Murphy Vs. Jacobs: And The Winner Is?

“For my best friend, who loves Jake despite his low OBP, his iron glove, and his obsession with his hair. Thanks for always being there for me Pam, the way you wish Jake would be for your fantasy team.”

Said by Amanda Cornoyer – The sponsor of Mike Jacobs’s Baseball Reference Page

I am admittedly a fan obsessed with Daniel Murphy.  You all know that I really want this kid to succeed with the New York Mets. And I believe he can. In this post I intend to lay out some statistics, analysis, and rationale that I believe show Murphy to be the superior player and thus best choice for Mets first baseman in 2010.

Mike Jacobs statistics:

2006 : PA – 520   D/T – 38   HR – 20  RBI – 77  BA – .262 OBP – .325  SL – .473

2007 : PA – 460   D/T – 29   HR – 17  RBI – 54  BA – .265 OBP – .317  SL – .458

2008 : PA – 519   D/T – 29   HR – 32  RBI – 93  BA – .247 OBP – .299  SL – .514

2009 : PA – 478   D/T – 17   HR – 19  RBI – 61  BA – .228 OBP – .297  SL – .401

Daniel Murphy statistics:

2009 – PA – 556   D/T – 42   HR – 12  RBI – 63  BA – .266 OBP – .313. SL – .427

Key:  PA-plate appearances; D/T-doubles/triples; SL-slugging

The facts show that Mike Jacobs has had only one season of more than 20 HR (32 in ’08).  After that breakout season, he slumped badly in 2009.  He has not been the prolific home run hitter that many people seem to think.  In addition, his  BA and OBP are unacceptable for a major leaguer. These numbers have declined every year since he broke in with the Mets in 2005.  At best I would argue that Jacobs has been erratic.  At worst, one could claim that he is no longer a viable major leaguer; hence the lack of any MLB team willing to sign Mike Jacobs to a major league guaranteed contract.

Jacobs showed so much promise during his short stay with the Mets in 2005 and then again in his rookie 2006 season with the Marlins. But he took a big step back in 2007. He had only 54 RBI, even with an impressive 46 XBH. This was mainly due to anemic clutch hitting numbers during a season when he had ample opportunities to drive in runs as the Marlins were prolific run scorers. That year the Marlins scored 790 runs and were 5th in the NL. (For comparative purposes the 2009 Mets and their hapless offense were 25th in the NL and scored only 671 runs.)   Jacobs did breakout in 2008 hitting 32 home runs with 93 RBI. Still his BA dropped to .247 as his OBP fell below .300.  His  2008 season’s clutch hitting numbers were still very weak signifying that his RBI could have been much higher if had he been able to hit in the clutch.  Then last season 2009, after being traded to the Royals, offensively he was terrible.

It is just wishful thinking that Mike Jacobs, with adjustments to his swing, a smaller leg kick, and better plate discipline, will be able to rediscover the form that established him as a feared power hitter. A more likely scenario is that pitchers have figured out his weaknesses and are exploiting them.  Jacobs numbers will continue to stagnate or further decline.

Defensively, Jacobs is unarguably a poor fielder. His career UZR/150 is  -9.0.  This means that for every 150 games, Jacobs has been way below average (average would be 0). Even Carlos Delgado, with an UZR/150 of -3.9, and lambasted by many Mets fans for his poor defense, is significantly better than Jacobs.  Daniel Murphy on the other hand had an UZR/150 of +7.6 last year, showing above average range as a 1st baseman.

Jacobs has had four years to improve his fielding. Finally in 2009 with the Royals, he was relegated to DH duties, starting only 13 games at 1st base all season.  If Mets fans want a 1st baseman to be the “glue” of the infield, Jacobs is a terrible choice. Daniel Murphy is already a much better defensive 1st baseman than Jacobs. Murphy has a work ethic that says “I will not stop until I succeed'”.  And with the proper tutelage which he seems to be getting, he should keep improving.

Daniel Murphy, now 24 years old, had a solid rookie season.  It was not as good as Jacobs’ rookie season.  However, we all understand that Murphy’s development was negatively impacted by his left field follies and mishandling by management. In 2010, he should be much more confident defensively at 1st base and thus positively impact his offensive performance.

The Mets anemic offense last year was not the responsibility of Daniel Murphy.  He was asked to do way to much for a rookie – to bat 3rd or cleanup, hit for power and drive in runs. The teams offensive woes were a result of David Wright’s fall off, and injuries to Beltran, Delgado and Reyes.  With the injured back healthy, and Bay replacing Delgado’s bat in the lineup, the Mets will not need to depend on Murphy as much.  He should be able to relax more, contribute and prosper.  His home run total will most likely not equal Jacobs’, but his BA, OBP, XBH, runs, RBI should equal or exceed Jacobs’.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I predict Daniel Murphy to be victorious against Mike Jacobs in the great spring training battle to determine the New York Mets 2010 starting first baseman.

I rest my case. I look forward to your comments.

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