Daniel Murphy: the hardest working man in baseball. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
The Irish Hammer burst on to the scene with the Mets in the summer of 2008 when Marlon Anderson, pinch-hitter extraordinaire of the 2005 Mets who was inexplicably on the 25-man roster, hit the disabled list. Prior to his promotion, Daniel Murphy hadn’t exactly torn up the lower levels of the minors, but his production in Binghamton earned him his shot with the Mets. In 151 plate appearances over the rest of the season, Murphy hit .313/.397/.473. It was a small sample, but the Mets saw enough in Murphy’s debut to put him on the Opening Day roster in 2009.
Murphy began the year in left field but struggled mightily with the position before Carlos Delgado underwent season-ending hip surgery, prompting the Mets to shift Murphy to first base. At the time, Murphy had only made 13 appearances at first base as a professional baseball player, but he wound up playing the position pretty well. At the plate, however, Murphy had a good-not-great year, hitting .266/.313/.417, his 94 wRC+ ranking second-to-last among qualified first basemen.
Despite the down year, Murphy entered 2010 with a shot at the starting gig at first base, but he went down with a right knee sprain at the end of spring training, which resulted in the Mets giving Mike Jacobs the position on Opening Day. Jacobs didn’t last very long before Ike Davis made it very clear that he’d be the team’s first baseman for the foreseeable future. When Murphy returned to action in Buffalo, he was at second base, where he had dabbled in his 2008 season of positional experimentation in Binghamton. Very shortly thereafter, Murphy’s knee was again injured by what many of his teammates considered a dirty slide. This time, Murphy was out for the remainder of the season, stunting his potential defensive development at second base.
Last year, Murphy began the season with the Mets, accumulating 423 plate appearances while playing at first, second, and third base. Unfortunately, his season once again came to a premature halt when he was injured by a slide while playing attempting to turn a double play at second base. He hit .320/.362/.448 on the season, which wasn’t quite as good as his brief debut in 2008 but was certainly an improvement from his production in 2009.
Given the current state of the Mets’ roster, there’s no question that Murphy should be the starting second baseman for the upcoming season. His bat is clearly a better option than that of Justin Turner or Ronny Cedeno. Murphy may not be a defensive wizard, but neither Turner nor Cedeno would play exceptional defense at second base if given the opportunity. It’s obviously concerning that Murphy’s pair of season-ending injuries both came while playing the position, but the Mets would be best served to have his bat in the lineup on an everyday basis. So long as he’s able to avoid injury, Murphy’s bat figures to rank well above average at second base.