The Root of Misunderstanding: Daniel Murphy's Baserunning

A lot has been made of Carlos Gomez' season this year. Throughout the majority of the season, he was the National League leader in WAR, propelled mostly by a gaudy UZR figure. While no one really argued that Gomez was having a dominant defensive season, traditionalists used this as opportunity to tee off against WAR. To them, any statistical model which could deem Carlos Gomez the best player in baseball was not a good statistical model. But this dispute over Gomez' value, like the Trout v. Cabrera argument last year, did the good work of bringing fielding into the conversation, and got a whole bunch of people to jump over to Fangraphs to check it out- even if they were only there to bash it. It's on people's minds now whenever people discuss WAR values, even the casual fan. Unlike Trout's, Gomez' season is being written off by most as an aberration. Not to say that Gomez is not an above average player with superior fielding, but certainly not a Top-5 player. Fielding metrics are meant to be viewed in 3 year blocks. His previous UZR totals of 4.8 and 12.9 should be considered along with this seasons numbers when we evaluate him.

Which finally brings me to Daniel Murphy.

These are the top players from 2011-2013 in terms of BSR (the baserunning calculation used in WAR)

ï"¿"Name" Team BsR
Michael Bourn - - - 23.7
Elvis Andrus Rangers 22.4
Mike Trout Angels 22.3
Rajai Davis Blue Jays 21.7
Coco Crisp Athletics 20.4
Eric Young - - - 19.8
Jacoby Ellsbury Red Sox 19.1
Drew Stubbs - - - 18.6
Alcides Escobar Royals 17.8
Alex Rios - - - 17.4
Emilio Bonifacio - - - 16.9
Shane Victorino - - - 16.3
Ben Revere - - - 16.3
Cameron Maybin Padres 16
Desmond Jennings Rays 15.8
Angel Pagan - - - 15.5
Ichiro Suzuki - - - 15
Nate McLouth - - - 14.3
Ian Kinsler Rangers 14
Carlos Gomez Brewers 13.8
Jimmy Rollins Phillies 13.7
Justin Upton - - - 13.1
Darwin Barney Cubs 12.9
Carlos Gonzalez Rockies 12.6
Will Venable Padres 12.5
Brett Gardner Yankees 12.2
Erick Aybar Angels 11.9
Adam Jones Orioles 11.8
Jose Reyes - - - 11.7

and here are the BSR leaders from 2013

ï"¿"Name" Team BsR
Jacoby Ellsbury Red Sox 11.4
Eric Young - - - 9.9
Elvis Andrus Rangers 9.7
Mike Trout Angels 8.1
Alcides Escobar Royals 8
Alex Rios - - - 7.8
Starling Marte Pirates 7.2
Daniel Murphy Mets 6.4
Carlos Gomez Brewers 6.2
Adam Jones Orioles 6.2
Hunter Pence Giants 6.1
Coco Crisp Athletics 6.1
Nate McLouth Orioles 6.1
Leonys Martin Rangers 6
Justin Upton Braves 5.6
Austin Jackson Tigers 5.6
Andrew McCutchen Pirates 5.1
Desmond Jennings Rays 5.1
Alex Gordon Royals 4.8
Alexei Ramirez White Sox 4.4
Ichiro Suzuki Yankees 4.3
Matt Carpenter Cardinals 4.1
Ben Zobrist Rays 4
Michael Bourn Indians 3.9
Alejandro De Aza White Sox 3.5
Brian Dozier Twins 3.5
Will Venable Padres 3.3
Ian Desmond Nationals 3.3
Michael Brantley Indians 3.3

What you'll notice is that the 2 lists feature largely the same names: Ellsbury, Young, Crisp, Andrus, Trout, etc. Though in 2013, Daniel Murphy creeps into the top 10. This is an aberration. Over 3.5 career seasons before 2013, Murphy's CAREER BSR was 1.4. He posted negative numbers in 2 seasons. As shown, there is some correlation over 3 year blocks with BSR as there is with UZR. This season's 6.4 BSR figure is an outlier, even more so than Gomez' UZR. And it greatly affects fan's perception of his performance.

On paper, you'll see that Murphy was a 3 win player. Many fans will see this and cite Murphy's "improved" bat (his 320 wOBA was the same as last year, and is actually below his career average of 329) or his "improved" glove (admittedly better but among 2B with at least 250 PA, Murphy ranks 42nd in fielding in 2013 with a -4.9 UZR ---AND THAT WAS A VAST IMPROVEMENT OVER 2012). When really this is primarily stemming from a ridiculous outlier BSR score.

Running some numbers quickly, if we take Murphy's 2013 BSR score of 6.4 and replace it with his 2nd best season of BSR which is 1.3, his WAR drops from 3.0 to 2.4. This takes him from 8th in WAR among 2B with 250 PA to 16th, which is where his actual value most likely is - a league average 2B who will be 29 finishing his peak years .

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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