Weighing in on the Daniel Murphy “Controversy”

Daniel MurphyIf you haven’t heard or just crawled out from under a rock, there has been a recent uproar about New York Mets’ second baseman Daniel Murphy missing the Mets first two games to tend to his wife as she gave birth to the couple’s son, Noah, this week. By the way, Noah Syndergaard says thanks!

Getting back to the point.

With Murphy missing the first two games to be with his wife, some radio personalities, namely WFAN’s Mike “The Sports Pope” Francesa and Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton, have took some pot shots at Murphy, claiming he should be with the team. Each granted that Murphy should get at least one day off, but two? By golly, now that’s just crossing the line!

This is what Francesa had to say (h/t Charles Curtis via NJ.com):

“First of all, the first two days, your wife is in the hospital anyway, you’re there with her. And the baby’s in the hospital. So you’re not taking the baby home usually ’til the third day. You think the third day that Daniel Murphy’s going to be in charge of nursing that baby the third day? … That’s my point. He’s not there to take care of the other kids, he’s not there to nurse the baby.”

The normally well-composed and reserved Esiason had this to say (h/t Bob Raissman of the Daily News):

On Wednesday, Esiason said he would have demanded Tori Murphy get a “C-section before the season starts, I need to be there opening day.”

Esiason, sensing he was out of line and under heavy criticism issued an apology.

More from Raissman:

“I was not telling women what to do with their bodies. I would never do that. That’s their decision, that’s their life and they know their bodies better than I do,” Esiason said on the air. “And the other thing, too, that I really felt bad about is that Daniel Murphy and Tori Murphy were dragged into the conversation, and their whole life was exposed. And it shouldn’t have been.

“And that is my fault,” Esiason said. “That is my fault for uttering the word ‘C-section’ on this radio station. And it all of a sudden put their lives under a spotlight, and for that I truly apologize.”

At least Esiason apologized. But Francesa, who would never admit guilt if his life depended on it, kept strong his gasbag opinion and stood by it.

Granted you don’t want a player you count on heavily to miss Opening Day and the game after, but shouldn’t common sense prevail here? This in the end, is just a game being played by big kids. Shouldn’t family come first?

It’s beyond admirable that Murphy wanted to spend extra time with his family, and mind you this was collectively bargained for by the players union. So, he had every right. What if Murphy’s wife had complications and something had gone horribly wrong? Does playing in the second game of the season matter more than being with your family in the most special moment any parent has the luxury to go through?

Do these men really mean what they say or this a ploy for better ratings and trying nothing more than to be a ‘shock’ jock?

In any regards, this should not be considered a controversy. Murphy has every right, legally and ethically, to be with his family and anyone else who disagrees is being a bit narrow minded.

Simply put, family comes before baseball.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

Daniel Murphy: The one constant for the Mets in 2013

Daniel MurphyIn a season in which hopeful optimism was crushed with injuries to David Wright, and more regrettably Matt Harvey(not to mention the injuries to Jeremy Hefner, Jenrry Mejia and Bobby Parnell), the one player who has stood tall amidst all this turbulence has been Daniel Murphy.

While Murphy has his flaws, his durability (think about saying that two years ago!), dependability and flexibility (he sure does have a lot of –lity’s BTW), have been the one constant for the Mets this year. For the year, Murphy is sporting a solid .283/.314/.407 slash line (prior to Friday night’s game) to go with 10 HR’s and 67 RBI’s.

Murphy is now riding a 10-game hitting streak and is basically the only Met batter left standing since Opening Day (not counting Lucas Duda, who was hurt, sent down to Las Vegas and is now back with the club). When you break it down, every other member of the lineup either got hurt, was not producing and had to be demoted at some point, or traded.

Murphy is far and away the team leader in games played (138) and at-bats with 567 (prior to Friday night’s game). The recently traded-away Marlon Byrd comes in second in games played (117) and at-bats for the Mets with 425. David Wright is third with 408 at-bats.

In a season marred by false hopes, critical injuries and one that will ultimately end with another losing season, at least Murphy has been a beacon of hope.

Sure, as Brian Joura succinctly points out here, Murphy is simply not walking enough anymore and is not really taking selective swings at the plate, but he still is the one constant the Mets can rely on day in and day out.

The kicker is, for all his reliability and dependability, Murphy may be looking at his last month with the Mets. You see, he is rapidly becoming a valuable trade asset and some team this winter may offer a nice package to the Mets. Since the Mets need help at a lot of positions (OF, SS and perhaps 1B), dealing from an area of strength makes a lot of sense.

