An Early Season Evaluation Of Daniel Murphy

By Unknown author

One of the questions the Mets faced going into this season was the level of production they’d received from Daniel Murphy.  A hitting machine in 2011, Murph was coming off a season-ending injury while learning a new position.  One month into the season, Murphy pretty much is who we thought he was.

Last season, Murphy hit .320/.362/.448 with six homers in 423 plate appearances.  He also demonstrated a penchant for making contact and being difficult to strike (fanning just 9.9% of the time) out while playing all over the diamond as the Mets faced a rash of injuries.  Murphy’s accomplishments earned him an fWAR of 3.2 before missing the last part of the year.

Just over a month into the 2012 season, Murphy has put up fairly similar numbers with a couple of differences.  In 134 PA, Murph is batting .312/.351/.376 and has yet to homer.  He’s struck out a tad more (11.9%) and walked a touch more as well (6.0% vs. last season’s 5.7%).  Much like last season, Murphy is helped out by a high BABIP (.355; it was .345 last year) and his OBP is mostly a product of his batting average.  Still, Murphy gets his bat on the ball as well as, if not better than, any other guy in the lineup and has already delivered clutch hits during the young season.

The one thing missing from Murphy’s bat is the power.  He’s never been a slugger, owning a minor league slugging percentage of .452, but he’s peppered in long balls throughout his career.  The fact that Murphy hasn’t gone yard yet this season isn’t alarming because it’s only May, he’s collecting his hits and nobody expects a lot of power from him anyway.  Murph’s always been a line drive hitter, hitting liners at a 21.8% rate over the course of his career.  This season is no different (22.7%), but he is hitting the ball on the ground at a higher clip (54.5%) than his career mark (44.1%).  Consequently, his fly ball rate in 2012 of 22.7% is lower than his career average of 34.1%.  It would be nice to see a little more pop in Murphy’s bat, but if he keeps hitting and the line drives translate into doubles, nobody will complain (especially if David Wright, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda hit for power).

Defensively, there has been a learning curve.  Murphy has made five errors (four fielding, one throwing) and owns a .965 fielding percentage, while costing the team four runs defensively.  However, the sample size is still small and he’s shown an ability to make big plays while exhibiting surprising range.  He won’t win any gold gloves, but he’ll be good enough, given his bat.

So far, Murphy has given the Mets exactly what they thought he’d give.  The lefty has hit for average, striking out at a low rate, walking a little bit and not hitting for much power, while playing below-average defense but playing his heart out at second base.  If he keeps this up the entire season, the fans won’t be disappointed.