The New York Mets ranked eleventh out of fifteen National league teams in runs scored with 619. Ironically enough, they also ranked eleventh in home runs. Hitting the long ball has been a struggle the past few seasons for players not named David Wright. Some may point to David’s 18 home runs last season as a disappointment and I’m not going to argue with those people but he did accomplish this in 430 AB’s; a very respectable feat for being completely exposed in a lineup without legitimate protection. With the Mets’ lack of quality hitters, they must rely on home runs to aid their dismal run production, which is something they have struggled with in recent years.
Sandy Alderson addressed both the power and lineup protection problem by signing free agents Chris Young and Curtis Granderson. Before Granderson’s injury plagued 2013 season, he had clubbed 84 home runs the two seasons prior. Even though age and ballpark dimensions will likely see the Grandyman’s power output decrease as a Metropolitan, his $60 million salary spread out over four years was given to him on the basis he would provide adequate protection for David as well as give Gary Cohen more opportunities to use his signature line, “AND IT’S OUTTA HERE!!!” Likewise, Chris Young was signed to a one year deal worth $7.25 million to, hopefully, improve on an unimpressive season in Oakland where he barely cleared the Mendoza line with a meager 12 home runs.
While both of these players should put up respectable power numbers throughout the season, they will have their fair share of swings and misses. In order to capitalize on the one thing both new additions Granderson and Young do well, the Mets must be able to get quality on base production out of the top of the order. More opportunities with runners on base for hitters capable of the long ball yields more run production.
Right now, the leadoff spot for the Mets is a mystery that has yet to be solved. It’s anyone’s guess who could be leading off when the Mets square up with the Nationals on opening day. It could be a player who is not on the team yet, it could be Eric Young Jr., it could be Ruben Tejada, and hell, there’s buzz around Twitter that Duda should get a look (#DudaForLeadoff). Daniel Murphy is also another candidate. Even if Murph is not destined to lead off, he’ll certainly be in the two spot.
Murphy has stated that he would like to work on a more patient approach at the dish in order to get better pitches to hit and increase his power output. This is a fantastic idea and if anyone could accomplish this, it’s Murph. This is the same guy who had multiple blunders in left field appear on a Sportscenter’s “Not Top 10” strictly dedicated to the Mets a few years ago and is now playing a solid average second base. Loosely put, he works his tail off to reach his goals.
If Murphy could learn how to show an ounce of patience at the plate, not only could he increase his power output to 15-20 home runs a season, but he could, theoretically draw more walks and boost his OBP. If Murphy could get on base at a higher clip, he could become an extremely effective leadoff hitter. Although, he might see a slight decline in batting average because he is swinging at less pitches, he probably still bottoms out at .270 at the worst but if he has a .350 OBP, 15 homers, and 25 steals with that average then I won’t complain for one second.
He may not be one of the fastest players on the Mets, but he certainly is one of the best baserunners. His 23 stolen bases last season were very impressive for a guy with only average speed. He picks his spots and succeeds. If his efforts to improve pitch selectivity result in a higher on base percentage, that means more stolen base and run scoring opportunities for him along with more RBI opportunities for the heart of the order. A heart of the order which is now comprised of legitimate power threats Wright, Granderson, and Young. Daniel Murphy scored 92 runs last season with a .319 OBP and Ike Davis/Lucas Duda in the heart of the order for most of the season. Imagine how many runs he’d score, in theory, if he got on base more often with actual threats in the middle of the lineup.
The Mets have been searching far and wide for a leadoff options both in house and through the trade market when the answer could very well be in front of their eyes. This is all just optimistic speculation of course, but if I had to bet on any Met succeeding in accomplishing their desired goals, it’s Murphy. Even if he is not the answer for the leadoff spot, the more production out of the two hole he could provide, the better because with a fresh heart of the order ready to launch some baseballs into the New York skyline, the frequency with which Murphy gets on base in front of them is key for optimization of run production in a questionable lineup.