If the Mets move Murphy, they could conceivably put either Wilmer Flores or Eric Young Jr. at second. Since second base is a position of strength for the Mets, it may be best to sell on Murphy while his value is at his highest.

I’ll say it. I’m an unabashed fan of Murphy and love his approach and love for the game. Hey, maybe it’s the Irish genes in me. Hey, after all I do own a green Irish-style Murphy shirt. It’s not just me though, as Murphy does have his fair share of fans.

However, if the Mets want to do what’s best for the team, either Murphy or Flores have to be traded in the offseason. Both likely can’t fit in with the same club, especially with Wright expected to man the hot corner until he retires. It’s a conundrum in much the same way as having Ike Davis and Lucas Duda on the roster. Sooner or later you have to choose the one who will get you the most value back on the trade market.

So, I salute you Daniel Murphy, you are a joy to watch and if this is your last month, well it’s been a pleasure having you suit up for the Mets.

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.

Is it too soon to give up on Daniel Murphy?

After Friday’s game against the Yankees, Daniel Murphy has now sat the last two games as a starter. Some are left wondering if this will be a continuing theme.

Well, after going just 8-58 in his last 16 games, Terry Collins is starting to use the hot hand by inserting Jordany Valdespin and Justin Turner into the lineup more often. Now, the last two games the Mets were opposed by a couple of lefties, so naturally this gave Collins a good reason to sit Murphy down, as to clear his head. But you have to wonder if Murphy will be caught in a platoon or if this is just a slump he can fight through.

With his defense under constant scrutiny, it has been the prevailing thought around these parts that as long as Murphy hits, we’ll let his defense slide. What happens when he doesn’t hit though?

Look, we all know that Murphy is a great contact hitter who has great plate discipline and is likely to bust out of the slump sooner or later, but when you’re sporting a .270/.313/.342 slash line with no power you justifiably have reason for concern. After all, Murphy’s .655 OPS only ranks 18th in the league.

While the home runs would be nice (as everyone should know he has to go yard this season), Mets’ fans would at least like to see a couple of more doubles from Murphy. Murphy does have good gap power and has a more than-respectable 17 doubles on the year. However, only three of them have been hit in June.

Many Mets’ fans are saying they want to see Valdespin get a shot at second, given his power/speed potential. Heck, I was even part of that bandwagon, but this rush to dismiss Murphy as the Mets’ starting second baseman because of one prolonged slump is just too hasty.

Murphy is a gamer, who will go the extra mile to help the club win games. Believe it or not, Murphy is the second most-tenured Mets’ hitter on the club. Murphy has been through the thick and the thin and has experience on his side. You can’t just dismiss Murphy’s value to this club, shrug it off and pin him as the current scapegoat.

Now is he better suited for the American League? Perhaps (and I guess this is why the Mets should explore all possible trade options when it comes to Murphy), but the Mets have stuck with Murphy for a long time, so they sure as heck won’t give up on him after a protracted slump.

Murphy will likely be inserted into tomorrow’s lineup when he and the Mets face off against the Yankee’s righty Ivan Nova. And depending on how he does against Nova, Collins may opt to sit Murphy down again on Sunday when the Mets are slated to take on the always-tough CC Sabathia, who as you all should know is one of the game’s best lefties.

Once Murphy starts gaining back his confidence and swinging the bat like we all know he can, then this is all going to become a moot point. Eventually Murphy will become the hitter we expect him to be.

Hopefully that starts on Saturday against Nova and the Yankees.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

Roundtable: How do you feel about Daniel Murphy at 2B?

I reached out to friends in the Mets blogosphere recently to ask the following question:

With about 1/3 of the season in the books, how do you feel about Daniel Murphy at 2B and should he be the starter in 2013?

Their names are hyperlinked to their blogs so please go ahead and click on them to check out their real work.

Mack Ade – President of the Elvin Ramirez fan club
“Daniel Murphy has done everything he can do to become an everyday player in the National League. All that’s left for him is second base and the emergency third base and first baseman. As I write, Wilmer Flores is being converted to a second baseman. Reese Havens and Danny Muno have taken themselves out of the plan. I would play Murphy until Flores is ready.”

