2009 Analysis: Daniel Murphy
Daniel Murphy tries hard. He plays hard. He works hard. He hustles all the time. He puts the team ahead of himself. He is willing to play anywhere, anytime. He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t say much at all, really. And he is a Product Of The Farm System. So as a Mets fan it’s hard not to like him.
Unfortunately, Daniel’s strength — his bat — hasn’t proven strong enough to justify penciling him into his best defensive position, which is first base. And unfortunately, his prowess at the position is unlike that of Keith Hernandez. Although UZR says that Murphy was the second-best defensive first baseman in the NL, our eyes know better — UZR doesn’t take into consideration the low balls that aren’t scooped, the over-ranging that confuses the second baseman, the bumbled tosses to the pitcher covering first, or the incorrect positioning on relay throws. It also doesn’t count the errors that were called as hits by a generous official scorer.
But even if Daniel Murphy did resemble “Mex” in the field, his bat still wasn’t quite enough for a typical MLB first baseman. Jerry Manuel, the press, and many fans expected Murphy to hit .300, walk 100 times, and take over left field. Instead, he was banned from LF as of mid-May, his average plummeted to .266, and his ability to get on base vanished. Unable to hit for a high average, he started swinging for distance, and in fact finished the season as the team leader in homeruns. That would be impressive if his homerun total was typical of an MLB team leader, but 12 HRs in 546 plate appearances is nothing to write home about.
It’s possible that Murphy will hit for more power as he matures — and his 38 doubles are nothing to sneeze at. But will he be able to increase his power AND either improve or maintain his batting average? Will he also be able to re-discover the patience and “great eye” he displayed in his first 50 games in the bigs? More importantly, will the Mets give him the opportunity to do so?
The Mets fan base is clearly divided into two camps: one that clamors for giving Murphy the chance to play a full season at 1B, the other that wants him replaced with a “legitimate” slugging first sacker. Those in the former group claim that Murphy will be fine if part of a strong supporting cast; those in the latter question whether the Mets can assemble such a cast.
No matter what happens to Daniel Murphy in 2010, it’s hard not to root for the kid. At worst, he’ll evolve into a Matt Franco / Don Money / Mark DeRosa type of player — someone who can be a super sub off the bench and be a reliable pinch-hitter. At best, he’ll become a starting first baseman along the lines of a Mike Hargrove — an on-base machine with limited power — or a solid but unspectacular all-around team player with occasional pop (like a Sid Bream).
Regardless, Daniel Murphy can fill a role on a championship ballclub. But don’t expect him to be the straw that stirs the drink.