Fun with baseball-reference comps

I’ve already said my piece about Daniel Murphy this offseason, but I did that — I think — before his list of most similar batters through Age 24 on baseball-reference came out. So I figured I’d take a look at those and consider Murph’s future once more.

With some of these guys, it’s hard to tell exactly why baseball-reference deemed them reasonable comps — especially 1880s stud Harry Stovey. But I am not here to doubt baseball-reference.

Lee May — the top comp — had a season pretty similar to Murphy’s as a 24-year-old in 1967, then busted out to hit 162 home runs and post a 130 OPS+ over the next five seasons. Never did walk much, but I imagine Mets fans would sign up pretty quickly for that type of production from Murphy.

Bob Chance tallied 106 more at-bats in his career. Adam Lind broke out with 35 home runs for the Blue Jays as a 25-year-old last year. Stovey retired as the all-time leader in homers and stolen bases in 1893. Jeffrey Hammonds had a couple of nice seasons, but could never stay healthy for a full one. Norm Siebern took a step back at age 25 then earned three All-Star nods in the early 1960s.

Conor Jackson followed his decent but unspectacular Age-24 season with similar ones at 25 and 26 before falling victim to valley fever in 2009. Jack Fournier spent the rest of his career mashing in one league or another. Reid Nichols most decidedly did not.

What do these men have in common other than presence on Murph’s most similar list? Not much. Through roughly 600-700 plate appearances through age 24, they had all managed to not embarrass themselves as Major Leaguers, and that’s really it. Stovey, Fournier, and to a lesser extent Siebern and Ross had distinguished themselves by that age, and so probably are not the best comps for Murphy.

As for the rest? Well, no one could tell what the future held for them when they were only 24. And so it is for Murphy. Sure, May and Lind had better histories of Minor League production, but Murphy’s got that businesslike persona and disciplined approach everyone seems to like so much.

Based on the baseball-reference comps alone, eliminating the four guys that don’t seem right, I’d say there’s a 33 percent chance Murphy becomes a legitimate slugger, a 33 percent chance he really contributes anything, a 16.67 percent chance he becomes a decent but injury prone player, and a 16.67 percent chance he has two more decent seasons then succumbs to valley fever.

Of course, it doesn’t really work like that. The point is that, while it might seem easy to judge a player on his first 707 plate appearances, it’s just not.

I’m not certain Murphy is the answer moving forward for the Mets at first base, but since he’s young, inexpensive, and appears able with the glove, he should be given the chance to play himself out of the position in 2010. A right-handed hitting complement like Ryan Garko would be a nice acquisition, but Murph is too young to be given up on entirely.

4 thoughts on “Fun with baseball-reference comps

  1. Ted, FOTC are hillarious, they may not be back after the third season because they said it’s hard to keep coming up with songs. Check out I got hurt feelings which is great for Mets Fans. The Rhymenocorius and Hiphopopotamus they get it. ( I know I butchered the names.

    I don’t understand why every body is so down on Murphy at first. Listen, not all first basemen have to be left handed and hit 73 homeruns a season. Olerud and Hernandez are my favorite two Mets first basemen ever and Murphy is close, because granted he’s a lot younger and by no means a Delgado type hitter, but Olerud and Hernandez weren’t either.

    They were Great defensively, and very consistant with the bat. With what the Mets have or will have to put out on the field in 2010 the power should and I think will come from Center field, Left field, Short Stop, and of course Third, every one else will be a surprise.

    The mets don’t need 15 runs a game to win, they need to score later on in games and hold their opponents to less on defense.

    Ted, If you ever need me to sit in for once and while, let me know. You are after all, MR. Big Time.

  2. You try to improve your team. If a player you have might be the poorest in the league at his position that should be easy to improve. Murphy ranks the lowest for 1B in almost all categories. His OBP and OPS are below league average and he plays a hitters’ position. In addition he is new to the position and does not field it very well. It seems like the position should be easy to improve.

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