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.