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.

• 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:

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.

6 comments on “Is Lou Piniella a good comp for Daniel Murphy?

  • Dave Dillon

    Pretty amazing – I would have never guessed their #’s would be so close through the age of 26. The different era is a valid point – with fewer teams pitching was less watered down. On the other hand, starters typically went longer and there were fewer relievers. It is weird how 30-40 years ago players were more or less accepted for what they were; now everything is analyzed almost to the point of excess.. The scrutiny must add to the pressure players feel.

  • alan

    I am also a Murphy fan. The guy was 5th in BA when he went down injured in 2011. He did a fine job replacing Davis at 1B. He played 3B in HS, College and the early minors, hit everywhere he was but was blocked from advancing by D. Wright. So he was moved to LF and without any real time background was a disaster there but he hit. Then he went to 2B and got hurt. Last year he replaced Davis at first and was in the top 5 batters when he went down again. Why Met writers and fans are so quick to knock this guy is beyond me. With Davis, Murphy, Tejeda and Wright they have a potential infield with four guys that can all hit above .275 with 3 of them having the potential to hit over .300. Murphy ended 2011 at .320 and was increasing his average a couple of points a week when he got hurt. He has to be given the first shot at the 2B job.

  • Mstewart

    By all reports, Murphy will be given the opportunity and most likely the edge to win the 2b job. There’s no doubt regarding his hitting ability, as Murphy is an establish ML hitter (IMO). My issue with Murphy is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a full season over the last 2 years and he doesn’t position himself well at 2nd base in certain situations (DP). In the Past, I supported Murphy’s ability to play 2b, I once said that if Dan Uggla or Jeff Kent could handle 2b then so could Murphy. However; over the last year, I am beginning to doubt that statement as Murphy keeps putting himself in harms way at the 2b bag. I believe this will be Murphy’s last chance to prove he can handle the defensive side of the game at 2b. If not, Look for the Mets to trade Murphy once Reese Havens is ready to come up.

    • Brian Joura

      I agree that this will be Murphy’s last chance to cut it at 2B. But if his defensive issues are the reason he doesn’t make it there, I could still see the Mets holding onto him. If they really do trade David Wright, it would finally open up his natural position of 3B.

  • rob sahm

    the mets would be crazy to trade murphy the man can hit and if they are still looking to trade wright we need murph as the 3B or a utility player.

  • matthew cromartie

    Daniel should be the Mets everyday third baseman.He will hit 290, 20-25hrs,24doubles and his strikeout percentage will be low. He will play a solid 3rd base and we have more potential talent at 2nd base. David Wright can be used as trade bait for a solid catcher who has pop and great defense. Terry can groom this prospect to match with our potential young pitching talent for years to come

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