and the calendar strikes April 30. For Timberlake, the pronunciation of his 2000 smash hit with N’SYNC, “It’s Gonna Be Me,” takes over the internet with “It’s Gonna Be May” memes and GIFs. Even President Barack Obama and Timberlake himself have gotten in on the yearly tradition.
For Turner, “It’s Gonna Be May,” takes on an entirely different meaning. As Spring settles in and the flowers begin to blossom and bloom, Turner’s bat awakes from its slumber and the power switch gets flipped.
For reasons beyond any rational explanation, Turner becomes an entirely different hitter when the calendar turns to May. Turner batted just .279 with one home run in the month of April this season, and he hit that lone homer on April 30.
In 480 career plate appearances before May, Turner has hit just three of his 99 career home runs. A fact that Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman, recently reminded him of.
“Andrew [Friedman], I think, told me a couple weeks ago that I only have two or three career homers in April so not sure what that’s about but definitely glad that month’s over,” said a smiling Turner when asked why he becomes a different hitter in May.
If Turner doesn’t have any answers for the offensive discrepancy between April and May, then likely nobody does. Through just 12 games in May, Turner is batting .326 with five home runs and 11 RBI. At one point this season, Turner had five homers in 15 at-bats during the month of May, compared to just one homer in 124 at-bats in the month of April. Needless to say, his stats in May are vastly different from his slow start to the season.
“I guess the calendar turned to May and J.T. started to get hot,” said Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts of the sudden offensive explosion once the calendar turned.
Turner broke out of his April slumber with one of the best offensive nights of his career on May 7 against Atlanta. Turner hit a career-high three home runs and knocked in a career-high six runs in the Dodgers 9-0 blowout of the Braves.
“He’s been one of the best hitters in the National League for four or five years,” said Turner’s teammate Cody Bellinger. “It’s nice to see him finally barrel some balls up.”
Turner has 16 total home runs in the month of May, the third highest total out of any month in his career (June is the most). So if the annual occurrence of offensive indifference remains a mystery to Turner, then there must be a logical explanation for the difference in production this season, right?
“I wish we had an answer,” said Roberts who is also befuddled by Turner’s month-to-month hitting. “We would turn it a little bit sooner.”
Turner believes that it takes time for him to get his timing down after spring training and the start of the season. He also said that he tweaks his swing mechanics a little bit at the end of April and believes he’s finally found something with his patented leg kick that is working.
“I’m just trying to find something that clicks, and I think I’ve found something right now,” he said. “I’ve been feeling good at the plate, just not getting good results. I have felt better the last couple weeks, hitting balls hard. The timing’s felt good. I’ve been missing a lot of good pitches to hit, but finding the barrel a lot more frequently lately.”
In addition to the barrel of the bat finding the ball a lot more in the month of May, the ball is also finding Turner more. On Wednesday night against the San Diego Padres, Turner was hit by a pitch for the fourth consecutive game.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, he’s the first player to be hit by a pitch in four straight games since Hughie Jennings in 1900. Turner has been hit by a pitch seven times already this season, the second most in the Majors.
Turner’s annual surge in power and production in the month of May will remain a mystery for now, but with 13 games remaining in the month, he’s a must-watch at the plate.
So next season, when the calendar reaches April 30, remember to send all those Justin Timberlake “It’s Gonna Be May,” memes Turner’s way, as he’s sure to flip the switch once the calendar turns.