Is Daniel Murphy A Top-Ten Second Baseman?

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Last night, the MLB Network included Murphy on its list of the top ten second basemen in the game.

According to the MLB Network's "Right Now" series, the second base episode of which aired last night, Daniel Murphy is among the top ten second basemen in the big leagues. Here's how MLB Network ranked the second basemen:

1. Robinson Cano
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. Chase Utley
4. Ian Kinsler
5. Brandon Phillips
6. Dan Uggla
7. Neil Walker
8. Howard Kendrick
9. Jason Kipnis
10. Daniel Murphy

And here are a few quotations from the show:

Brian Kenny:

"Take a look at the best batting averages over the last three years at this position, only Robbie Cano is higher than Murphy’s .302."

"OPS+ over the last two seasons, now that takes into account park effects, and Murphy is there behind Cano, Pedroia, Kendrick and that’s it."

Harold Reynolds:

"I understand the metrics of the on-base [percentage], the hitting [and] all that, but I can’t put him rightfully at number 10 in the Major Leagues at second base. I can’t do it."

"I get the offensive portion of Daniel Murphy, I get it. But I got to figure in defense at second."

If you were to run a quick check on the leaderboards at Fangraphs, Murphy's name wouldn't be anywhere near the top ten in fWAR. But there are at least a few lenses through which Murphy looks a little better when compared to his positional peers, as Kenny mentioned.

Let's look at Murphy through a couple of statistics on Fangraphs: wOBA — a preferable alternative to OPS — and his league- and park-adjusted wRC+, which is similar to the aforementioned OPS+.

Name wOBA wRC+
Robinson Cano .394 150
Aaron Hill .375 131
Ben Zobrist .365 137
Dustin Pedroia .344 113
Neil Walker .334 111
Marco Scutaro .329 99
Ian Kinsler .327 99
Dan Uggla .325 103
Brandon Phillips .325 101
Jose Altuve .325 104
Rickie Weeks .321 100
Daniel Murphy .318 101
Howie Kendrick .316 102
Jason Kipnis .315 101
Danny Espinosa .313 94
Omar Infante .310 92
Jamey Carroll .299 88
Kelly Johnson .299 86
Gordon Beckham .295 79
Darwin Barney .287 75
Jemile Weeks .276 73
Dustin Ackley .274 75

The above table is sorted by wOBA, but you can go ahead and click on wRC+ to re-sort the table accordingly. Murphy ranked 12th in wOBA last year, but he ranked 9th in wRC+. Basically, that means that if all parks and both leagues were created equal, Murphy's offensive performance would have been a bit better than it was and ranked among the top ten in the game.

Last year was a down year at the plate for Murphy, too. Although Murphy only played 168.1 innings at second base in 2011, let's throw him into the mix of the top-hitting second basemen over the last two seasons.

Name wOBA wRC+
Robinson Cano .384 142
Ben Zobrist .362 133
Dustin Pedroia .361 123
Ian Kinsler .345 110
Brandon Phillips .340 111
Rickie Weeks .336 111
Aaron Hill .336 106
Marco Scutaro .335 104
Daniel Murphy .333 111
Howie Kendrick .332 112
Dan Uggla .330 107
Neil Walker .329 108
Danny Espinosa .318 99
Ryan Roberts .315 93
Jamey Carroll .308 95
Omar Infante .308 90

Here's where Murphy starts to look even better. Once again, he fares better in wRC+ than he does in wOBA, but he's within the top ten in both metrics.

Second basemen, of course, have to play second base and runs the bases, too, and that's where Murphy loses value relative to his peers. His 5.0 fWAR (Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement) over the last two years knocks him well out of the top ten, and his 4.1 rWAR (Baseball Reference WAR) over the same span isn't anywhere near the top ten, either.

Our eye test at the end of last season told us that we mostly view Murphy as an average defender at second base, and that's fair. He's no butcher out there, but he's far from elite with the glove.

Still, though, it seems like a bit of a stretch to call Murphy one of the ten best at his position right now. He's been one of the top-ten hitters at second base, even with a relative down year last year. With a bounceback at the plate and perhaps a slight uptick in defensive performance, it's not outrageous to think that Murphy might crack the top ten in overall value at second base this year. He's just not quite there yet.

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