Tha Sports Junkies 101

National Treasure: The Evolution of Daniel Murphy

Arturo Pardavila III/ Via


Daniel Murphy isn’t some October folk legend.  He’s a legitimate hitter, and maybe even a future MVP.

It all started with a home run down the right field line at Dodger Stadium off of Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw.  Then another off Kershaw; the three-time National League Cy Young recipient.  Then a home run off Zack Greinke that would eventually lead the New York Mets into battle with the Chicago Cubs for the N.L. Pennant.  Surely the hot streak had to end here, right?

After hitting four more home runs in the playoffs, including one each against Jon Lester and 2015 Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Daniel Murphy finally had the attention of the baseball world.  This was a hot streak unlike any other in recent memory.  In a postseason for the ages where people compared him to Babe Ruth, Daniel Murphy finally had proven to himself and to his organization that he belongs.

And yet, the New York Mets refused to bring Daniel Murphy back to Queens, even if it only would have cost them just over $37 million.  Over seven years as a member of the Mets, Murphy batted .288 with 967 hits.  The 2014 all-star is 8th all-time on the club leaderboard for career batting average.  More impressively, “Murph” is second in Mets’ history in doubles, and he had the least number of at-bats of any player in the top ten.  Despite Murphy’s consistent offensive output, there has always been a public perception that Mets’ owners Jeff and Fred Wilpon dislike Murphy as a ballplayer.  The former 13th round draft pick has always been a defensive liability and a relatively poor base runner.  But it’s not like Daniel Murphy was going to cost Yoenis Cespedes like money.

The New York Mets exceeded all expectations in 2015.  The Washington Nationals were just the opposite.  An overwhelming favorite to win the World Series after signing Max Scherzer, the Nationals fell flat last season and missed the playoffs entirely.  In trying to bolster their lineup, Washington signed Murphy on Christmas Eve to a 3 year, $37.5 million pact.  The move went somewhat unnoticed by most baseball fans, even though Daniel Murphy showed the world how great of a hitter he can be only two months earlier.

Every baseball columnist in the country begins to make their award predictions during spring training.  Sportswriters around the country chose the players they felt were in for a huge season.  Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, and Nolan Arenado were among the most common picks.  Harper was the popular choice to repeat following his historic age 22 season where he posted an OPS of 1.109.  If you told any baseball fan in the country that a Nationals player other than Bryce Harper would win the award, you would have been laughed out of the room.  But with just two months to go in the 2016 campaign, Bryce Harper is not the reason the Nationals are leading the National League Eastern Division.

The newest National adjusted his plate positioning by moving closer to home plate so that he could cover the strike zone more effectively.  Hard work paid off and 2016 started out well for Daniel Murphy, who hit at a .370 clip through April.  Many people expected a drop-off back to reality, but the 31-year old never got that memo.  By the end of May, Murphy was batting a maniacal .397.  The production finally slowed down, but the Nationals second baseman still currently leads baseball with a .354 batting average.  Murphy also leads the National League in hits, doubles, slugging, and OPS.  The Nationals offensive leader has continued his power from the postseason by hammering twenty home runs so far in 2016, with one against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.  He was named an all-star by former skipper Terry Collins.  Murphy has not shown the Mets any mercy in his first season away from New York though:

The graphic above paints a vivid image of how Daniel Murphy has owned his former club in 2016.  Without Murphy, maybe the Nationals are trailing the Mets in the N.L. East.  But by betting on a hot streak that many thought was a mere mirage, the Nationals have found something far better than a .288 hitter.  They have found a legitimate MVP candidate that they are only paying $8 million in 2016.  Maybe the Mets had some points when they chose to let Murphy go down the east coast and play for their division rival.  Defense is important.  But when you can hit like Daniel Murphy, who needs defense?