Howard Megdal – The black sheep of the Wilpon Family and a man of many hats
“The answer is to be determined. His defense is the work-in-progress we expected. His offense, per OPS+, is 16th of 29 regular second basemen. While that’s not enough to carry his glove, it is also way out of line with his bat prior to 2012, so I expect his offense to improve. I don’t think he’s cemented the position for 2013, but it is never a binary question–with limited resources, who better than Daniel Murphy in 2013? Not clear who that would be.”

Jon Springer – Numerologist and Wordsmith supreme
“When people say Murphy has been “better than expected” at second base what they mean is that he hasn’t been letting balls roll under his glove or playing hops off his face as much as they feared he might. And he hasn’t! But he’s still considerably below average out there, and the balls not gotten to and DPs not turned have been a factor in the Mets’ struggle to prevent runs. In the meantime his bat hasn’t been nearly as productive as it ought to be, so unless he really starts stacking up the extra-base hits in these next two months the decision to replace him at least as a starter next year (with Valdespin, for example) could be an easy one.”

Ed Leyro – One of the original Shea Bridge winos
“I’d be more comfortable with Murphy at second when I see him play an extended amount of time with Tejada, something he hasn’t done much in 2012. That being said, I have no problem with him there in 2013 if he continues to hit around .300 and doesn’t kill us on defense. Tejada’s return should help him.”

Matthew Artus – Started off in this business as Casey Stengel’s bridge partner
“I’m relieved to see Daniel Murphy staying healthy, but his defense at second won’t win him any awards and he’s presently not hitting enough to make up for it. Though he deserves more time to find his power stroke, Murphy’s hardly a lock to start in 2013 if he’s unable to prove himself as, at least, an average second baseman.”

John Coppinger – The only one Omar Minaya hasn’t signed
“Surprised that Murphy hasn’t killed the Mets in the field. Surprised further that he hasn’t been quite the craftsman with the bat we know and love. Whether he should be the starter next season depends on what happens first: his defense goes south or his offense goes north. Up until now he’s been just … normal. Which is good and bad.”

*****

As a big proponent of playing Murphy at second base, I’ve been disappointed with the results so far. I thought he would be a bit better in the field and a lot better at the plate. In my mind, Murphy is too eager to go the other way with the ball, even using an inside-out swing on balls on the inner half of the plate to hit the ball to left field. It’s not a surprise to me with that approach that he doesn’t have a HR.

The lack of HR is annoying and the .067 ISO is a big disappointment. In 2009, Murphy had a .161 ISO.

As for the future, Murphy is still in the driver’s seat to be the team’s 2013 Opening Day starter at 2B. But he’s going to have to hit better over the rest of the season. If he doesn’t, he’ll find himself in a Spring Training battle with Jordany Valdespin for the starting job.

*****

Thanks to Mack, Howard, Jon, Ed, Matt and John for participating. As far as I know they are not really winos or sheep or even bridge players. But go to their blogs to find out for sure.

How should we view Daniel Murphy’s defense?

To most people, the word ambivalent means not to care about something. But the real definition of the word is a bit more complex. Instead of not caring, it really means having two opposed or conflicting attitudes or ideas or emotions at the same time. Using the true meaning of the word, I am ambivalent about Daniel Murphy’s defense in 2012.

Before the season started, I was a very strong proponent of having Murphy be the team’s starting second baseman, a viewpoint that put me in the minority. Most people considered him a butcher at second base and many considered it cruel or inhumane to ask him to play a position in which he had suffered a season-ending injury in back-to-back years.

Murphy reported to Spring Training early and got a ton of work in at second base. Unlike the previous season, where he split time at various positions, Murphy worked exclusively at second base and he got the lion’s share of work at the position. In Grapefruit League action, he made some miscues and did not look particularly graceful at the position. But he did not get hurt and the transition moved forward.

Having seen him play second base for 36 games in 2012, Murphy seems to have grown by leaps and bounds at the position. While no one will confuse him with Bill Mazeroski, Murphy appears to pass the eye test. In my mind, he’s gotten quite good at the “in the neighborhood” play at second base. During yesterday’s game, announcer Gary Cohen said, “Murphy handles it with aplomb.” Cohen followed that remark up by praising another catch by Murphy, calling it the defensive play of the game.

In today’s recap in the New York Post, Howie Kussoy quoted Collins on Murphy’s defense, talking about the play where he completed a DP by catching a ball in foul territory and then throwing home to nail the runner at the plate:

”He’s really adjusted to second base. That was a tremendous play. Your back to home plate, to catch and spin and make that accurate of a throw, that was a marvelous, marvelous play.”

