2009 Analysis: Daniel Murphy

dan-murphy-profileDaniel 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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Tommy2cat November 2, 2009 at 10:51 am
    I think you meant “he puts the team ahead of himself.”

    Daniel Murphy should be given a clear and unequivocal shot at firstbase for a full year. Statistically, he WAS the second best 1st baseman in the NL. One would think, with DM’s work ethic, that his ability at the position will improve given that his first year was learned on the fly.

    Murphy also demonstrated a an arm and a range in the field worthy of consideration as the Mets 2nd baseman, if the club finds a better candidate for 1st base. Two current viable solutions to the infield would be Chone Figgins at 2nd base, or Garret Atkins (on the market) at 1st base, and move Daniel Murphy to 2nd base. I’m in favor of signing Figgins and making 2b worth his while in dollars.

    At the plate, Murphy’s statistics last season, his first full year, compare favorably with David Wright’s with the exception of BA and OBP. His homerun, double, triple and RBI totals are quite similar. He did not have as many RBI opportunities as Wright.

    Wright: 39 2b, 3 3b, 10 hr, 72 RBI

    Murphy: 38 2b, 4 3b, 12 hr, 63 RBI

    Murphy’s numbers after the AllStar break are likely more indicative of what we can expect from him next year:

    AB 266, BA .282, 2b 27, 3b 3, HR 7, RBI 35

    Extrapolating those numbers based on 600 ABs over a full season would yield something in the neighborhood of …

    BA .282, 65 2b, 7 3b, 17 HR, 84 RBI

    Yes, the doubles are off the charts. He actually averaged one double per every 10 at-bats after the AllStar break. The figures are calculated by doubling the numbers he generated after the AllStar break and multiplying them by a co-effient of 1.2, an enhancement that accounts for 600 at-bats rather than the 532 ABs if you just doubled his post AllStar stats.

    Yeah, yeah – I know its just numbers, but I would never, ever bet against Daniel Murphy. If you examine the stats of many of today’s AllStars, their numbers at age 24 are similar to Daniel Murphy’s.

    If you take into account his bullet-proof character, and add Jose Reyes and Chone Figgins in front of him, I think some of the numbers, such as BA and RBI totals, would likely improve – particularly as he gains more experience.

  2. Tommy2cat November 2, 2009 at 10:54 am
    Can you believe the doubles?!!!
  3. Tommy2cat November 2, 2009 at 11:04 am
    65 doubles means that Daniel Murphy would put himself into scoring position one in every ten at bats. He is built for Citi Field.

    Sign Figgins, Sign Holliday and our line-up looks like this:


    Other than Beltran, every ballplayer has just entered or is entering their prime.

    We’re ALOT closer to being extremely dangerous than people give us credit. AND our first round selection in next year’s draft is protected because we sucked so much, so we can improve our roster without affecting our minor league system by just allocating money in the right places.

    And Castillo is now marginally tradeable if we ship him to an AL club and eat @ 3m of his 6m/year contract for the next 2 years. That move would free up the balance of his contract – 3m – that we don’t spend on him for the next 2 years.

    Focus, Omar, focus…

  4. Tommy2cat November 2, 2009 at 11:09 am
    Off-topic, but that was an insanely great baserunning play by Johnny Damon last night.

    Despite being a Met fan, I am definitely rooting for the Yankees over the Phillies. In fact, I feel indebted to them for correcting the gross display of incompetence delivered by the Giants earlier yesterday.

  5. joejanish November 2, 2009 at 11:16 am
    Tommy – yes I meant “puts the team ahead of himself”. Thanks, I’ve fixed it.

    I’m curious, why are you so sure that Murphy’s second half is more indicative of his future than his first half?

    Personally I don’t know what to think about his future. Players who are pegged as “understanding the strike zone” generally don’t decrease dramatically in OBP, do they?

    The Mets are likely going nowhere in 2010 so I have no problem seeing Murphy at 1B for the year. Jason Phillips was given two full seasons at the position so why not Daniel?

