2011 Season in Review: Daniel Murphy

The New York Mets as a whole went 77-85 in 2011. As suggested by the sub-par record, there were a fair share of ups and downs throughout the season. “2011 Season in Review,” which will be an on-going series, will analysis every single Mets player that picked up a ball or glove in 2011, for better or worse. This particular “2011 Season in Review” will take a look at infielder Daniel Murphy.

As Matt Kaufman brilliantly identified, Mets fans either love Daniel Murphy or hate him. But how do the New York Mets feel? Given his position “flexibility,” the Mets certainly tried to give Murphy as many at-bats as possible in 2011. Murph played 419 innings at first base, 220.6 innings at third base, 168.3 innings at second base, and even 2 innings in left field. And despite posting a .320/.362/.448 line in 423 plate appearances, Murphy was still unable to find a permanent position.

Aside from what some fans may think of Murphy, it’s hard to deny his 2011 season was anything less than excellent. The 26 year-old came back after sitting out the entire 2010 season with a nasty MCL tear to become one of the more consistent sources for offense. Murphy had the second best batting average (.320), fourth best on-base percentage (.362), fourth best slugging percentage (.448), and second highest contact rate (89.8%). While Murphy only swatted 6 homeruns, he also collected a whopping 28 doubles. In addition, Murphy has done a fantastic job cutting down on strikeouts–going from a 18.5% K% in 2008 to a 12.4% K% in 2009 to a 9.9% K% in 2011.

Murphy also didn’t have a single “slow” month in 2011. The hitter posted a .288/.347/.470 line in April, .281/.337/.385 line in May, .330/.355/.437 line in June, .360/.398/.514 line in July, and a .333/.375/.333 line in August. Mind you, his August (and rest of the season) was cut short due to a MCL injury endured during a collision with sliding baserunner Jose Constanza. It would have been interesting to see Murphy eclipse his high of 556 plate appearances, but hopefully that will happen in 2012.

From a defensive perspective, Murphy surprisingly owned a positive UZR/150 at all positions he played a solid sample size of innings at. The infielder posted a 10.7 UZR/150 at first base, 12.0 UZR/150 at second base, and a 6.3 UZR/150 at third base. Murphy’s good play at first base should have been expected, since he posted a 8.7 UZR/150 there in 849.3 innings in 2009. The truly interesting development was the Florida-native’s range at the two positions he had zero Major League experience at.

Despite the good surface showing, some of Murphy’s peripherals unfortunately illuminate a potentially steep regression in 2012. A big factor in Murphy’s shining .320 BA was his incredibly high and certainly unsustainable .345 BABIP. Murphy hit .266 in 2009 with a .284 BABIP, so his future BA should be somewhere in-between there. Also, Murph not only had a high contact rate (89.8%), but also had an extremely high (and uncharacteristic) 83.5% O-Contact% (contact rate for pitches outside the zone). Since Murphy posted a 66.7% O-Contact% in 2008 and a 71.4% O-Contact% in 2009, the drastic jump might too have fueled his high batting average.

More importantly, the left-handed hitter only walked at a  5.7% clip. In fact, Murphy’s BB% has dropped from 11.9% in 2008 to 6.8% in 2009 to 5.7% in 2011. Similarly, Murph’s raw power has too declined. After posting a .161 ISO in 2009, the utility man’s ISO sunk to a pedestrian .128  rate in 2011. If Murphy were to exclusively play second base, a .128 ISO would be eighth best among National League second baseman–but if he plays the outfield in 2012, he would be in the bottom twenty outfielders in ISO.

With the second base job a little up in the air, there’s a good chance Daniel Murphy will start or at least get the bulk of starts at 2B. However, if the Mets were to sign Kelly Johnson, Murphy could see if his outfield glove still fits.

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