Saturday, April 13, 2013

Daniel Murphy - The Mets' Overlooked Offensive Star

Can you spot the overlooked offensive star in this photo?  (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

With all the attention being paid to John Buck's torrid start, another Met's offensive performance has gone under the radar.  But his start is just as noteworthy as Buck's.

Daniel Murphy has always been a great contact hitter, lashing doubles at a rate never before seen by a left-handed hitter in Mets history.  Nearly one-quarter of his 481 career hits have gone for two bases.  But what he's done over his first ten games this season is proving that Murphy is more than just a 180-foot specialist.

After not hitting his first home run last year until June 27, Murphy has produced two bombs this year.  And bombs is the correct term, as his first homer traveled 407 feet and his second sailed 428 feet.  The latter home run is the longest hit by a Met this year.   Perhaps SNY's Gary Cohen and Ron Darling said it best after Murphy's second blast, when Cohen opined that "he has hit the ball to some places in the ballpark that are not often visited" and Darling added that "this is where the Ike Davis(es) and the Lucas Dudas go."

Murphy has also become a top run producer on the Mets.  After never surpassing 65 RBIs or 62 runs scored in any of his previous four seasons in the big leagues, Murphy has driven in ten runs and has crossed the plate ten times in his first ten games.  Murphy is one of only two players in the National League (Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips is the other) to have already reached double digits in both categories.  His 10 RBIs are tied for third in the NL and his 10 runs scored place him in a second place tie, just one behind league leader Matt Carpenter.

The Mets' second baseman is all over the National League leaderboard.  He is eighth in the league in batting average (.368), fifth in slugging percentage (.711), sixth in OPS (1.115), tied for sixth in hits (14), sixth in total bases (27) and tied for second in extra-base hits (8).  But just because he's added new facets to his offensive game doesn't mean Murphy has forgotten what got him to this level in the first place.  That's right, Mets fans.  The man affectionately referred to by a certain Twitter user as "Daniel Murphy, Doubles Machine" can still rack up two-baggers, as evidenced by his league-leading five doubles.

Daniel Murphy is one of the best doubles hitters in Mets history.  His 120 two-base hits are 18th all-time in club annals despite having fewer than 1,800 career plate appearances.  Every other Met with at least 100 doubles needed at least 1,900 plate appearances to accomplish their career totals.  (Lenny Dykstra is the only other Met with at least 100 doubles who ended his Met career with less than 2,000 plate appearances, but he "only" had 104 doubles in 1,908 plate appearances as a Met - 16 fewer two-base hits than Daniel Murphy has already produced in 124 fewer trips to the plate.)

But Murphy is becoming more than just a doubles machine.  He is becoming a solid run producer.  He is getting on base at an incredible rate.  He is driving the ball with authority.  And he's doing this with all the focus being placed on John Buck.

Daniel Murphy has been a Met since August 2008, making him the longest-tenured player currently on the 25-man roster not named David Wright.  But despite his many years of service to the franchise, he has played mostly in the shadows of other offensive stars.  This year is no exception.  His hot start, however, is giving us an indication that Murphy is about to break free from the shadows that have hidden his offensive talents throughout his entire career.

The National League is about to realize that Daniel Murphy is one heck of a baseball player.  Opposing pitchers don't need to be informed of this transition.  Murphy's bat has already let them know.

No comments: