Daniel Murphy was one of several Mets to have a big game in Thursday’s come-from-behind win against Jonathan Papelbon and the Phillies. Lost amid the ninth-inning heroics was the excellent defensive play he made in the top of the eighth that saved at least one run. Murphy ranged far to his right to snag a ball hit by Placido Polanco, planted and without even looking at the base, he threw as hard as he could to nip Polanco at first.
But, as Murphy is an offensive player, everyone will remember the role he played in the comeback, as he battled back from an 0-2 count to drive in the tying run in the ninth. That clutch hit was one of many here lately, as Murphy has broken out of his slump with a vengeance. In his last eight games, covering 33 PA, Murphy has a .469/.455/.969 slash mark for a 1.423 OPS. And yes, that’s not a typo. Murphy has a higher average than he does on-base percentage. He has not drawn a walk or reached via hit batter in this streak but has a sacrifice fly. SAC flies are counted in OBP but not AVG.
Murphy has three homers in this stretch, after going 73 games without a single HR. He is once again turning on the ball, after seemingly looking to hit the ball to the opposite field every time up. And while he has not recorded one walk, Murphy has struck out just four times in this streak. Add it all up and it comes out to a .462 BABIP
In the 19 games before breaking out, Murphy had a .368 OPS and a .169 BABIP over 69 PA. Not surprisingly, the Mets went 7-12 during Murphy’s extended slump. Compare that to the team’s excellent play here in the last nine games, as the Mets are 7-2. And one of those losses came in a game when Murphy did not start but entered in the ninth as a pinch-hitter with the team down by five runs.
PARNELL PLEADS FOR SAVE CHANCES – The injury to Frank Francisco opened the door for Bobby Parnell to redeem himself for last year’s struggles in the closer’s role. Parnell has been up for the task but fate has not been kind, as the Mets have had just one ninth-inning save opportunity in the last 12 games. As bad as that sounds, it’s not without precedent for the 2012 Mets. After Francisco saved the first three games of the season, the Mets had just one ninth-inning save opportunity in their next 13 outings.
Parnell has been perfect in his four games with Francisco sidelined, retiring all 12 batters he faced. He picked up the save in the 3-2 win over the Dodgers on June 28th and he got the win in yesterday’s thrilling comeback over the Phillies. But the Mets are 6-6 since Francisco went down and their other four wins came by the scores of: 17-1, 9-0, 5-0 and 11-1.
JOHAN BY A MAJORITY DECISION – Throughout his tenure with the Mets, Johan Santana has been a bit unlucky, picking up quite a few no-decisions in the process. This year, Santana began with just three decisions in his first nine starts. So it’s a bit of a surprise that Santana has picked up seven straight decisions, going 5-2 during that stretch. It’s the longest consecutive-decision streak on the Mets this year.
Even more surprising is that Santana has the most consecutive decisions on the club this century, as he had a run of 16 straight back in 2009, going 9-7. Doc Gooden holds the all-time franchise record with 25 consecutive decisions in ’93-94, when he went 10-15. Ron Darling is next with 23 back in ’89-90, and he went 11-12. Tom Seaver had two streaks of 21 straight decisions, going 14-7 in ’74-75 and 16-5 in ’71-72. Roger Craig is the only other pitcher in club history to record 20 or more consecutive decisions, as he went 5-16 back in 1962.
NICKEAS NOT THE WORST HITTER IN THE MAJORS – Mets fans can be forgiven for thinking that light-hitting backstop Mike Nickeas is the worst offensive player in MLB. After all, he has a team-worst 38 OPS+, nearly half the production of the next worst on the team, Andres Torres and his 71 OPS+, among those with at least 100 PA. But there are 11 batters who chime in with a lower mark. Oakland’s Josh Donaldson has been the worst hitter so far in 2012. His .153/.160/.235 slash line results in a 7 OPS+. Former Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan has an 8 OPS+ while former Met Endy Chavez (a player many wanted the club to re-sign in the offseason) has a .402 OPS and a 10 OPS+ in 111 PA.
CY GIVES IT THE OLD HT – Chris Young has brought stability to the back of the rotation, as he has made six straight starts, hurled 37 innings and has a very good 3.41 ERA. But the downside is that Young really loses effectiveness quickly. His first time through the order, he limits batters to a .419 OPS. The second time thru it’s a .648 OPS and the third time thru is an ugly 1.126 OPS. Back in 2010, Hisanori Takahashi went from a .598 OPS the first time thru the order to a .990 OPS the third time thru and people were convinced he could not be a starter in the majors. And Young didn’t have a start in Puerto Rico (in the bandbox known as Hiram Bithorn Stadium) or the obstacle of being jerked back and forth between starter and reliever like Takahashi two seasons ago.
GETTING DEFENSIVE WITH THE METS – The 2012 Mets do not feel like a very good defensive club. They have poor defenders at second base (Murphy) and right field (Lucas Duda) and not one player is in the lineup due to being a good glove man. Ike Davis does not appear to be as good defensively as he was in his rookie season and anyone who has played more than 30 innings in LF (Hairston, Nieuwenhuis, Bay and Baxter) has ranged from below average to horrible.
The Mets have allowed 39 unearned runs, the third-most in the National League and they rank 24th in Defensive Runs Saved with a (minus 20). Yet somehow they are right around average in Defensive Efficiency. According to Baseball-Reference, the NL average is for a team to convert .689 of balls in play into outs. The Mets have a Defensive Efficiency of .690 on the season. The Nationals are the most efficient defensive team in the league with a .707 mark while the Rockies are the worst, as they convert just .646 of balls in play into outs.
IT’S ALL WRIGHT MA, I’M ONLY SIGHING – OK, David Wright got hosed out of being the starter in the All-Star game. It’s the wrong decision and it points out a giant flaw in the system. But he will still be at the game and it’s just not worth all of the hand-wringing that has been going on. And if it makes you feel any better, Wright has the most fWAR of any player in the majors as of this writing with a 4.8 mark. At the end of the day, I will gladly trade a starting nod in the All-Star game for an MVP trophy at the end of the season.