Daniel Murphy’s adjustment at the plate sparks hot streak

Lost behind the daily bullpen issues has been the resurgence of Daniel Murphy at the plate. In his last 23 games, Murphy has a .429/.443/.738 line as he seemingly has a multi-hit game every night. The nice thing about this streak is that it hasn’t been a bunch of weak singles to the opposite field. Instead, Murphy is utilizing the entire park and the extra-base hits are finally starting to come.

Early in the year, Murphy fell in love with going the opposite way, going so far as to consistently utilize an inside-out swing to take pitches to left field that he should have been pulling. Opposing pitchers started to use that against him and Murphy’s numbers dropped in late-May to early-June. But take a look at Murphy’s hits in the past three games, in which he went 7-for-10:

Single to 2B
Double to RF
Single to RF
Double to RF
Single to LF
Double to RF
Triple to RF

He pulled six of his seven hits and of those six, four went for extra-bases.

After the June 22nd game, Murphy had a .270/.316/.342 line for a disappointing .072 ISO. Since then his ISO is .308, as he has 13 doubles, 2 triples and 3 home runs among his 36 hits. Clearly this is an unsustainable pace and Murphy is no threat to keep up an ISO this high. But just as clear, he made an adjustment to what pitchers were doing and now it’s the hurlers who will have to find a different way to attack him.

For the season, Murphy has a .308/.346/.438 line, which is slightly below but generally right in line with his .809 OPS from 2011. His .784 OPS is tied for sixth among full-time second basemen this year, giving the Mets a strong offensive player at the position. Of course, this is what many of us expected Murphy to do at the plate. The question is how much of his offensive advantage does he give back defensively?

More than we would hope.

Defensive Runs Saved has him with a (-8) while UZR pegs him exactly the same. On a full season basis of 150 games, Murphy would rank at a (-15) at his current pace. While that is a dreadful number, it just brings him to middle of the pack in total value among second basemen. His fWAR of 1.5 places him tied for 12th among his position mates.

Murphy is on pace to become the Mets’ first full-time player at second base to exceed a 2.0 fWAR since Edgardo Alfonzo in 2000. Jose Valentin did it as well, but he only played 94 games at second base in 2006. Valentin was also 36 at the time and he had only 51 games left in his major league career.

At 27, Murphy could have many more years ahead of him if he is able to avoid the injuries that twice before befell him at the position. No one will ever call him smooth, but Murphy appears much more comfortable at second base, no doubt a result of all of the work he put in learning the position. Now if we could just get him to play at a normal depth, instead of on the outfield grass for every hitter, perhaps we would see better range out of him.

For the remainder of the season we have three things to watch for in regards to Murphy:

1. His continued health
2. Signs of defensive improvement
3. Consistent starts against LHP

In 2011, Murphy had a .755 OPS against lefties. But when he started struggling overall this season, manager Terry Collins essentially platooned him. Now that his stroke appears to be back, it will be interesting to see if Collins returns him to being a full-time player. Ronny Cedeno has done well against lefties this year and undoubtedly Collins would like to get some playing time for Justin Turner, too, so Murphy starting against southpaws is hardly a slam dunk at this point.

But while things have been falling apart nearly everywhere else, Murphy has been one of the few bright spots for the Mets over the past month.

12 comments for “Daniel Murphy’s adjustment at the plate sparks hot streak

  1. Chris F
    July 24, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Murph has been a revelation. And its sad he hasnt had more on in front of him to take advantage of things. We could use more RBIs.

    I know his defensive play requires a squint of the eyes on a more than rare occasion, and sometimes I think he is actually playing right field, but, this is a learning year and Im ready to let him have all the rope he needs to wrangle it into his position. Next year he may even play on the dirt! I think Tuff has helped him quite a bit. Is he ever gonna be brandon phillips? no. but of all the sins on this team in need of correction, Murph isnt one of them.

    With a list of potential everyday middle infielders, if he could bring some arms to the team, would he be worth a trade?

