Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Have You Learned? Daniel Murphy

What Have You Learned is our very special off-season series that will outline what you've learned, what I've learned, and hopefully what the 2009 Mets have learned about themselves, others, and 2010. Today, in a very special "What Have You Learned", as we discuss ... Daniel Murphy.

You don't tug on Superman's cape.

You don't spit into the wind.

You don't pull that mask off that old Lone Ranger.

You don't trust Lenny Dykstra with your life savings.

And for the love of all things holy, you don't gather a group of Mets fans together at a pizza joint and even pretend to make a joke about Daniel Murphy. Because that's the direction that the Volvo was headed for me when I started on a riff about Murphy's notebook ... after he got a hit ... on a night where he came up with half of the Mets hits that night. In retrospect, what the hell was I thinking?
"Hey! Leave Murph alone!!!"
So what have I learned about Daniel Murphy? First off, that people love him and if I dare even think about joking about him, then those same people will slice off my sensitive parts with a rusty blade and feed them to me as dim sum. And that people who work as hard as Daniel Murphy shouldn't be joked about. Yeah ... save your jokebook for those that deserve it, like Bobby Bonilla ... Steve Phillips ... and Balloon Dad.

Fair point. But does it mean that we shouldn't get rid of him? Unfortunately, that's a harder point to make. The numbers for Murph don't exactly read like tea leaves ... more like complicated computer code. We can agree that his second half was much better than his first half. And I'm sure we can agree that his horrible first half was due in part to having to change positions ... his average in May when all this was going on was a healthy .176. Now here are the splits, first half to second:
  • Average: .248 to .282
  • Slugging: .364 to .485
  • OPS .677 to .798
And yet, his on base percentage went down a point from .314 to .313 between halves ... so while the sexy numbers have bumped significantly, Murph is still a free swinger. And that tells me he has a ways to go before he can be the hitter that his legions of followers are sure he will be.

Leaning on that work ethic of his, you would think that Murphy can work his way up, or at least work hard enough to keep his numbers where they are and not have another month batting .176. Question is, will the Mets (Snoop Manuel) have enough patience to put him at first base and leave him there (and stop worrying about Fernando Tatis' time, or whichever washed up reclamation project Jeff Wil... er, Omar Minaya signs)?

Will Omar sign enough offense at other positions on the diamond to construct a good enough lineup to leave Murphy at first base? And there's the defensive aspect too ... will Murphy have the schooling he needs at first base to not only be able to field the position (which he's done fine), but to also know where he needs to be and what base to cover/throw to? Because that's been his problem at first base ... and let's face it, with the little experience he's had at first, you had to expect that! So while to say that Murphy has been a defensive liability at first might be true, you can't put it all on him. Hopefully he'll have some sort of position set for him from now until April so that he'll know where he'll be and what he needs to prepare for.

(Heck, you could say that's what a lot of players on this roster and in this organization needs ... rather than being asked to learn two or three different positions while taking time away from learning the finer points of hitting. But I've already waved that "Stop Making All Our Players Into Utility Players" banner, no need to wave it again.)

Now, that position will probably be first base with the Mets. But if the Mets show a lack of patience, or if Murphy can be used as a chip to get a power bat, maybe that position is his more natural third base somewhere else. But the key would be to not diminish his value and trade him for a middling, somewhat productive, 35-year-old bat such as a Magglio Ordonez. If he's traded, it had better be part of a package for Doc Halladay and not, say, Victor Zambrano.

Excuse me while I bludgeon this dead horse:

But seriously. While I hesitate to say that trading Murphy now would be "selling low" after his bounce back second half, there's plenty more improvement to be seen here before it's decided that he's gone. It's up to the organization, if indeed they keep him, to draw it out, keep him in the lineup, not jerk him from position to position, acquire talent around him and take some pressure off him, and heed the creed that I was ordered to adhere by at a certain pizza place:

Leave Murph alone.


Joe Cook said...

Mets don't need to worry about adding bats to the lineup. We already know Bobby Bonilla will be back on the payroll soon, for a very affordable $2 million a year. And he fits the bill perfectly of what Omar usually brings in to try to correct this team.

Ari Berkowitz said...

The only problem with Manuel's idiotic comment about Murphy's fielding is that according to Mitchell G. Lichtman's UZR, he ranked second only to Kendry Morales of the Angels at 1B with 4.7 which is very good. This really shows how statistically inclined the Mets and Manuel are.

Michael McChesney said...

If the Mets were to say, sign free agents Matt Holliday and John Lackey and therefore needed to save a little salary at 1st Base with Murphy, thatt's fine with me. But other then that, I would rather not see him as a starter on opening day.

I am not saying get rid of Murphy, I just think he might be most valuable providing depth.

Actually, in an ideal world, I would like to see Murphy start the year at Buffalo working on playing second base and even the outfield. As a starting First Basemen his offense is mediocre at best. At second base it would be above average. But even if his work ethic would not be enough to make him a starting second baseman, he would still be an excellent utility guy.

Think Murph can catch too?

Hazeleyes said...

I like Murphy but then there are very few Mets players who have not had some redeeming quality.

Keep Murphy, don't keep Murphy -- it sort of does not matter. Because if Baby Wilpon is really calling the shots, they will all be shots in the foot.

Trade Murphy for an old fart, Murph shines in his new surroundings and the veteran breaks his foot tripping over first base. Keep Murphy and no doubt he will be neither coached well or given the opportunity to grow because he will be replaced every few days to keep some over the hill bench player "sharp."

As long as Baby Jeffy has this much influence and as long as Manuel is the manager there will be no joy in Metsville.