Nobody will ever mistake Daniel Murphy for Dustin Pedroia or Ian Kinsler at second base. But last night, Murphy was good enough to be on MLB Network’s “Top 10 Right Now: Second Basemen”.
Murphy held up the rear with the No. 10 spot and of course Robinson Cano was the top selection.
Based on their own statistical analysis Murphy is that good, at least from the offensive side of his game. But if you’re going to do a Top 10 by position, shouldn’t defense be heavily weighed as well?
Last season, Murphy was charged with 15 errors in 138 games at second and ranked 20th out of 22 qualified second baseman in fielding percentage (.974 for 2012).
However, what the fielding percentage and errors charged doesn’t tell you, is how many grounders went past Murphy for a base hit due mostly to his very limited range.
Make no mistake that Murphy has made great strides defensively at second base since we first saw him butcher the position (and his knees) in 2011. But he still is below average even though he doesn’t exactly kill the team by trotting him out there.
In fairness, Murphy did seem to improve significantly by last season’s end, but his poor range remained the same. That said, he ranked No. 91 in Defensive WAR among all second baseman in 2012, so obviously he still has a long way to go.
For the record, MLB Network determined their ranking based on a consensus of five different analysts. You should know that former second baseman Harold Reynolds and Sabermetric guru Bill James did not have Murphy in their top ten. (Neither would I)
“Take a look at the best batting averages over the last three years at this position, only Robbie Cano is higher than Murphy’s .302,” MLB Network’s Brian Kenny says of Murphy.
“OPS+ over the last two seasons, now that takes into account park effects, and Murphy is there behind Cano, Pedroia, Kendrick and that’s it.”
Last season, Murphy batted .291/.332/.903 with 40 doubles, six home runs and 65 RBI in 612 plate appearances.
Offense only? Murphy is certainly a Top 10 second baseman. But if you go by complete players and consider defense at the position, he ranks closer to 17-20 in my estimation.