After watching Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy have another night where he generally showed very little power, his slash line stands at .308/.345/.369. Given that he was a doubles machine last year, I decided to examine his numbers more in depth, to get an understanding as to why he has declined. (These numbers are up to 5/10/12)In 2011, Murphy had a very solid season, hitting .320/.362/.448 and putting up 3.2 fWAR in 391 PA.
His line-drive (LD) percentage in 2011 was 21.9%, while his groundball (GB) percentage was 47% and his flyball (FB)percentage was 31%.
In 2012, the equation has changed a bit. His LD percentage has actually gone up, to 22.7%. That is encouraging. The rest of his batting profile is not. His groundball percentage has increased to 54% while his flyball rate has plummeted to 22.7%.
Of course, this doesn't really tell us the whole picture. His splits do reveal something interesting though.
Murphy has generally been viewed as a hitter best suited going to the opposite field and his 2011 batting profile demonstrates that. Going to left, his LD% was 21.1 percent, while his GB% was 35.8% and his FB rate was 43.2%. Going to center, he had an 18.7% LD rate, while his GB rate was 51.5% and his FB rate was 29.9%. Murphy did show force to right field, as he had a LD rate of 26.2% while his GB rate was 50.8% and his FB rate was 23.0%.
If you look at Murphy's splits for 2012, you may not notice anything wrong at first. To left, his LD rate is 21.9%, while his GB rate is 37.5% and his FB rate is 40.6%, essentially the same as 2011. To center, his numbers have improved greatly, as he has an absurd 34.1% LD rate while his GB rate is 46.3% and his FB rate is 19.5%.Yet, his numbers to right in 2012 are ghastly.
His LD rate is a pathetic 10.8%, matching his FB rate. His GB rate to right is 78.4%. Yes, 78.4%. For some perspective, Luis Castillo's GB rate in 2010 was only 70.4%.
Essentially, Murphy is showing absolutely no power to the right side, which is problematic considering he's a left handed hitter. The decline in power is apparent on his spray charts.
But why? What is causing the severe decline in his ability to pull the ball? The evidence suggests a change in the way pitchers are pitching him.
Numbers from Pitchfx.Texasleaguers.com:
It's important to examine what kind of pitches Murphy is seeing this year compared to last, and how he is faring against them.
First, let's take a look at Murphy against four-seam fastballs,
Count Selection Strike Swing Whiff Foul In Play
2011: 576 37.1% 65.6% 43.8% 1.9% 21.4% 20.5%
2012: 177 34.0% 66.1% 44.6% 1.7% 24.9% 18.1%
Examining the splits, Murphy hasn't seen much of a difference against four seamers from right handers, except that in 2012, he is seeing less of them as a strike (60.9%) then he did in 2011 (63.6%).
It is against lefties that Murphy is seeing a change in four-seamer usage. In 2011, Murphy saw four-seamers 46.8% of the time from lefties. In 2012, that number has declined to 34.2% of the time. He is also fouling off these four-seamers from lefties at a higher percent (28.4% compared to 21.1%) while putting less of them in play (16.4% as compared to 20.5% in 2011)
Overall, Murphy's performance against four seamers has plummeted from a +8.4 value in 2011 to only +1.1 in 2012.
Now, we'll examine Murphy against sliders.
2011: 210 13.5% 60.0% 44.3% 3.3% 16.2% 24.8%
2012: 86 16.5% 61.6% 44.2% 8.1% 15.1% 20.9%
As we can see, Murphy is seeing a larger percentage of sliders this season and swinging and missing at a much higher percentage of them. You may be thinking "Oh, this is almost certainly against lefties." Incredibly, it's not. Murphy has actually improved against lefty sliders, as he is swinging at a lower percentage of them, seeing his whiff rate against them drop by 8% this year and putting more of them in play (which may be good or bad)
Right-handed sliders on the other hand are giving Murphy the fits. The number of them he's seeing this year hasn't changed much, but what he's doing with them has. Murphy's whiff rate on them has jumped from 2.2% in 2011 to 8.5% this season. He's fouling off a higher number of them (19.1% compared to 16.8%) and putting less of them in play (17% compared to 26.1%)
Then there's the changeups:
2011: 210 13.5% 59.5% 46.2% 5.7% 16.2% 24.3%
2012: 71 13.7% 50.7% 39.4% 9.9% 12.7% 16.9%
There's minimal change in the number of change ups he's seeing as a whole, but like the sliders, Murphy is waving at a higher number of them and putting less in play.
