Why Do New York Mets Fans Love Daniel Murphy?

Lou CappettaAnalyst IIOctober 23, 2009

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 23:  Daniel Murphy #28 of the New York Mets walks to the dugout after striking out against the Atlanta Braves during the game on September 23, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Maybe it's me.

Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe I didn't watch the same Mets games as other Mets fans this year. Maybe I wasn't watching the same Daniel Murphy that everyone else was this past season. That's the only way I can explain how I seem to be the only Mets fan on the planet that believes Murphy should not be the Mets first baseman in 2010.

It started in spring training, when I was one of the few Mets fans who was worried that a team who played in the same division as the world champions, and who fancied themselves as serious playoff contenders, could not survive the season with a left field platoon of Murphy and Fernando Tatis.

It continued early into the season when I wrote that "Murphy was making Todd Hundley look like Willie Mays," as Murphy, playing almost everyday in left field, was giving games away with his terrible defense.

It continued still, even after Murphy was moved to first base for the injured Carlos Delgado, as I feverishly debated with my fellow Mets fans that Murphy was only an average first baseman at best.

Many Mets fans did not see my point of view, and now, after Daniel Murphy finished the season with a very good September, I have been debated my fellow Flushing faithful over Murphy's future with the Mets in 2010.

During the past week or so, I have read two articles on Bleacher Report, one by Roger Harford and another by one of my favorite writers, Nick Carlo, that campaign for Daniel Murphy to be the Mets' everyday first baseman in 2010. Don't get me wrong, they're both well written articles that make valid points, but I whole heartily disagree.

After writing a few lengthy comments on Roger Harford's article, I was met with replies that disagreed with my views. I was responding so much, that I decided to state my case in an article.


Daniel Murphy on offense

Most Mets fans that argue for Daniel Murphy to remain at first base for 2010, seem to believe that the Mets can get by with a first baseman who will around .270 with little power.

Yes, the Mets can get by with a first baseman who hits .266, with 12 home runs and 63 RBI (Murphy's numbers in 2009). The Mets are not trying to get by, however, they are trying to compete for a World Series title, and they will not win a title with such production at first, especially since the rest of this team has struggled offensively.

Think I'm wrong? Name one team in the 2009 playoffs that has that type of production at first base. Name a team that made the playoffs in 2008 with that type of production from first base. The last team to make the playoffs with Murphy-esque production at first was the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 (Conor Jackson: 284, 15 HR, 60 RBI).

That's one team out of 24 possible postseason teams the past three years. That's not good.

In fact, this very season the San Francisco Giants found themselves in playoff contention, with a first baseman who put up similar numbers to Murphy in Travis Ishikawa. The Giants as whole struggled offensively all year, and they still felt the need to get more offense from first base at the trade deadline.

Another argument from the Murphy supporters, is that this was his first full season, and the Mets should give him more time to develop.

True, Murphy did play in his first full season in 2009, but Mets fans should not make it seem like he wasn't given a chance to prove himself.

Daniel Murphy played in more games than any other Met in 2009 (155), and had the second most at-bats on the team (508, second only to David Wright's 535). Murphy was one of the few Mets who got the chance to play everyday, giving him plenty of time and chances to prove himself. It's more than enough for a fair evaluation of his talent.

And while Murphy's numbers where decent for a first year player, they are a bit deceiving. Murphy had a very good April, followed by a terrible May, June, and July which saw him hit .176, .240, and .250 respectively with a total of five home runs and 28 RBI in 77 games. Murphy turned his season around a bit with a solid August followed by a terrific September, where he hit almost half of his home runs (5).

So what's the problem? Well, when the Mets were still in it, Murphy was terrible. When the Mets were playing meaningless games with no pressure, Murphy was good. There's an old saying in baseball that says, "Don't believe what you see in April and September", and in his career Murphy has had one good April, and two great Septembers, and that's about it.

Daniel Murphy on defense

Maybe all of the losing this season, coupled with the disappointing endings in 2007 and 2008, has made my fellow Mets fans delirious, but there is a huge misconception that Daniel Murphy is a good defensive first baseman.

Compared to his defense in left field, which was painfully bad, Murphy is a good first baseman. Compared to other major league first baseman, he's average at best, and that's probably a stretch.

First base is no longer a position where a team can stick a player who is poor defensively, simply to keep his bat in the lineup. Defense at first base is more important than ever, especially if you are not a big time slugger. Just look at the Mets' cross-town rivals for proof.

In just one season, Derek Jeter went from being one of the worst defensive shortstops in the American League, and a guy who had fans wondering if it was time for him to switch positions, to a guy who may win his third Gold Glove. Jeter didn't find the fountain of youth in the offseason , the difference is at first base. In 2008, Jeter's first baseman was Jason Giambi, this year it was Mark Teixeira. It's that simple.

Do you think David Wright, who made plenty of throwing errors this season, would benefit from a quality defensive player at first?

I realize that there are plenty of statistics made up by the sabermatricians (most of which I admittedly don't understand) that try to rate a players defense, and many of these can be manipulated to fit just about any argument.

For example, it was brought to my attention that Daniel Murphy had the second best "Ultimate Zone Rating", or UZR, in baseball at 4.7 (technically the point is moot, because Murphy did not play enough games at first base to even qualify, but we'll use it for argument's sake). That's a better UZR than Albert Pujols, Derek Lee, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Teixeira, and Justin Morneau.

Imagine going into a baseball conversation with the argument that Daniel Murphy is a better defensive first baseman than Albert Pujols. You'd be laughed out of the room.

I'm a firm believer that the only way to really evaluate a player defensively is to watch the games. While I will admit that Murphy looked more natural at first base than in left field, and he did improve as the season went on, I watched the games, and Murphy was not good in the field, period.

And for you stat lovers out there, here are two numbers for you: 10 and eight. That's the number of errors and home runs Murphy totalled as the Mets first baseman, respectively. Can the Mets, who struggled both offensively and defensively in 2009, really afford to have a first baseman in 2010 who committed more errors than he hit home runs? 

As baseball fans, we all love to see our favorite team's home-grown players succeed at the Major League level, and I'm no different, but this is New York, not Kansas City, and this Mets team needs to win now.

The Yankees are only a win away from another World Series appearance, and the Phillies have already clinched the NL crown. The Mets are becoming an afterthought in the baseball world, and with the highest payroll in the National League, they simply cannot afford to wait for Daniel Murphy to develop at first base.

The Mets want to contend for a world championship, and for a team that struggled on both sides of the ball in 2009, they simply can't have sub-par offensive and defensive production at what has become one of the most pivotal positions in baseball, first base.




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