The devil you don’t

The fun thing about Daniel Murphy — or maybe the frustrating about Daniel Murphy, depending on whom you’re talking with — is that you can make about 100 different arguments about what role he should play for the 2010 Mets and not really be wrong.

You can use Sabermetrics 101, point to his .266/.313/.427 line from 2009 and say that’s unacceptable for a Major League first baseman. And you could add that he really only had one good partial season in the Minors — in Double-A Binghamton as a 23-year-old in 2008.

Or you can dive a little deeper into his Fangraphs page, as Sam Page has, to show that, despite all his reputation, some hiccups and a tiny sample size, Murphy demonstrated enough range at first base to indicate he might be a good enough defender to make up for any offensive shortcomings.

And you can claim — as I have — that we haven’t seen enough of Murphy to know how good he’ll be moving forward, and that 707 Major League plate appearances are not enough to judge a 24-year-old hitter.

A less convincing argument, I think, is the one that says Mike Jacobs deserves to start over Murphy on the strength of his 99 Major League home runs and 308 RBIs. Sam does a pretty good job tearing that apart in the Amazin’ Avenue piece linked above, and Patrick Flood goes to town on Jacobs’ defense here.

As I wrote yesterday, I don’t even know that it’s worth the time because I can’t imagine the Mets really would consider starting Jacobs at first base. But the Mets have blown my mind plenty of times before, so here’s this:

We don’t know yet that Daniel Murphy is not good. We certainly don’t know that he is good, but we don’t know that he’s not good either. He has yet to fully embarrass or distinguish himself at the Major League level.

We do know that Mike Jacobs is not good. I’m sorry. I know he hits home runs. He also plays terrible defense and never gets on base. And he’s 29, so he’s probably not getting any better.

Murphy, opening the season at 25, could be. As hard as it may be to believe considering how long it seems like we’ve been watching him play, he is the devil we don’t know, which, as far as I’m concerned, is better than the devil we know isn’t very good.

30 thoughts on “The devil you don’t

  1. I think Silva and NYBD made the point that Bernie Williams and Murph had nearly identical numbers at this point in their careers. It really would be ludicrous to just give up on someone that easily especially if they’re someone who is clearly working hard to improve as Murphy has. Also do keep in mind the dreadful team that surrounded him last year. At the very least, he deserves one more chance to prove himself. And please, stop jerking the kid around and give him some consistent playing time!

    • That is nonsense. I’m sure I can find thousands of other players that have had similar years to these 2 and never developed into anything greater.

      Murphy is a 0 tool players. Out of the 5 tools he does 0 well.

      Hes slow
      Can’t hit for average
      No Power
      Awful Defense
      Arm is ok, but who cares at first

      The fact that we have the highest payroll in the NL and the worst 1B in the league is a joke. At least Jacobs has potential to hit 25-30 homers. I’d trade Murphy in 1 second if we were offered anyone who could pitch.

      • Gimme a break. He had barely any time in the minors, was jerked around all season moving from the OF to 1B and learning on the fly, was a on a dreadful team, and STILL HAD THE BEST NUMBERS ON THE TEAM! There is no conceivable reason he doesnt at least deserve the chance to prove himself.

        Man, I hope to god I never have a boss like you, everyone would get axed before even having a chance to learn their jobs!

      • He only had the “best numbers” because everyone else was hurt. So great he had the best numbers out of Luis Castillo, Alex Cora, Fernando Tatis, Angel Pagan, Ryan Church, and Brian Schneider.

        Francouers numbers were still better and in the same division as Ryan Howard his 1B stats are unacceptable.

        And I would never hire you if you weren’t qualified for the job. Its not Murphys fault, but hes not an everyday first baseman. Hes a lefty pinch hitter/utility player.

        Murphy can ge our Greg Dobbs.

        Dobbs batted .272 10 homers 55 RBI in only 324 ABs in 2007. In fact, hes a better hitter then Murphy.

      • If Murphy’s “slow,” “awful” defensively, and “can’t hit for average”… I’m not sure that the English language can adequately express Jacobs’ competence in these areas.

      • Ill copy and paste what someone posted down a little further…

        The problem I’m having with Murphy is that even the most optimistic projections for him – .280-20-85 – would put him among the worst starting 1B in the majors.

        If that’s his upside, why even bother?

        And as far as Jacobs, at least he has the potential to hit 25+ homers and we might be able to get back something from Murphy. Neither is the 1B of the future

  2. That Patrick Flood piece was eye-opening. I suppose Mike Jacobs has stone feet to go with those stone hands?

    To be honest, I’m more in the “Daniel Murphy, Utility Player” camp than the “Daniel Murphy, First Baseman” camp, but I agree that, given the alternatives, he should get the shot to play full-time this year. For me, he brought some decent athleticism and skill to first base in the half-season he was there last year, and if he learns a bit more about how to play the position (I can recall Keith groaning about a number of plays from last season) he might turn out to be pretty decent in that spot. For once, I suppose, I’ll try to be optimistic.

