Author Note: Apparently it’s been almost three weeks since I did my last projection. For a refresher (and my Travis d’Arnaud projection), click here.
A target of trade speculation all winter long, Daniel Murphy comes into camp this year as one of the most tenured position players on the Met roster. The 28-year old had one of the best seasons of his career in 2013, posting a 2.8 fWAR, .320 wOBA, and 106 wRC+, all well above league average second baseman. There is something to be said for a middle infielder who is also an above-average hitter, which makes Murphy rather valuable.
Murphy’s overall improvement in production last year, going from a 1.3 fWAR in 2012 to a 2.8 mark last year in very similar sample sizes, was made largely through his defense and baserunning, although an uptick in his offense certainly helped.
As Murphy has learned the second base position, he has gone from horrible to tolerable in just a few years. He still makes the absurd blunder every once in a while and while that is what the fans will remember, his overall defense has nonetheless gotten better. His Fangraphs fielding rating, Ultimate Zone Rating, and Defensive Runs Saved all pointed towards a better season for Murphy last year with his glove, improving by over five runs in Fangraphs’ statistic. He also improved approximately three runs in his Ultimate Base Running (UBR) and 2.4 runs in the Weighted Stolen Bases (wSB) category. Those are just a handful of runs but a handful of runs in each of those categories contributed to Murphy’s value doubling over the past year.
Looking at his peripherals only solidifies Murphy’s year. His BABIP, at .315, was actually below his career average, meaning he likely wasn’t getting lucky with where ground balls rolled, or at least not enough to significantly affect his numbers. Interestingly, it was Murphy’s batted ball ratios that went through a dramatic change, as he hit a lot more fly balls than he has in the past. His fly ball percentage rose by an incredible 11.4%, and a rise in his HR/FB ratio, coupled with hitting more fly balls, explains why Murphy his a career-high of 13 home runs after hitting just six in 2012. How sustainable is this though? It’s impossible to tell, but seeing as Murphy’s plate discipline numbers stayed close to his career marks and pitchers were still approaching him the same way, the best conclusion is that it may have been an anomaly.
Looking at Murphy’s ESPN Home Run Tracker, Muphy had five home runs under 400 feet:
Again, this is no indication that his home run numbers will go down. Even Cris Davis led the league in “Just Enough” home runs, but nobody is doubting his power, so it’s just something to think about.
In terms of projecting this season, the computers like Murphy to come somewhat close to his season last year, but not be quite as. Here is a look at what they are saying:
The slash lines here are almost identical to each other. Each of the three systems released thus far show Murphy hitting very slightly above league average, which is great for a second baseman. However, you see the drastic difference in projected WAR due to almost entirely defense. Oliver has him about average, while Steamer and ZiPS regressing to even worse than last year.
Each system has his power (both his slugging and ISO) dropping a bit, although it’s nothing too serious. They see some regression to the mean with his fly ball rates and HR/FB percentage, which makes perfect sense. I would expect a slugging percentage about 15 to 20 points lower than the .415 we saw last season, back to where he was in 2012. Hopefully that will mean an uptick in line drives and ground balls.
That being said, I don’t see the doom and gloom predictions of Steamer and ZiPS in regards to Murphy’s defense. He still makes the astounding blunders every once in a while, but he’s been gradually improving each year and I think you’ll see him probably top out this year at just a few runs below average.
Considering Murphy’s strong offensive game, and where he started from, that’s not bad at all.