    Instead of worrying about 1B, the Mets should focus on finding quality young arms, catching, athletic outfielders, and someone to play 2B. I don’t think Murphy has the feet nor the hands to play 2B, but I wouldn’t be against the Mets trying him there again.

  6. isuzudude November 2, 2009 at 12:22 pm
    You bring up some very nice points and I’m slightly inclined to let Murphy get another year uncontested at 1B after reading your analysis. But I’m still not entirely sold for a few reasons.

    1. You say, “Statistically, he WAS the second best 1st baseman in the NL.” But if you watched the Mets play for even 7 games this year you know that’s not true. The comment can’t apply to Murphy’s offense because Ryan Howard and Joey Votto play in the NL and were head and shoulders better than Murph at the plate, so you must be referring to defense. Despite what the sabermaticians might calculate, if you saw Murph play 1B this year you know he was out of position, unable to handle low throws, and feeding pitchers covering 1B poorly on a routine basis. Growing pains are to be expected from a guy playing 1B for the first time at the MLB, and that’s fine, and for all we know his defense could improve with more time at the position. But that doesn’t mean you can say he was the 2nd best fielding 1B in the NL in 2009. That’s just silly and anyone who followed this team over the long haul would tell you that.

    2. Though interesting to see, comparing Murphy’s stats with Wright’s isn’t really telling the whole story, because you’re comparing a good season from Murphy to a down season from Wright. If you’re trying to imply Murphy is on an even plane with Wright offensively you’re being untruthful because Wright’s been a .300+/30/110 hitter, and I don’t think anyone sees Murphy developing into that type of slugger in 2010 or over the rest of his career.

    3. You also say “Murphy’s numbers after the AllStar break are likely more indicative of what we can expect from him next year.” But what makes you so sure? This is the same thinking that got the Mets into trouble with Murphy in the first place, because everyone saw him be an on base machine with a good eye and high average in 2008 and penciled him in as the everyday LF with Wade Boggs potential for 2009, and that blew up in our face. Just because Murphy’s most recent stats indicate a strong offensive showing does not mean you can automatically assume he’s going to hit like that for the forseeable future. You need to examine so much more data than that to accurately say for sure whether or not it’s for certain that he’s a legitamite MLB caliber 1B.

    4. You say you would never bet against Dan Murphy. Well, if you bet in favor of him in 2009, I would say you lost rather convincingly considering the hype that surrounded him prior to opening day. Why am I going to fall for this trick again? Like one of the great leaders of our time once said, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, don’t get fooled again.” :p

    Some other things you bring up I’m not in advocation for either, like signing Chone Figgins. First, he hasn’t played regular 2B since 2005 and his .975 career fielding percentage at the position isn’t encouraging, especially considering Luis Castillo’s is .984, and was .982 in ’09. Plus, Figgins set career highs in OBP (.395) and walks (101) this past season, which is suspicious considering he was in a walk year. I would strongly suspect those numbers to regress back to his annual averages in 2010, which is more along the lines of .363 OBP and 60 BB. Compare that to Castillo’s .369 career OBP (and .387 in 2009) and incredibly strong and reliable BB to K rate, and Figgins doesn’t look like much of an upgrade at all. He’s weaker defensively at 2B, doesn’t get on base as much, and strikes out much more (114 times this past season). And then consider you’d likely have to sign Figgins to at least a $10-mil per year salary and eat some of the remaining contract for Castillo in a trade on top of that, and the move looks awful and nonsensical, considering the Mets need to use money to fix LF, the starting pitching staff, areas of the bullpen, and the bench. I’m sorry, but I don’t see Figgins as much of a solution.

    I give you credit, though, Tommy, for trying to be creative and having faith in a home grown product. The jury is definitely still out on what will become of Murphy over the rest of his career, and it’s certainly possible he could develop into a strength both at the plate and in the field. But the potential you envision Murphy reaching has not yet been attained, and until that happens the Mets would be wise to keep the door open for other options.