    • And that only makes the point greater. Yes, He was over ambitious about what he could get to, but he knew what his range was little better than we did.

      That aggressiveness is enlightening. And a lot of his mistakes were related to that. Once he learns what balls he can go after, when he’s able to go to second base with a bunt/single (something Delgado never considered) and when to retreat and let Castillo get it, he’ll be even better.

      • That is a very good point–Murph is not an instinctual first baseman, but he is an aggressive 110% athlete out there, and that helps.

  3. I didn’t understand the NYBD post. You could throw any bad set of numbers against a wall for a great deal of players who later became decent major leaguers, it doesn’t prove that Daniel Murphy will be one of them (or won’t be.)

    I’m going with Ted on this, we just don’t know yet, and the Mets don’t really have a better option, so they’re gonna see what they get.

  4. I agree with both Anthony and Ted (what’s up amigos)…now I am FAR from a Murphy fan, but if he does hit, the fielding is “good enough” for sure….the question is solely around the hitting IMO.

  5. Doesn’t Murphy’s solid UZR show that he could probably play 2nd if he was ever given a real chance? His bat would be so much more valuable there than at first. Imagine a 2b who had the potential to hit 50 to 60 extra base hits, as opposed to Castillo’s 12-15 per year? Maybe they think he’s not athletic enough, but a few starts in the Arizona fall league was not enough of a look.

    • I’m not sure it’s that easy to compare across infield spots, it seems like there’d be a lot of difference between fielding at first and fielding at 2nd and in their WAR calculations there’s a pretty big positional adjustment for first base. Plus I think reports on his 3rd base fielding in the minors were pretty mixed.

      • I think there is something to the idea that Murphy would make a good 2B. However, this would be the 4th position he’s learning in two years (he was originally a 3B). If he’s up to the task, why not, but I think it does risk completely screwing up his mechanics and his psyche.

    • Even the biggest proponents of UZR acknowledge that you need about 3 seasons worth of data to draw any conclusions about someone’s defense. Murphy has played 1/2 of 1 season at 1B, so deciding he is a plus defender based on that sample is quite a leap.

      Plus, UZR doesn’t take into account footwork around the bag, receiving throws or judgment/decision making – areas where Murphy didn’t exactly distinguish himself last year.

      He might turn out to be a decent 1B, but the idea that his defense will somehow make up for his deficeincies at the plate is pretty silly.

  6. I can’t imagine the mets would start Jacobs either, but on the other hand it seems hard to imagine what other role they could bring him in for. They already have a pretty crowded DH/1b situation in AAA with Carter and Evans, and Davis expected to make it their sometime this year unless he somehow bombs in AA early, plus those other AAAA guys whose names I don’t know but they exist and that’s what matters. Carter and Evans could conceivably see time in rf but it seems like F-mart is going to be spending the majority of the time their unless he manages to make the team, plus scouting reports say Carters first base defense is a nightmare so I can’t imagine his rf defense would be better. F-mart could play some cf but unless they’re seriously considering him taking over cf in the future it would make more sense to keep him in rf.

    It doesn’t really seem like it would make sense to take “development” time away from Carter, even though I assume most of us doubt he’ll ever be more than an AAAA player, or Evans, let alone Davis when he does get to AAA by having them split time with someone with little to no upside like Jacobs, but it also seems weird that the best situation Jacobs could get at this point is sitting on the bench in AAA, and if it’s not why would he come for that.

  7. If anyone remembers, when Murphy was playing left field, Murphy hit 4 of his 12 home runs in about the first three weeks of the season last year with a healthy squad. A first year starter was put in a position where he was asked to do more than just play ball. Given a healthy team and regular play at first base, I see him producing

    • Producing what? He is a top 2 worst 1B in the league. We are competing with the Phillies with Ryan Howard at first. He is going to knock in 70 more runs then Murphy. If Murphy could play 2B or LF I could somewhat live with him there, but definitely not at first. Trade him now or make him the utility man.

      • OK, so he’s not Pujols, A-Gone, Ryan Howard or Derreck Lee.

        He’s better than Travis Ishikawa, as good as Nick Johnson (better D, worse OBP), long-term as good as Cantu, and last year he was basically equal to Lance Berkman (who won’t be better this year).