So, to recap, Murphy seems to have made a ton of progress on defense and he now passes the eye test for me. Announcer Cohen speaks glowingly about his defense and manager Collins is running out of adjectives to describe his work in the field. It seems perfectly reasonable to hold the belief that Murphy is an acceptable defender at second base, perhaps even more.

But if you go over and check out Murphy’s defensive numbers at FanGraphs, they paint an entirely different picture.

There are 25 second baseman who qualify for the leaderboards and Murphy ranks 24th with a (-6) Defensive Runs Saved and dead last with a (-6.3) UZR. Last year in his brief time at 2B, Murphy was below average in DRS but UZR liked what it saw from Murphy defensively, as he posted a 1.8 UZR in 168.1 innings at second base.

UZR had Murphy below average last year in turning double plays and committing errors. But he displayed excellent range, which brought him to positive numbers at second base. Murphy had displayed good range previously, so this was not a big surprise. However, when we examine the numbers in 2012, Murphy’s range has been his biggest problem. After posting a 2.6 RngR factor in 2011, it’s down to a (-3.4) mark this season.

Murphy’s range seemed fine yesterday – is it possible he struggled early in the season and has grown more comfortable as the year progressed? This seems like a reasonable theory: however, Murphy’s DRS and UZR have gotten worse in the month of May.

So, while our eyes tell us that Murphy is getting the job done in the field, the numbers tell us the exact opposite thing. Which one should we believe?

Sometimes the eyes show us what we want to see and believe. That is why it is important to have non-biased numbers to fall back on. Perhaps being a Murphy fan has caused me to minimize his defensive shortcomings and exaggerate his achievements in the field. David Wright seems to be doing a great job at the plate and the numbers back this up. Murphy seems to be doing fine in the field but the numbers tell us he has been terrible.

The one saving grace is that defensive numbers take longer than offensive numbers to stabilize. So, while Murphy grades out as a rotten fielder after 36 games, it will not be a huge surprise to see the numbers tell a different story by the All-Star break.

Of course defense is just part of the equation and Murphy has done a fine job hitting the ball and getting on base in 2012. Despite being the worst qualified fielder at his position by UZR, the metric used in fWAR, Murphy grades out with a 0.3 fWAR, which puts him at tied for 18th among second basemen. It’s lower than what his backers expected heading into the season, but he is not in negative numbers, like Danny Espinosa and Rickie Weeks, two top 10 guys at the position in 2011.

My heart and my head tell me two different things about Murphy’s defense in 2012, leaving me ambivalent about his play. But with the Mets holding a winning record and Collins firmly in his corner, there seems little doubt that Murphy will continue to play second base. Hopefully he will continue to make highlight-reel plays like he did Thursday while also improving his range and getting to more balls than he has the first seven weeks of the season.

Daniel Murphy showing signs of improvement

When Miguel Batista starts a game for the Mets there really isn’t much hope. Running him out there looks like a sign of giving up a game in my eyes, so I almost didn’t even watch the game on Tuesday night. But the Mets in comeback fashion defeated the Phillies 7-4. They were once down 4-0 in the game, then the Mets rallied with a four run seventh inning and a two run ninth inning, and then Jon Rauch came in to earn his first save as a Met, locking down an important win for the Mets. The Mets completed the sweep last night, busting out the bats with a 10-6 win. The win moves them to 18-13, which is fifth best in the National League.

There were a number of things impressive about last night’s win; the bullpen, Lucas Duda’s two two out hits against left-handers, David Wright with his bat, his glove, and his base running. One thing that stood out the most for me with watching Daniel Murphy. Not at the plate, were he does most of his work, but rather in the field. Last night Murphy looked like a real second baseman. A real really good second baseman.

It’s no secret that Murphy hasn’t had an easy time at second this year. It’s really his first time playing the position on a regular basis. He’s made five errors out there already this year and has an UZR of -4.8. But last night he didn’t look like that fielder. He made a number of nice plays out there ranging up the middle and making the tough throws across his body.

One thing about Murphy is that he always looks very mechanical. He really doesn’t glide over to make plays, everything looks like it’s a struggle. But as long as he makes the plays, that’s a non-issue. His work with Tim Teufel looks like it is paying off, and Murphy’s work ethic is impeccable.

