Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chasing Mets History: Daniel Murphy

At first glance, one look at the title of this piece might elicit a sarcastic chuckle or a roll of the eyes.  After all, what could Daniel Murphy possibly do to make Mets history?  Well, it’s not just what he’s already done that’s historical in the Mets universe.  It’s also what he’s poised to do.

Through the Mets’ first 108 games, Daniel Murphy is batting .307.  This comes on the heels of a season in which the Mets’ second baseman hit .320 in 109 games.  Should Murphy finish the season above .300, he would join a short, but impressive list of players who hit .300 or more in back-to-back seasons for the Mets (minimum 100 games played).  Those players are:

  • Keith Hernandez (1984-1986)
  • Mike Piazza (1998-2001)
  • Edgardo Alfonzo (1999-2000)
  • David Wright (2005-2009)

Note:  Some of you may be wondering why John Olerud is not listed here.  After all, his .315 career batting average as a Met ranks No. 1 in franchise history.  Even though Olerud hit well above .300 as a Met, he only hit over .300 in a season once as a Met.  In 1998, Olerud set a single-season franchise mark by hitting .354.  However, in his other two years as a Met, Olerud failed to reach the .300 mark, batting .294 in 1997 and .298 in 1999.

Murphy is third in the National League with 33 doubles, earning him the nickname “Daniel Murphy, Doubles Machine” by a certain Mets blogger on Twitter.  Those 33 doubles put Murphy on pace to become the first Met to collect 50 doubles in a single season, which would break Bernard Gilkey’s franchise mark of 44, a standard he set in 1996.  Even if Murphy doesn’t break Gilkey’s team record, he should still set a more obscure doubles record.

Six Mets have collected 40 doubles or more in a season a total of ten times.  However, all six were either right-handed batters (Bernard Gilkey, Edgardo Alfonzo, David Wright) or switch hitters (Howard Johnson, Gregg Jefferies, Carlos Beltran).  In 1999, John Olerud set the franchise record for most doubles in a season by a left-handed batter when he smoked 39 two-base hits.  Teammate Robin Ventura, also a lefty swinger, finished one double short of tying Olerud that year, hitting 38 doubles.  Should Daniel Murphy reach 40 doubles, he would become the Mets’ all-time single season leader for doubles by a left-handed batter.  He's already in the top ten for most doubles by a left-handed batter in Mets history, as his 108 career two-base hits rank seventh behind Ed Kranepool (225), Darryl Strawberry (187), Keith Hernandez (159), Rusty Staub (130), Dave Magadan (110) and John Olerud (109).

Put your hands together for Daniel Murphy, Doubles Machine!

Through the Mets' first 108 games, Daniel Murphy has 48 RBI.  He has amassed this RBI total with only three home runs to his credit.  It’s quite rare for a batter to drive in a large amount of runs with a home run total in single digits.  In fact, only seven Mets players have ever driven in a minimum of 60 runs in a season without reaching double digits in homers.  These are the magnificent seven, listed in order by RBI total:

  • Dave Magadan (1990): 6 HR, 72 RBI
  • Joel Younglbood (1980): 8 HR, 69 RBI
  • Lance Johnson (1996): 9 HR, 69 RBI
  • John Stearns (1979): 9 HR, 66 RBI
  • Gregg Jefferies (1991): 9 HR, 62 RBI
  • Doug Flynn (1979): 4 HR, 61 RBI
  • Rey Ordoñez (1999): 1 HR, 60 RBI

Barring any unforeseen injuries, if Murphy maintains his current pace, he will finish the season with 72 RBI while keeping his home run total in single digits.  That would tie him with Dave Magadan for the highest RBI total of any Met who hit fewer than 10 HR in a single season.

Throughout the years, Daniel Murphy has acquired a legion of dedicated fans.  These fans have made the #ImWith28 hashtag one of the most popular on Twitter.  But not all fans are with 28.  For all the love Murphy has received over the years, he has also been a topic of discussion for Mets fans who feel the Mets would be better off if Murphy was traded.  Those fans in the latter group should be careful for what they wish.  They may not realize it, but Daniel Murphy has been one of the better hitters the Mets have seen over their 50-year history.

Daniel Murphy is a doubles machine.  He amassed 100 career doubles faster than any other Met, reaching the century mark in 1,479 plate appearances.  (The previous record holder, David Wright, needed 1,617 plate appearances to reach 100 doubles.)  Murphy's doubles per at-bat ratio is better than any Met who reached the century mark in two-base hits.  But he’s not just a doubles hitter.

Murphy’s .296 career batting average is the fourth-highest mark in franchise history, behind only John Olerud (.315), David Wright (.303) and Keith Hernandez (.297).  He also has one of the best strikeout per at-bat ratios of any hitter in team history.  With 189 strikeouts in 1,418 career at-bats, Murphy’s K/AB ratio is better than such great contact hitters like Keith Hernandez and Mike Piazza.

So the next time you find something to complain about Daniel Murphy, whether it’s his defense (which has been improving as he’s become more acclimated to second base) or his lack of power, take a look at what he has given the team over the years.  His name can be found alongside some of the best and most respected hitters in franchise history in a number of categories on the Mets’ all-time leaderboard.  That’s not a fluke.  He’s there because he’s a very good hitter.  We should be thankful the Mets have been with 28 for as long as they have.


Brian Joura said...

In his last 36 games, covering 142 PA, Murphy has a .371/.408/.606 slash line.

Ed Leyro (and Joey Beartran) said...

I especially like the .606 slugging percentage. It shows that a player doesn't have to hit many home runs to be a "slugger". Doubles and triples can also do wonders for a slugging percentage, and Murphy has his share of those.