    • July 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      I don’t view him as untouchable by any stretch. But he does have value and I think he’s worth more than a random middle reliever. After what he’s done this year, he can be viewed as either a 1B, 2B or 3B. And you may think it’s silly to have him be your 1B but his .784 OPS would be tied for 12th among full-time 1B this year. Right now six teams have a full-time 1B with an OPS under .700, including the Rays.

  2. Metsense
    July 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Murphy has earned his spot and should be the everyday 2B but when he wasn’t doing his job Cedeno was asked to pick up his slack. Cedeno did to the tune of an .882 OPS vs lefties (and probably better infield defense too). Even though, over the long term, Murphy at full time 2B is better for the organization, it just seems too unfair to cut Cedeno’s time. But they should. Murphy needs to be established as the full time 2B. It will increase his trade value this winter, which I think is what his ultimate destiny will be, especially if Wright signs an extension this winter.

  3. NormE
    July 24, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    If you can find a team that will give you a foundation outfielder or an upgrade at catcher you’d have to consider trading him. I’m assuming that alone he wouldn’t be enough to snag a good pitcher.

    • July 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      Why not? In 1500 PA in the majors, Murphy has a lifetime .784 OPS or exactly what he’s hitting this year. That’s offensive production better than half of the clubs in MLB are getting at 1B. When Murphy last played 1B, he was a plus defender. Let’s say he’s just an average defender at 1B. Now we are talking about a cost-controlled 4.0 WAR (roughly) player. Only six first baseman in all of baseball had a fWAR of 4.0 or greater in 2011. His value comes in a different shape than other first baseman but the overall package is quite good enough. Then add in the fact he can play 2B or 3B on top of it and I think you’ve got a valuable trade chit.

      • AJ
        July 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm

        Well, if you’re going to open that door… why not hold on to Murphy as a first baseman and trade Ike?

        • July 24, 2012 at 2:30 pm

          If I was going to argue for Ike I would say that he has more power than Murphy and that since there is no apparent 30-HR guy waiting in the minors, it makes sense to keep the guy who can hit the ball out of the park.

          But the truth is that there is no one on the roster who should be viewed as untouchable.

          • Chris F
            July 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm

            Well, to me Wright and Tejada would be folks that would need extraordinary recompense to move IMO. No one is irreplaceable, but those two are as close as I can see.

            Oh yeah and Bay…but for entirely other reasons!

      • NormE
        July 24, 2012 at 5:36 pm

        The, at best average glove, along with average speed and below average power act as a counter to his good batting average. If I’m the GM of another team I think that getting Murphy in a trade would not be inducement for me to give up a highly valued commodity. The Mets would have to sweeten the package—-and the Mets have more sucralose than sugar to act as a sweetener (please forgive me for that).

  4. Chris F
    July 24, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I wanted to add that over the course of this season, I have become quite a fan of Murph and don’t advocate him being traded by any means. This being a business, and the Mets having a number of MLB capable middle infielders makes me think we have some chips to move. Increasingly I feel like Cedeno could be that guy for whom we could get something while he has a few good seasons left. I’d keep Red as a utility guy and RH bat we need.

    Anyways murph made me a fan, and I think he has multi year value to our beloved orange and blue.

    • 7train
      July 24, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Ronny Cedeno will be a FA at the end of the year. I’d like to sign him after the winter meeting for one more year to back up Tejada and help out Murphy and I agree with Chris that Murphy should be a multi year extension guy. 3 years, 2 club options. That would only increase his value elsewhere but I see him as extremely valuable when this team is ready to compete.

      Utility/PH with the ability to play 1B, 2B and 3B and an outstanding PHer who can hit LHP if the opponent brings one in after he’s announced. That saves you a player. Until then he’s holding down 2B better than I was hoping for and he’ll always be a dangerous doubles/RBI type hitter.

  5. Name
    July 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Right now, the Mets have too many question marks. I believe it would be foolish for the Mets to trade Murphy to get even more question marks(AKA prospects). They need some sort of stability and Murphy (at times) can provide that.
    In the last 9ish months Murphy has been here, he has shown he can hit well in 6-8 of those months. That’s a good enough ratio for me.

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