Now I know it’s one game, and when he makes a bad play again we’ll all be thinking there is no hope for him, but it looks like he is showing signs of improvement. In the end Murphy is on this team because of his bat, not his glove. He will win more games hitting, than lose games because of his fielding. But I do think Murphy’s glove will keep improving as he goes along. He has good range, a strong arm, and a solid glove. The errors he has made have been due to inexperience at the position.

On a side note, I was really upset that the Mets didn’t retaliate in someone against the Phillies last night. With the dirty slides of Shane Victorino, and Ty Wiggington taking out Josh Thole, I figured they would have done something to show that aren’t taking this abuse lying down. They did do a lot of retaliating with their bats, but I feel like that isn’t enough. But after the absurd suspension of Cole Hamels for hitting Bryce Harper, who knows how the league would respond to it.

Wright injury could open door for Valdespin

After storming out of the gate 4-0, the Mets built a lot of goodwill among its fanbase that maybe some good news was in store for the faithful this summer.

However, after two straight losses on top of David Wright suffering from a fractured pinkie, a lot of people are ready to push the panic button. Wright fractured the right pinky finger when he dove back into first base on a pick-off attempt in Monday’s game against the Nationals. A trip to the disabled list almost seems inevitable.

If a trip to the DL is in store for Wright, how will the Mets respond? The Mets have gone into an offensive funk of late and are getting very little out of their big boppers in Ike Davis, Lucas Duda (save for a two HR Day on Saturday) and the continuously frustrating Jason Bay. The Mets showed patience at the plate in their first series with the Braves and used it to their advantage, but lately they have been caught staring at a lot of hittable pitches-something Terry Collins says has to change.

What is so disconcerting was the fact that Wright was carrying the Mets’ offense, and now that he could be out, it could pose problems for a team in search of answers at the plate. Wright was off to a blistering start, notching seven hits in 12 at-bats to go along with one home run and four RBI’s.

The timing (as if there is any good timing) of this injury is awful and while Wright will try to swing through it and play in pain, a DL stint could be in the cards if he is not up to speed by the time the Mets travel to Philadelphia for a series with the Phillies this Friday.

So, if Wright does go on the DL, where do Collins and the Mets look for answers?

The most likely scenario being kicked around is to have the defensively-challenged Daniel Murphy abandon his second base experiment and play third considering that third base is his most natural position on the diamond. If that were to happen, the Mets could go with Ronny Cedeno at second base or perhaps call up the likes of Jordany Valdespin to man second.

The potential audition of Valdespin at second base is intriguing. After impressing the Mets’ brass by hitting .310 in 42 at-bats this spring, Valdespin was given a long look as a possibility to make the team. However, since the Mets signed Cedeno to back up the middle infield spots, Mets’ officials thought Valdespin would be best suited to get at-bats in the minors on an everyday basis. So, since there is a chance for Valdespin to get routine playing time at second if Wright goes on the DL and if Murphy plays third, this might be an ideal time to see what the kid has. We all know Cedeno has his limitations and he is mostly on the squad because of his defense. With the way the Mets have been hitting, it could use the services of Valdespin, who certainly would be an offensive improvement over Cedeno.

Valdespin is currently not tearing it up in Buffalo though.

Through seven games in Buffalo, Valdespin is batting .226 with a .273 OBP. Those are hardly numbers that scream promotion.

First things first though. Let’s all take a collective breath and look at the season in a vacuum. A 4-2 start with great pitching performances from both the staff and the bullpen is more than any of us could have asked for. Let’s not jump off the ledge and make the news of Wright being injured bury our confidence. Besides, Collins hinted that he thinks Wright may be tough enough to battle through this and play on Friday. We’ll see about that, but it’s encouraging to see the skipper have faith in Wright and believe this will not be a major, catastrophic injury. It may ultimately depend on how much pain Wright can tolerate. If anything, it seems like a minimal stint on the DL (if that is the case) could be in store for Wright.

Maybe that’s wishful thinking taking into account the Mets injury history-but Wright’s injury or not-let’s not let this ruin what has been a great start to a season.

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Daniel Murphy on being athletic enough for 2B

“The main focus is positioning. We both feel I’m athletic enough to play the position. Part of my struggles have been due to poor positioning, especially on the double play. I’m not good enough yet, and we both know this, to get to the bag late and still turn the double play. What we’ve decided to do is I will play closer to the bag. I may give up more in the hole, but I will get to the bag on time and be able to dictate my pivot rather than stumbling over the bag. I think with that it will allow me to slow the game down – it won’t move as quickly. I feel really comfortable there now, especially with the positioning and the double plays in game speed.”

