Daniel Murphy went into camp last year with very high expectations. After hitting .320 in 109 games in 2011, some people expected Murphy to become a perennial .300 hitter. In 2011, it appeared as though Murphy was living up to his potential, but a year later, Murphy’s future is much less certain.
Murphy started off the year at a slower pace than he did 2011, but still put up solid numbers. In April, he hit .298, and had a .301 batting average at the end of May. That’s when thing started to go downhill. June was a rough month as Murphy’s already-low walk rate plummeted even more, reaching base only twice in the entire month via walk. He broke out the power stroke for the first time all season, hitting three home runs in the month, but it was an otherwise unproductive time for the second baseman, batting .240.
As the calendar turned to July, Murphy’s bat heated up once again, bating .360 and hitting 13 extra-base hits, more than in any other month. However, we once again saw Murphy’s bat struggle, batting .225 in August before rebounding and hitting .317 for September and October. He finished the year with a .291 batting average, .332 OBP, and .403 slugging percentage.
At second base, Murphy wasn’t great, but made progress as the season went along. At first, in early April, he not only looked uncomfortable at the position (which is to be expected of someone in his situation), but was also making bad mental mistakes and messing up some of the easy ways. That’s the way he’s always been, and we are going to have to live with it. However, he made significant improvement at the position and by the end of the season, was bearable. If given another year or two, he could definitely become an average fielder.
As for this season, it’s hard to tell exactly how Murphy will play. When I projected Ike Davis yesterday, there were a few reasons for his early-season swoon, and I was able to say confidently that he would not repeat that this season. Murphy’s inconsistencies, however, I am more unsure about. Before making a projection for myself, let’s look at some of the other respected projections out there. The ZiPS projection has Murphy hitting six home runs with a .282 batting average and .325 on-base percentage. ZiPS is almost always very conservative in its projections, so take those numbers with a grain of salt. Bill James‘ projections, always much less conservative, have him batting .303 with nine home runs and a .352 on-base percentage. As I did with Davis, I’m siding more towards the Bill James side. I’ve seen too much promise from Murphy over the past few years to believe that he’s going to deteriorate. I believe he’s going to hit .300 again.