June was a tough month for Daniel Murphy, probably one of the more frustrating ones of his MLB career. After seeing his batting average creep up as high as .330 in April and May, he hit a major slump, dipping his average to .270 thanks to a month where he put together a triple slash of .240/.253/.427. Due to his struggles, Jordany Valdespin was getting some starts in favor of Murphy, and his lack of defensive prowess and power at the plate had instantly made him disposable in the eyes of a number of Met fans. Over the past week, those opinions have changed as Murph has broken out of his slump in a big way.
In the past week, Murphy has absolutely gone off, hitting .481, slugging 3 home runs, and driving in 14 runs, while scoring 6 times himself. It is no secret that the 27-year-old second baseman is only in the starting lineup for his offense. With Valdespin getting hot in his last tour with the Mets and continuing said hot streak at Triple-A Buffalo, it seems as though there is some pressure for Murphy to continue being productive in the lineup. However, it bothers me that a number of fans find him completely useless to the Mets if he’s not hitting.
This current hot streak won’t last for much longer, but the productive Murphy that we all know and love is definitely here to stay. He had gone 352 at-bats before hitting his first home run of the year at Wrigley Field; for good hitters, it only takes one swing to get themselves back on track. That was evident in Chicago, as he blasted another homer to center field his next time up, then kept it going in Los Angeles with his third long ball in less than a week. As was said during his slump, Murphy will never be a home run hitter; we all
know that. During a normal year, he will slug between 10 and 15 home runs, and his game will be shooting balls into the left and right center field gap for doubles. Even though he wasn’t hitting homers at his normal rate, he was being more productive for the Mets than most thought.
After smacking two doubles out of his four hits last night, Murph now has 23 two-baggers on the year, tied for the 12th highest total in Major League Baseball. Now that the halfway point of the year is officially upon us, we can double whatever a player has done and see what they are on track for, and our second baseman is on pace for 46 doubles this season, poised to break his previous career high of 38 in 2009. It’s nice to see his homer drought end, but it didn’t matter to me how many long balls he hits, although it has helped him find his extra-base hit stroke again. What’s more important to me is how many runs he drives in and how productive he is in important situations.
Last night’s lineup was the way it should always be for Terry Collins. Ruben Tejada should be the Mets’ lead off man, and Daniel Murphy should always be in the second spot in the order…always. He’s a classic two-hole hitter; he’s a .290-.300 hitter that consistently gets on base and can hit the ball to the gaps. At this point, he has racked up 42 RBI, on pace for 84 this season, which is a total I’d take from a second baseman any day. More importantly, he’s been able to drive in runs when given the opportunity of runners in scoring position. If a player is not going to hit a lot of home runs, they must be productive in these spots, and Murphy has been, with a .349/.378/.530 triple slash and 41 of his RBI coming in 83 such at-bats. Also, he’s hitting .312 with 23 RBI in 93 at-bats when he steps to the plate with two outs in an inning.
It’s been nice to see Daniel Murphy finally bust out of his slump in such a big way, but it was only a matter of time; a career .290 hitter doesn’t forget how to hit suddenly after he’s started the year on fire. People need to give Murph a break when he goes through those dry spells. He’s showed us since 2008 that he’s a good hitter, so there needs to be some give-and-take. The one constant about our second baseman is that he’s productive when runners are in scoring position; for a team that is 25th in Major League Baseball with 66 home runs, that is crucial; he’s been doing his job for a team that continues to surprise everyone throughout the first half of this season, and it will be fun to see what the New York Mets can accomplish in these next 81 games.