So now that we finally figured out where Dan Murphy should play defensively, how long before we start worrying about his lack of hitting this month?
I mean it’s great that we found him a permanent position he can call his own, but will he hit enough to justify his hold on first base both now as well as the future?
If I knew that Murphy was projected to be a 30-100 type slugger as he matured I’d be 100% content, but the fact is he projects to be more like a 15-75 type hitter and I don’t really see how the Mets can afford to give up that much offense at first base.
Last season, among all NL first basemen who had 500 or more at-bats, only one player had less than 20 homeruns. That player was James Loney who had 13 homers last season. He may struggle to surpass even that total based on his trends this season.
Statistically, Daniel Murphy compares very favorably to James Loney.
In 87 Major League games, Murphy’s stat lines looks like this: .290 BA - .368 OBP - .437 SLG
In 347 games, James Loney comes in with very similar stat lines: .299 BA - .352 OBP - .464 SLG
Their OPS of .805 for Murphy, and .816 for Loney are about as close as you can get.
Neither of them have any speed, and both of them have a good eye at the plate.
Loney (25) is just one year older than Murphy (24). Loney has settled in and he is what he is. Murphy on the other hand is still an unknown quantity. Opposing pitchers are learning how to pitch to him and how to get him out.
In Murphy’s first 100 major league at-bats he batted a robust .363, and in his last 100 at-bats he is batting .260. That’s over a .100 point drop-off and we still don’t know if he’s bottom yet.
The key to every good hitter is to continually make adjustments at the plate as pitchers continually find ways to get you out.
We hear the term sophomore jinx a lot in baseball, and usually it’s not a jinx at all, it’s just a case of a hitter not making adjustments after the league adjusted to him.
I believe Dan Murphy is at that point right now, and only time will tell which side of the tunnel he emerges from.
But assuming that he does rise to the level of a James Loney (something he hasn’t really done yet over a full season), will that be enough to justify making him our first baseman for the next five or more years?
Keith Hernandez, who we all hold in the highest esteem as a Mets first baseman, finished his season with 162 game averages of .296 BA - 13 HR - 83 RBI. Amazingly, Keith’s career slugging percentage is almost exactly the same as Murphy’s at .436.
So the answer is yes, we can afford Murphy’s brand of offense at first base, and if he can rise to the level of close to gold glove caliber defense, which isn’t entirely out of the question, it makes Murphy even more desirable and valuable at the position for the New York Mets.
So let’s hope Murphy makes those adjustments and gets that batting average back up around the .300 to .290 level.