Daniel Murphy is the only Mets player with at least 75 at-bats who is hitting over .300. Juan Lagares has missed a good portion of the early season, so his numbers are still a little skewed based on small sample size. Murphy is leading the team with eight doubles, he’s second with 19 runs scored, he has the second most stolen bases with six and has only struck out 18 times this year. The only player who’s struck out fewer times is Travis d’Arnaud with 12, but d’Arnaud has 40 fewer ABs than Murphy.
As if that weren’t enough to declare Murphy the engine that makes this Mets offense go, he has been hitting a cool .380 over the course of the last six games, including three multi-hit performances. He has 11 multi-games this year already, and his fWAR so far is second only to Lagares, despite being a less gifted defender than the center fielder. Mostly gone are the woeful games in which Murphy looked lost as the second baseman. He will have his struggles from time to time, but they are few and far between now.
What he has been able to do in spades while most other Mets cannot, is hit. In fact about the only thing Murphy hasn’t been doing right lately is taking walks and hitting home runs, and he just hit his first long ball of the season last night. His total base on balls for the year is seven, half of Ruben Tejada’s total. It’s no secret that Tejada is helped in that department by hitting in front of the pitcher most games, but Murphy should still be taking more walks when he can. More power hopefully will come with time. In case you’re looking for more advanced statistics to justify Murphy’s prowess, he has an OPS+ of 114, and a wOBA of .331, which is right between average and above average.
Now you might be thinking, “Wow, slightly above average. Let’s break out the ticker tape parade!” All sarcasm aside, these are good numbers considering no one has been hitting around him. David Wright’s struggles have been well documented on this site, so Murphy has continued to hit in the two-hole while Wright has been swinging and missing. Murphy has also been put in the unorthodox position of hitting cleanup and fifth in the order multiple times this year, and he’s done well in both spots.
Yes, the defense will probably always be what the detractors point to when discussions of Murphy’s value are compared throughout the league. Now that he’s proving to be an average fielder though, his bat is what’s setting him apart. Once Wright starts hitting like we know he can, Murphy will have many more opportunities to score. Or if Curtis Granderson finds a home in the two-hole and Murphy is forced to hit behind Lucas Duda or Chris Young further down the order, he will get plenty of RBI chances.
The point is that when a guy simply knows how to get the bat on the ball like Murphy does, those hits will come no matter where you put him in the lineup. It’s for that reason Murphy has been able to sustain an offense while others around him figure themselves out. As we enter May and the team starts to fully take shape, look for Murphy to flourish as guys like Lagares, Duda and Young find permanent spots in the lineup around him.
The only thing that could derail Murphy’s play, and I cringe even bringing this subject up, is Wilmer Flores possibly stealing time. That subject is a ways off from being a legitimate threat, but as Flores continues to get hot in Triple-A and the front office says that it doesn’t consider him a viable shortstop candidate, other positions have to be considered. If Flores doesn’t have the range or quickness for SS, then 2B won’t be much easier. Rather than create another position by committee situation, it seems that Flores might best be moved for another piece on the field. Those decisions are not up to us, however.
For now, we can simply enjoy seeing Murphy play every day, putting on great at-bats and helping this Mets team be a legitimate contender. No controversy, no second-guessing, just baseball the right way. The only way Murphy seems to know how to play.