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:
"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."
"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.
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.
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.