  7. Harry Chiti November 2, 2009 at 1:16 pm
    Tommy: Good organizations trade a veteran when he is blocking the path of a good ready for the bigs. Castillo is blocking nobody. so you want to sign Figgins. do you trade Castillo first? Whoops, you may not get your man so you have created a bigger void than you have now. Do you trade Castillo after signing Figgins? Your chances of signing the guy are reduxced and you’ve increased payroll and not improved your team.
    Your hypothetical extrapolation of a full tiume Murphy are invalid because you forgot to consider the fact that he was benched against several lefties which would have brought down his apparent improvement. Add in all those games as bad games and what does /Murphy look like then? Since Manuel refused to allow him to play every day we don’t have a clue.
  8. Andy November 2, 2009 at 5:08 pm
    I’m sure the Mets could do better at first base, but can they really do better at first base, left field, catcher AND at least one spot in the rotation? If so, great. If not, then in my opinion they should leave Murphy in place until they have at least solved those other four issues.
  9. sincekindergarten November 2, 2009 at 6:10 pm
    Andy, the smart money is that they’re not going to solve all of those in only one offseason, unless Omar gets really creative. Murph should stay right there . . . but will the Mets decide to give Carlos Delgado another shot? Part of me hopes not, and another part of me hopes so. Resigning Delgado to a one-year contract gives Ike Davis another year to develop in Buffalo.
  10. gary s. November 2, 2009 at 7:46 pm
    look at the 2 teams in the world series..than look at their first baseman’s numbers.than look at danny murphy’s numbers.than tell me that u still think he should get get 500 ab’s next year.that being said, if the mets acquired dan uggla and his 25-30 homeruns to play second, i might be talked into having murphy get one more year at first.but we would also have to get a left fielder who could hit with power..
  11. Tommy2cat November 3, 2009 at 1:43 am
    Whew – lots of chatter on Murphy.

    I think Murphy’s 2nd half numbers are more representative than his first half numbers because after the AllStar break, Murphy’s role on the team was set. He never adapted to left field and his poor outfield play absolutely affected his plate appearances. Is he going to hit 65 doubles? Probably not. But as some of you’se guys have pointed out, we have larger issues to address.

    As for comparing Wright and Murphy, agreed DW had an off season. But we are comparing DW’s season to Murphy’s first season, NOT his best…his FIRST. I don’t understand the point concerning the lefty match-ups. I don’t buy it because I do know that after the AllStar break Murphy appeared at the plate 266 times and hit 27 doubles. That’s a fact whether the opposing pitcher was lefty, righty or ambidextrous.

    As for Luis Castillo, he must go.

    Harry, it doesn’t matter when Castillo gets traded. He simply must be gone while the gettin’s good. No time like the present to show Mr. Castillo the door. Figgins arrival is immaterial to Castillo’s departure, other than the necessity for a clean locker.

    Before I rip into Luis Castillo, I agree with many Met fans that he was our most consistent offensive player this year. High OBP, solid BA, steals, walks, etc… He took his gaffe against the Yankees like a man, and he responded with character and dignity. I will NOT hold against him the fact that he pulled that stunt on my birthday.

    Twelve freakin’ doubles, 12 doubles Louie, is dat all u got?!!! How about our opponents’ outfielders camping out in a short outfield to toast marshmallows while waiting for Looch’s AB to expire. The conversation…”he ain’t hittin’ it to me. Yup, not me neither… Nah, I ain’t seen no baseball comin’ this way…” There’s no room for Luis on “Team Anemia”.

    The Bottom Line is that we cannot afford Luis Castillo in our line-up as power challenged as we are. Its downright immoral for the Mets, of all clubs, to deprive some deserving American League squad from an on-base machine. Especially when our homerun king, The Daniel Murphy, led our major league squad with a whopping 12 homers.

    And with all due respect to Castillo and his admirers, please don’t compare Chone Figgins with Castillo. ‘My Little Figgins’ had 42 extra base hits compare to Luis’ 13 xbh. Figgins swiped 42 bases, as well. Knocked in 54 runs. Played a dynamite third base. And his fielding % of .974 v. .985 means what it says…out of one thousand chances, Luis will make nine fewer errors. How about all of those grounders and liners that Figgins jumps on that Luis can’t even reach for? How about relay throws from the outfield? The fielding % is a distinction without substance or merit.