Daniel Murphy, when asked specifically what he had been working on with Tim Teufel.

Source: MetsBlog

*****

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*****

Why half the fan base opposes Daniel Murphy

Mets fans are a diverse lot. However, there is an awful lot regarding the team with which the vast majority of us can agree. We all want owners who will fund a payroll in line with what other large market clubs do, we all love R.A. Dickey and we all want to see Ike Davis play in 150 games this year.

Because so many issues on the team are cut and dried, the ones where the fan base has a legitimate difference of opinion are fascinating to me. And nowhere is that divide more evident than the views on Daniel Murphy. As I am sure you all know by now, I am a Daniel Murphy backer. But I am going to try my best to present the pros and cons in regards to Murphy.

Here are some comments from recent threads over at MetsBlog taken from people who are not quite as sold as I that Murphy is the answer at second base in 2012, or ever. All spelling and punctuation comes from the original poster.

“You cannot teach athleticism, which is the largest prerequisite for playing a MIF position. Two major knee injuries in less than 25 games, caused by his inability to move around the bag…that’s not good.”

“If Teufel turns Murphy into a below average 2b, he deserves to go to Cooperstown.”

“More like beatified given there is a documented miracle. “

“St. Tim, patron saint of men with stone hands and poor footwork.”

“If Havens is healthy this season, Murphy and his hype are out of here. “

“He has failed at the position TWICE!!! The guy is going to get killed there, he is not mobile enough.”

“But he’s been the victim of two major knee injuries in 24 games because of his inability to move around the bag properly. It will take a miracle for him to stay healthy for 150 games.”

“Teufel really thinks that he can teach Murphy second base in six weeks? There are people who have been playing second base for years, how come they don’t get a chance? Because people think this guy is a great hitter? Sheesh!”

“Stop with all this nonsense. Murphy is a terrible defensive player, period. Anyone who thinks he’s going to get significantly better at this point in his life is delusional.”

So, here’s where it seems the anti-Murphy crowd stands: Not athletic enough for 2B – Stone hands – Poor footwork – Hitting is not all it’s cracked up to be. Let’s look at these concerns.

Not athletic enough for 2B
Murphy came up through the minors as a third baseman, moved to left field, moved to first base and now is trying to make it at second base. I think that major league managers playing someone at four different spots (counting LF/RF as one spot) in the field would be an indication of a player’s athleticism, but perhaps I am wrong. It would be nice if we had NFL combine results and we could look at Murphy’s time in the 40-yard dash and how many times he bench pressed a certain amount of weight. But we don’t so let’s look at it a different way.

Murphy has 1,130 PA in his career and in that span he has 9 triples and 9 stolen bases. Compare that to Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, who have combined for 1,189 PA and have 5 triples and 4 stolen bases. Can we at least agree that he’s more athletic than Davis and Duda? I don’t think anyone would have a major issue with that statement but they might counter that you have to be more athletic than a first baseman to play in the middle of the diamond. Fair enough, but how do you judge when a player is athletic enough to play up the middle?

No one seemingly has a problem with Justin Turner playing second base. While he’ll never be confused with Bill Mazeroski, most people think that Turner handles the position just fine. But Turner is simply more experienced playing second than Murphy and knows how to avoid getting hurt. While that’s a valuable skill, it doesn’t make him athletic or a good second baseman. In 642.1 innings at second base last year, Turner had a -11 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). By comparison, Murphy had a -2 DRS in 168.1 innings. If you gave Murphy the same number of innings as Turner, he would have saved three more runs in the field than Turner – who no one complains about.

And I did not choose DRS to portray Murphy in his best light defensively. UZR is much more favorable. Last year Murphy had a 1.8 UZR and a 12.0 UZR/150 at second base. Compare that to Turner, who had a -10.4 UZR and a -19.7 UZR/150. Again, no one complains about Turner being athletic enough to play second base.

It is very fair to say that Murphy’s few innings at second base is not a large enough sample to draw any definitive conclusions. But what little evidence we do have points to him being athletic enough to handle the position defensively if he can avoid getting hurt. The people who complain about Murphy not being athletic enough to play second would be wise if they used that same argument, only more forcefully, with Turner, instead.

