You’d be hard-pressed to find a baseball fan who wasn't disappointed with the season David Murphy had in 2013. But the reasons behind that disappointment are exactly why the Texas Rangers should re-sign him.
David Murphy underperformed this season.
A playoff-caliber team doesn’t just hand a starting outfield position to a guy who doesn’t deserve it. It just doesn’t happen. The Rangers had every reason to believe Murphy would fill in admirably after Josh Hamilton’s departure, so they gave him the chance.
Richard Durrett of ESPN documented some of those expectations when Texas signed him to his one-year deal in January.
Murphy got off to a slow start in April. Big deal, right? Murphy is notorious for being a slow starter and heating up as the season gets going.
David Murphy just homered, very good in May. Ignore the slow start and still-ugly seasonal numbers, he's a worthy mixed-league bat. Y: 15%.— scott pianowski (@scott_pianowski) May 22, 2013
Case in point: The Chicago Tribune notes that Murphy is a lifetime .227 hitter in April, which is 30 points lower than any other month. Until this season, Murphy had monthly averages above .287 for every month from June forward.
So the Rangers cut him some slack and Murphy actually had a pretty good month of May, hitting .286. But after that it got ugly again and his average never got above .230.
The fact that the Rangers had faith in Murphy to start the season was a result of his proven productivity over the first seven years of his career.
Even after a brutal year in which he hit .220, his career average still sits at .275. According to baseball-reference.com, his 162-game averages include 16 home runs, 69 runs batted in, and a .778 OPS.
Looking further, fangraphs.com shows us that Murphy’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was only .227, which is down from his career average of .302. This statistic basically tells us that Murphy was unlucky in 2013.
I’m not going to argue that luck was the sole reason for his dip in production, but it certainly played a role.
The way fangraphs.com describes BABIP is this:
If a player has a very high or very low BABIP, it means that whatever the reason for the spike (whether it’s defense, luck, or slight skill), that player will regress back to their career BABIP rate. BABIP rates are flaky and prone to vary wildly from year to year, so we should always take any extreme BABIP rates with a grain of salt.
So basically, Murphy’s .227 BABIP was a fluke and should regress (or in this case progress) back to the norm of .302 next season. Therefore, his batting average will likely scoot back up to the .260 to .280 range if he has a normal year in 2014.
Unfortunately for Murphy, his value has dropped a good amount. He earned $5.78 million on a one-year contract in 2013 according to baseballplayersalaries.com, but he probably won’t get near that much on whatever his new contract is.
I'm going to be fascinated to see what sort of contract David Murphy signs in the offseason, after this year's disaster.— Adam J. Morris (@lonestarball) August 15, 2013
Murphy could still fit in the Rangers’ equation as a fourth outfielder or in a platoon situation. Despite the down season, he proved his worth off the bench with a .308 average as a pinch hitter.
And based on his track record, he is a proven player that will ultimately compete for his old starting spot.
The 2013 season was just an aberration in what has otherwise been a solid career, so expect Murphy to get back on track in 2014. Now all the Rangers have to do is trust that he will have a bounce-back year and re-sign him.