Why Daniel Murphy isn't terrible

Like many others, I still don’t know what to make of Daniel Murphy. In this lost year for the Mets, despite the fact that so many veteran regulars have been hurt, he’s the only position player under age 25 who has seen significant playing time. image

Unfortunately, he hasn’t exactly risen to the occasion. After last year’s tantalizing .313 BA, .397 OBP, and .473 SLG in 151 plate appearances, Murphy’s performance has been much more pedestrian in 2009: .260 BA, .316 OBP, and .390 SLG in 425 plate appearances.

Part of this difference is definitely due to Murphy hitting into good luck in 2008 – he recorded a .382 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) which has fallen to .288 in 2009. The overall BABIP for the NL in 2008 and 2009 has been .298 – so this season’s version of Murphy probably has been hitting into more average luck and probably therefore better represents the quality of ballplayer that he is right now.

Certainly a first baseman/left fielder who posts a 2009 Daniel Murphy-type stat line is not going to cut it on a good team and Murphy’s performance this season has, overall, been a disappointment.

However, I would argue that its definitely too early to give up on Murphy. One interesting use of Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index is to find other players who have had similar seasons to one another. In this case, I searched for other players in the expansion era who posted OBP and SLG% close to Murphy’s 2009 stat line during the first three seasons of their career and between the ages of 23-25. The point of this is to see what caliber of player has posted similar numbers in a season to Murphy’s during a similar point in their careers.