Murphy is an equal opportunist with the changeup, as he has struggled against both lefty and righty changeups. Murphy is swinging at 10% less righty changeups than he did in 2011. However, against righty changeups in 2011, he whiffed 5.3% of the time; that number has jumped to 7.4% in 2012. This is a problem because the percentage of them in the strike zone has decreased from 62% to 48.1%.. He is fouling off less RH changeups and putting less of them in play than he did a year ago.
Against LH changeups, Murphy's struggles have only gotten worse. He is seeing a higher number of LH changeups (8.7 to 6.7%) and seeing a much greater number of them for strikes (58.8% in 2012 compared to 39.1%). He is swinging against them at an 8% greater rate, and whiffing against them over 17% of the time in 2012, compared to 8.7% in 2011. He is only putting 5.9% of these changeups in play.
2011: 210 13.5% 60.0% 44.3% 3.3% 16.2% 24.8%
2012: 39 7.5% 66.7% 51.3% 5.1% 17.9% 28.2%
Murphy is seeing significantly less sinkers in 2012, but seeing a higher percentage of them for strikes and putting more in play. Sinkers are the one pitch Murphy has actually improved against in 2011, going from a -3.3 rating against them in 2011 to a 1.6 rating against them in 2012 (Fangraphs).
Against lefties, he is seeing a slightly lower number of sinkers, but a higher number of them for strikes (69.2% compared to 50%) and he is putting them in play at a higher number (23.1 to 15.4). Against right handers, Murphy is seeing a much lower number of sinkers (8% to 15.2% in 2011) The rest of the rates are about the same as they were in 2011.
2011: 156 10.1% 63.5% 42.3% 5.1% 12.8% 24.4%
2012: 64 12.3% 67.2% 39.1% 0.0% 18.8% 20.3%
Murphy's performance against two seamers has dropped off greatly, going from a 2.1 rating last year to a -1.8 rating this year.
Against right handers, Murphy is seeing 64.1% of two seamers in the strike zone, compared to 58.7% in 2011. He is swinging at them at a higher clip (46.2%) compared to 2011 (36.5%) and consequently, is fouling them off at a much higher rate (23.1% compared to 10.3%).
When facing left handers, the percentage of two seamers has jumped from 8.7% to 12.8%. His approach against them has been much, much different. In 2011, Murphy swung at 66.7% of the two seamers from lefties he saw. In 2012, he is only swinging at 28% of them. Not surprisingly, he is putting a much lower number of them in play (16% compared to 33.3%)
2011: 124 8.0% 62.9% 53.2% 8.9% 21.0% 23.4%
2012: 44 8.5% 63.6% 52.3% 6.8% 18.2% 27.3%
Murphy's numbers against the curveballs are odd. His percentage of RH curveballs seen has slightly decreased, and his whiff rate against RH curveballs is at 4.2%, a significant improvement from a 9.3% rate in 2011. Lefties have decided to go curveball heavy against Murphy at 10.2% compared to 4.9% in 2011. He is also fouling them off at a much lower rate (23.5% to 10%). His performance against the curveball overall has only gotten worse from 2011, when it was at -0.6. His performance against them is at -2.1, his worst against any other pitch.
Finally, cut fastballs:
2011: 50 3.2% 62.0% 48.0% 4.0% 26.0% 18.0%
2012: 29 5.6% 75.9% 58.6% 3.4% 27.6% 27.6%
Murphy has fared about average against the cut fastball (0.8) this year. However, it is interesting to look at the way they've been used against him. Against right handers, he is seeing them at a much higher percent in the strike zone (78.6% compared to 65.2%) and fouling off a higher rate of them. Against lefties, the cutter is relatively new for Murphy; he only saw four of them in 2011 and put one in play. In 2012, he has already seen 15 of them and put six in play.
Murphy had the best year of his career last year in part because he feasted on the four-seam fastball and was able to drive it to all parts of the park, including right field. This year, pitchers have decided to change up their game plan, feeding him a diet of off-speed pitches and two-seamers, which Murphy has not responded well to at all. Instead of hammering balls down the right field line like last year, he is simply making weak grounders to the first and second baseman. Another problem with Murphy is that he is simply waving and missing at pitches at a much higher rate than last year.
In order to combat this, Murphy will either have to become more selective at the plate and wait for the four-seamer, or he will have to learn how to hit pitches other than the four-seamer. If he or the Mets want to have any success, he will have to begin to drive the ball again, especially to right field.