Stone hands, poor feet
Murphy made seven fielding errors last year. But if we look at ErrR, the fielding component of UZR, we see that Murphy had the following numbers:

1B: -1.0
2B: -0.5
3B: -1.2

Here’s the definition of ErrR: “Given the same amount of batted balls hit to a certain fielder, ErrR determines the amount of runs he saves by his ability to prevent errors compared to an average fielder at the same position.” Turner’s ErrR last year was -2. Given that Turner played 3.8 as many innings at 2B as Murphy, they were essentially equal (slight edge to Murphy) in fielding. If you complain about Murphy having stone hands, you need to say the exact same thing about Turner.

How do you judge poor feet? How about we examine how the player does turning the double play? A person with poor footwork should really suffer when he has to make the pivot. Let’s examine DPR, which is defined thusly: “Again, this is solely used for infielders. Taking “handedness” in to account, DPR determines the amount of double play outs at second against the league average. Of course, this is primarily and more significantly used for middle infielders, but it applies to the whole infield quad as well.”

As 2B, Murphy had a -0.3 DPR while Turner had a -2.7 DPR

Hitting not as good as advertised
Murphy had a .350 wOBA, the fourth-best mark on the team among those with at least 250 PA. Two of the four who finished higher – Beltran and Reyes – will not be on the 2012 team. By comparison, David Wright had a .342 wOBA last year. Turner’s was .311, which ranked ninth out of the 11 players the Mets had last year with at least 250 PA.

*****

We don’t have enough evidence to say if Murphy can be an acceptable fielder at second base. What little evidence we do have says that he would be better than Turner. Of course the reason we don’t have more evidence is because he got hurt. There’s no benefit in being a better option to play second base if you cannot stay healthy.

Murphy wants to play and is willing to put in the work necessary to avoid getting killed. The coaches think with enough repetitions he can protect himself on the field. The manager (and by extension the front office) believe in the player and the coaches. Yet half of the fan base remains unconvinced, if not outright hostile to the idea.

Neither side is going to change their mind until the games actually start. If Murphy suffers a season-ending injury once again, the doubters will likely win and the experiment likely shelved forever. If Murphy plays the entire year without a major injury, the Mets win because they get one of the best hitters for the position in the deal.

To me, the only reason not to try this is if you have a vested (or plain humanitarian) interest in his health. Perhaps the parenthetical is implied by the people who don’t want the Mets to try him at second base. If so, I tip my hat to them. The cold reality is that I do not have that concern. One of the reasons that I do not begrudge athletes their obscene salaries is that it comes with the knowledge that it could end at any time. If Murphy can hack it at second base, his future earnings potential will skyrocket. If he crashes and burns, he’ll have to content himself with the $1,242,000 that Baseball-Reference shows that he’s already earned in the majors.

Good luck Irish Hammer, I’m hoping to see you on the Mets for another decade manning second base.

Daniel Murphy: Spark plug

Well it’s suddenly February and that big football game is only a few days away. And you know what my favorite part of the Super Bowl is? No, the thought of seeing Tom Brady miserable, or seeing what kind of weird/creepy/funny commercial ETrade has in store for us. No, it’s more of the fact that as soon as the game is over, it’s baseball time.

Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Port St. Lucie on February 20th and the Mets first Spring Training game is March 5th vs. the Washington Nationals. Now, many Mets fans aren’t too excited for the season to start, but I am. Sure it’s a different looking team without Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, but there’s a lot to be excited about going into the season. I’m not going to get into that right now however, I’ll save that topic for another week. The one guy who seems to be more excited than most for the 2012 season is Daniel Murphy.

After his terrible injury in 2011, Murphy has a new fire and seems to be on a mission to master second base. He knows that he isn’t the best second baseman in the world so he’s had to work extra hard this off-season, not only coming back from a major knee injury but to get more comfortable with the position. He’s already putting together a plan with third base coach Tim Teufel about how to improve his skills at second base.
Last night at the Thurman Munson Award Dinner Murphy said he expects the Mets to make the playoffs this season. Obviously there was an open bar at this dinner, but nevertheless it’s showing what kind of player Murphy will be this year. The Mets are a team of many young players with uncertainty around the veterans on the. From this, Murphy is beginning to come out as one of the leaders of this team.

Murphy always seems to have his energy about him. He might not be the most gifted player out there on the field, but he’s to work harder and harder to become better every day. So not only is Murphy one of the more valuable hitters in the line-up, he’s setting an example of how hard everyone else on this team should be willing to work and the level of expectations they have for their level of play.

