Daniel Murphy: All-Star?


One of the few bright spots for the Mets in this not-so-merry month of May has been the reemergence of Daniel Murphy as a force at the plate. Since seeing his average drop to .258 on May 12, Murph has hit at a .432 clip with a 1.139 OPS in his last 11 games, picking up six doubles, two home runs, and seven RBIs even as his team went 3-8.

May 22, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) hits a sacrifice fly against the Cincinnati Reds during the fifth inning of a game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As part of the desperate search for good news that has become a daily routine for Mets fans, the question should be asked if Daniel Murphy will get a spot on the National League All-Star team. David Wright and Matt Harvey are almost certainly locks for a Midsummer Classic appearance, and with Major League Baseball maybe looking to put as many home players as they can in the game, Murphy calling Citi Field his baseball home may be enough to tip the scales in his favor. But will he get the nod? And more importantly, would he deserve it?

At first glance I’ve been tempted to, and often have, exclaimed, “Why, of course!” With his numbers as rock-solid as they are and skills with a glove up to major-league standards, why shouldn’t he get to shine in the limelight of playing at home in his first All-Star Game? Indeed, Murphy does have a good slate of statistics: his .302 batting average is second amongst all NL second basemen, his 14 doubles are fourth in the entire league, and he has turned an NL-best 30 double plays.

But Murphy is far from the only second baseman with the numbers to earn him one of baseball’s Golden Tickets. While Daniel’s second half of May has been superhuman, Marco Scutaro of the Giants has been superhuman the whole month. In 18 May games, Scutaro is hitting .453 with a 1.119 OPS, 14 runs, five doubles, two triples, a home run, and 7 RBIs. His resulting .331 season average puts him miles ahead of every other NL second baseman, Murphy included.

May 8, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter (13) hits a triple against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, a handful of other middle (infield)-men who bubble under Murph in batting average do overtake him in other highly-regarded stats. The biggest threat comes from Matt Carpenter of St. Louis, who is hitting .300 and leads N.L. second basemen in doubles (15), OPS (.828), and WAR (2.0). Murphy ranks only fifth in OPS (.798) and fourth in WAR (1.3); his biggest shortfall in the former category is a lack of walks – he’s drawn only eight bases on balls all season, second to last for regulars at his position, putting him at a too-low .333 OBP.  That drags down his very good SLG (.465 to Carpenter’s .441) when combined into OPS.

Carpenter is just in the lead of a pack that’s nipping at the heels of our protagonist. Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips boasts a position-leading 40 RBI’s, nearly double Murphy’s total of 21. Jedd Gyorko is quietly giving the Padres a good effort and has an .801 OPS to show for it. And as always, lurking in the shadows is Chase Utley of the Phillies, older but still effective with seven home runs and a position-leading .475 SLG. Phillips and Utley also have the name recognition that is so crucial in fan voting, and there is nothing residents of Philadelphia would take delight in more (except maybe a decent Eagles team) than seeing their guy starting at second base in an All-Star Game hosted by their hated New York rivals.

So let’s answer both questions. First, does Daniel Murphy deserve to be an All-Star? He’s borderline, strong in a lot of categories but not the best in any of them, and that constitutes an emphatic “maybe” (as emphatic as that word can sound). Second, will Daniel Murphy make the All-Star team? With Scutaro, Phillips, and Utley as competition, probably not on the fan vote. It would take selection by the National League manager, San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy, for that dream to be realized.

Keeping up his hot streak would go a long way towards earning that selection, and that’s all Murph can really do at this point. With his team in the toilet, Daniel Murphy’s daily mission is to give it his all and produce as many small victories as he can. Maybe those small victories will eventually start showing up again in the win column of the New York Mets.

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