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2011 season was both an outstanding year and a terrible year for Daniel Murphy.
On one hand, he was on his way to having one of the five best batting averages National League. On the other hand, it was yet another season ended early because of injury.
At the end of the day it was another year that left us wondering, just who is Daniel Murphy?
Is he the guy from 2011? A .320 hitter capable of producing anywhere in the Mets lineup. Or is he the .266 hitter from 2009? A player without a home defensively, relegated to a super utility role or a platoon DH for another team.
These are important questions for Murphy to answer heading into 2012. This could be his last chance to establish himself as an everyday second baseman for the Mets because for the first time in a long time, the Mets have minor league depth in Jordany Valdespin and Reese Havens that will be Major League ready come 2013.
2011 was Murphy's best season as a ball player. Being able to play every day was great for his game, as his numbers and comfort level improved every month as the season progressed.
Let’s not forget, Murphy is still a young, developing player.
Daniel played last season as a 26 year old. Considering he never played a full season at AAA (only having 40 at bats to his credit), he is only two seasons removed from AA, so in my opinion he is still learning how to hit.
It is quite possible that what we saw last season out of Murphy was just the beginning of his hitting abilities.
Take a look at his track record.
Murphy was drafted in the 13th round of the 2006 draft out of Jacksonville University.
Have you heard of Jacksonville University? Yeah, me neither.
One reason for that is because only nine players from that University have ever made it to the Major Leagues. Of the nine, five were hitters, and Murphy is the only one who established himself as a regular. Paul Runge was the only other player to receive more than 58 at-bats over the course of his career, and he was a career .232 hitter over eight seasons, never totaling more than 90 at bats in a single season.
To overcome those odds, Murphy had to have some work ethic and passion for the game.
Outside of his intangibles, the man can flat out hit.
Murphy is as consistent a hitter the Mets have had over the past couple of seasons. He is a career .292 hitter, having his best season in 2011, hitting .320. He has also shown improved plate discipline, cutting his strike out rate every season, going from 18.5% in 2008 down to 9.9% last season.
His power has been steady as well.
Murphy has double digit home runs in every season except 2011, with his lowest slugging percentage coming in 2009. However, in that 2009 season, Murphy hit .294 with a .500 SLG and seven home runs at Citi Field, so with the walls moving in, I see his overall slugging and power numbers trending up.
Besides his bat, his defensive abilities are tremendously undervalued.
Many people look at his awful 2009 season defensively and automatically think that he is an inadequate defender. However, according to Fangraphs.com, in 2011 he posted a 12.0 UZR at second base. While the sample size was fairly small at 220 innings, there were only three second baseman to post a higher rating last season so that is certainly a positive when looking forward to 2012.
The best part about Murphy is his work ethic.
Murphy has already arrived in Port St. Lucie to work with Tim Teufel to further develop his footwork and overall feel for the game at second base. If his work ethic has taught us anything in the past, he will make his defense at least average, if not better than average in the not too distant future.
Combine his average defense with Bill James’ .302/.355/.456 projection for Murphy, and the Mets will have around a three WAR player on their hands. Looking at last year’s WAR numbers for second basemen, Daniel Murphy would land in the top 10 most valuable major league second baseman.
Not bad for a guy out of Jacksonville University.
R.I.P Gary Carter