It appears now with Reyes gone, that Murphy is going to be that spark plug for the Mets. No one is going to be able to replace Reyes’ numbers on the field and the excitement that he would bring to the ballpark. But someone is going to have to replace that spark that gets the team going, and right now that player looks like Daniel Murphy.

He certainly has the ability to be that player with his leadership and good hitting, he just needs to pass his attitude onto the other players on the field. It seems he’s taken on a more vocal role in the clubhouse, now he just needs to bring the excitement onto the field and get everyone else going, much like how Reyes did. Hopefully he is ready and able to take on this role because I know he is the type of player who is capable of doing it.

Is Lou Piniella a good comp for Daniel Murphy?

I am a Daniel Murphy fan. I think his bat is an asset wherever he plays, the concerns about his defense are overblown and the baserunning gaffes, well I’ll live with them. The latest news is that Murphy is the favorite to be the team’s second baseman in 2012, a move I support 100 percent. Seemingly, this puts me in the minority among Mets fans, who aren’t sold on his bat, think he’s a giant negative on defense and cringe every time he has to make a play.

Looking to see if I could find something new about Murphy, I was examining his Baseball-Reference page and was checking out his similarity scores. Most of you know what these are, but if this is the first you’ve heard of these, here’s how they’re computed:

To compare one player to another, start at 1000 points and then you subtract points based on the statistical differences of each player.

Batters
• One point for each difference of 20 games played.
• One point for each difference of 75 at bats.
• One point for each difference of 10 runs scored.
• One point for each difference of 15 hits.
• One point for each difference of 5 doubles.
• One point for each difference of 4 triples.
• One point for each difference of 2 home runs.
• One point for each difference of 10 RBI.
• One point for each difference of 25 walks.
• One point for each difference of 150 strikeouts.
• One point for each difference of 20 stolen bases.
• One point for each difference of .001 in batting average.
• One point for each difference of .002 in slugging percentage.

There’s also a positional adjustment used, so that the comparison are typically between hitters who played similar positions among the defensive spectrum. If two players have a score of 900 or above they are similar. If they have a score of 950 or above, they are truly similar.

When we look at Murphy’s age-based comps, the best we can say is that they are a mixed bag. There are people who played 15 years in the majors and others who flamed out after their promising start. By far the most interesting one was Lou Piniella, who had a 966 similarity score and who was the fourth-best comp for Murphy.

Now, I have to admit, I never thought of Piniella as being a comp for Murphy, but it’s not a horrible match. Both players were good contact hitters. Neither one had great over the fence power, but could drive the ball and neither would be described as a Punch and Judy hitter. Neither player was a star defender and neither will be recalled fondly for their baserunning exploits. Here are their offensive numbers through their age 26 season:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBIs BB SO SB AVG SLG
Murphy 313 1030 133 301 75 9 20 129 80 139 9 .292 .441
Piniella 289 1041 98 302 45 11 22 157 68 98 5 .290 .418

Murphy has more power while Piniella struck out less often. One thing to keep in mind is that while the raw stats are close, they were tallied in different eras. But when we compare them by OPS+, which adjusts for ballpark and era, we see that they are still good comps. Piniella had a 108 OPS+ through his age 26 season while Murphy checks in with a 111 OPS+.

At age 27, Piniella had one of the worst seasons of his career, as he dropped nearly 100 points of OPS from the previous year. But he bounced back at age 28 and made the All-Star team for the only time in his career, Piniella had another rough year in 1973 and following the season was traded to the Yankees. He had a nice comeback season in 1974 and drew MVP votes.

An inner ear infection sidelined Piniella for most of the 1975 season. He came back to play nine more years in the majors, but never again topped 130 games in a season. He hit whenever given the chance, posting a 116 OPS+ from ages 32-40, a stretch of 2,789 PA.

Piniella always hit LHP and was more of a platoon player near the end of his career. Lifetime he had an .809 OPS versus lefties and a .672 mark against righties. Murphy has a .793 OPS lifetime versus RHP and a .742 mark against LHP so far in his career.

Personally, I think Murphy is better than Piniella and following the 2012 season they will not be among each other’s age-based comparisons, as I expect Murphy to outperform Piniella’s 1971 season. Still, if Murphy plays in the majors through age 40, like Piniella did, that would be wonderful.