        Our biggest problem is starting pitching, followed by 2B & C. The incremental improvement from Murphy to anyone not in that top group just won’t make all that much difference – and would block Ike Davis.

        Let Murphy grow, maybe he’ll improve — but he’ll always hustle. We’re supposed to like that, remember?

      • Wait he was basically equal to Berkman?

        Now you’ve befuddled me, how was he basically equal to berkman?

      • Wow. You need to get a clue. First off, Ishikawi is not the starter for the Giants this year. Second, Nick Johnson is a very very good first baseman, so the fact that you are saying Murphy is better on D is amusing to me and most others I’m sure.

        Saying Murphy is as good “long term” as Cantu is another joke for many reasons. The main reason being Murphy is not the long term answer at first for the Mets. Ike Davis should be our 1B in 2011 if not sooner. The second reason why that is a joke is because Cantu is only 28, 3 years older then Murphy and already has these seasons under his belt…

        .286 28HR 117RBI
        .277 29 HR 95 RBI
        .289 16 HR 100 RBI

        I’m sure you or any other Mets fan will do backflips if Murphy puts up any of those numbers this year.

        And lastly, onto the most ridiculous post I think I have ever read on this forum…

        “last year he was basically equal to berkman and he won’t be better this year”

        Gina stole some of my thunder there and its really not worth it to say anything other then thanks for the laugh.

    • Also, Dan – good point about the lack of protection. When Murphy was followed by Church or Francouer, he looked a lot better than when he was followed by Jeremy Reed or Anderson Hernandez.

  8. I fully believe that Murphy’s success or failure as a 1st baseman will be dependent on both his own performance and the performance of his teammates, specifically as it relates to power production. If Carlos Beltran can come back healthy by May, David Wright regains at least a portion of his power, Jason Bay produces as expected, and Jeff Francouer can hit somewhere around 20 Hrs and give 80+ RBIs, then Murphy will be acceptable playing an above average defensive 1st base and producing offensive numbers that are on par with or slightly better than he numbers over the last year+. If the answer to more than two of those questions are “no”, than Murphy is no longer an acceptable option at a premium power position. Especially because he has yet shown a consistent ability to hit for a high average or consistently get on base at a .350+ rate and he does not have enough speed to become a viable “small-ball” player.

    • The problem I’m having with Murphy is that even the most optimistic projections for him – .280-20-85 – would put him among the worst starting 1B in the majors.

      If that’s his upside, why even bother?

      • Well for one if he was somehow able to maintain plus defensive ability he could still be good enough to be league average. And for two because no one really expects him to be a long-term solution just a short stop-gap and since most other options have little to no upside and at best will be mediocre to below average, outside of someone like Branyan, and this team as constructed is full of holes anyway and only has an outside shot of competing so they might as well go with him on the off-chance he might catch fire and become useful. Even if he doesn’t, more than likely, he’s not going to be the reason we’re not competitive anyway.

  9. You can’t judge anything off of last year. I bet evern the bat boy sprained something in the dugout last year. Give him a chance this year. Optimism!!!! Gotta have it

  10. Baseball is a game of adjustements. This is especially true early in a players career. Rookies come up and tear the cover off the ball and then the pitchers adjust and he can’t get a hit. Or, like WIllie Mays go 0 for 24 then become legends. Sucess in baseball is how well you keep making the adjustments. (think Sophmore jinx)
    In Murphy’s case, the pitchers adjusted to him in 2009 after his great stint in 2008. But the really positive thing is that Murphy adjusted to the pitchers in the second half of the season. Who knows how it will turn out. But how Murphy reacted was very promising.

  11. Ted, you forgot to edit this sentence out of the final post:

    “He has yet to fully embarrass or distinguish himself at the Major League level. ”

    Murphy fully embarrassed himself in LF within a week of Opening Day, and later became only the second first baseman in MLB history to lose a ground ball in the sun (Marv E. Throneberry the first, of course).

    Otherwise, yeah, what you said.

  12. I’m really amused by the Murphy haters.

    I say that this discussion is useless until the 2010 season has ended.

    He’s 25 and this will be his first full season at first base.

    He is working harder than any player that I have seen in a long time. He has heart and talent. The guy clearly has patience at the plate and can create a lot of opportunities for base runners with this patience.

    Murphy was starting to put it together as last season wore on. Come on people…you had to feel that he was improving last year. His stats showed it.

    The argument that he was only the leader on the Mets b/c everyone was hurt is dumb. Yeah…everyone was hurt and useless!!!! He was out there everyday and that’s worth a lot.

    Stop comparing him to Howard, or Albert. Those guys are freaks of nature and much older. Murphy will get better. Just give him the benefit of doubt for at least year. Then bash him, or evaluate him.

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