    Comparing Castillo to Figgins is analagous to comparing an aging Chiauau to a Jack Russell Terrier with attitude. We need a few Jack Russells and Figgins happens to be one.

  12. Mike November 3, 2009 at 10:20 am
    Tommy, I think you bring up a good point about Murphy being set and stable in the field in the second half, but don’t forget that he was not playing everyday especially against lefties.

    I really don’t see how your “Castillo must go” campaign is any different from the “Murphy must go” campaign. Aside from the contract situation, Murphy’s lack of production is in fact more unacceptable than Castillo’s. Again to make the point that Murphy’s numbers are not what a winning team should expect from a first baseman. Castillo’s numbers are closer to an average 2nd baseman than Murphy’s to an average 1st baseman. In that way your argument is ironic.

    I think the decision on Murphy needs to be dependent on the future plans of Ike Davis and LF. If Ike is a future big league 1st baseman leaving Murphy to play and hopefully improve enough to attract a trade partner when Ike is ready is not a bad idea. And if LF is filled with a long term FA signing then it is clear that this situation is tolerable until Ike is ready. However, if there is no solution in LF, but there is a solution at 1st, then you must do it.

    Offense must come from somewhere and the fact is that even with a big LFer you are essentially in the same position you were in in 2007 and 2008, which is that you are one good hitter away and Murphy is not helping that situation as much as you would like.

  13. Tommy2cat November 3, 2009 at 11:03 am
    Mike…Hence, my suggestion that we upgrade at 2b and LF rather than at 1st base.

    I think your analysis in paragraph 3 is spot-on. The power must come from somewhere and the addition of Holliday and Figgins provides an ample source. I don’t see us keeping Murphy and Castillo on the same starting roster as a sound proposition. Clearly, Castillo’s punch-and-Judy game has worn on me. Ten years ago he was a Tasmanian Devil. Today, he’s a Crusty Crab. He’s nearly done and there’s certainly no guarantee that he’ll remain healthy this coming season. He’s more likely to see time on the DL than Murphy.

    Frankly, I’d rather trade for Brandon Phillips, but I don’t think the organization can withstand the loss in prospects and ML talent that a trade for Phillips would likely command. I can see the Reds wanting Pelfrey, Parnell & F-Mart. I would be tempted, but I can see why others would not, which is why Figgins is more appealing presently.

    As for Murphy, his performance in the second half of last season warrants a clear shot this year while Ike Davis matures in the minor leagues, the way its supposed to be. The organization will then know exactly what it has in Murphy, while a number one draft pick nears major league readiness. That’s a win-win promoting from within (sounds like a rap song).

    To the owners credit, they are not afraid to spend money. But blowing 6m/yr on Castillo and 12m/yr on Ollie represents a major setback. Anything, and I mean ANYTHING, that we can recoup from those contracts if found money. Certainly, Murphy represents an internal option that costs next-to-nothing, which is better than blowing 5 mil on Nick Johnson types. I’d rather earmark that money to acquire Holliday and Figgins. If we are then able to salvage 3m/yr from the 2 years remaining on Castillo’s contract, that’s 8 mil preserved for the next 2 season by putting our chips on Murphy rather than Castillo and a Nick Johnson-type at first base.

  14. MVM November 4, 2009 at 12:35 am
    not sure if this was said but Murphy CAN NOT play 2B
  15. gary s. November 4, 2009 at 10:57 am
    or first base or left field or 3rd base.On the playground, murphy’s best position would be left out.Yet, i’m sure mets management thinks he’s an all star as does a lot of the fan base.go figure.I think someone is very wrong.All i see is a DH or a pinch hitter.When u can’t field or run and have lousy baseball instincts you have to hit a minimum of .300 to balance things out.Murphy has a ways to go.