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Murphy Acts His Age

By Dan Kulik

Over the course of the offseason and leading up to opening day, it’s been amazing to behold the overwhelmingly positive energy surrounding young Daniel Murphy. The third baseman-turned-left fielder has drawn comparisons to Don Mattingly, Tony Gwynn, even baseball’s all-time hits leader Pete Rose. And why not? His determination, focus, and workman-like approach to hitting invoke shades of Charlie Hustle himself.

Certainly, Daniel Murphy has put together some impressive at-bat’s in the early goings of the season. Already he’s become a media darling and a fan favorite. Of course, it’s a little premature to send him off to Cooperstown just yet, but Met fans have a lot to be excited about.

But there’s one aspect of the game that’s been neglected in this discussion, and that’s defense. The ’09 season will be the first time Murphy is tested as an everyday outfielder, and at this point, only half way through the month of April, we have already come to witness his lack of defensive prowess.

The Mets wasted a Santana gem this past Sunday when Murphy botched a routine fly ball that resulted in two unearned runs and a 2-1 loss to the Marlins. The concern about his defense was reinforced on Wednesday night when Murphy made a bevy of head-scratching plays in the field. In the first inning, Daniel slept on Scott Hairston, the runner at first base, allowing him to advance to second on a fly ball. Later in the inning, when Murphy saw another pop up float his way, he wildly hurled the ball towards the infield. The ball short-hopped David Wright, bounced toward the mound, and Hairston scurried to third. The run never scored, as Oliver Perez ended the inning with a strikeout, but Murphy’s ineptitude was front and center.

Later, in the fifth inning, Murphy made one of the stranger defensive decisions we’ve seen from an outfielder. With a runner on second, Murphy was again bedeviled by Scott Hairston, who sprayed a base hit in his direction. Rather than gearing up for a strong throw home and a play at the plate, Daniel awkwardly shuffled the ball to Jose Reyes, who received it unexpectedly and was unable to relay the ball home in time to catch the runner. What’s worse is that Reyes wasn’t even the right cutoff man on the play.

It’s become abundantly clear that the Mets will not be able to hide Daniel Murphy’s inexperience in left field. The Mets were able to generate enough offense to pencil in the team's first official win at Citi Field on Wednesday night, but it’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which Murphy’s indiscretions could have cost the club another game. Although he may be wise beyond his years in the batter's box, Daniel Murphy will have to adapt quickly to his new position if the Mets are going to have success in 2009.

7 comments:

  1. Daniel Murphy is a great hitter and, to be honest, the best possible number two hitter for the Mets. He maintains a high average while taking lots of pitches to give Reyes chances to steal. He's an essential batter. That being said, his defense is less than stellar. However, his play throwing to Reyes was, as I've been told, a designed play gone wrong. If either of the two made a good throw, they would have cut down a run. It just so happened that they both made bad plays. Daniel Murphy will never be a great fielder, and we have to acknowledge that. Still, he's a great hitter and a good addition to the team. We just have to trust him, trust that his defense is improving, and accept him as an offensive player who's making strides in the field.

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  2. good young players often thrive in one aspect of the game while they struggle with another. every up and coming star loves to hit the cages an show the coaches and team what he can do. perhaps he is lacking focus when taking fielding practice. i would expect this to change, however, as he and his coaches take notice. they don't call it the big leagues for nothing and adjusting to it is a gradual process, expect his defense to make solid improvements.

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  3. Its a long season and it might be too early for us to critique such a promising young hitter as murphy for one play. I think with due time he will improve in the field as all young players do, Im more interested to see if he can hold up for a full season and continue at this torrid pace.

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  4. Murphy's play in left field will not be a main reason for the team's success or failure this season.....he is playing his first full MLB season and is doing so at a new position, but luckily enough he has a gold glover next to him playing center field...his development as a hitter is much more important, especially if he hits 2nd the whole season, batting behind reyes (who completely changes the way a batter is pitched to when he is on base) and setting up the big bats behind him will be huuuuge for the mets lineup.......maybe we should focus our concerns on the real problem this team is facing..starting pitching after Johan

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  5. Not only is Murphy basically a rookie, but he's also fielding an unfamiliar position, so most of us would agree that he should make significant improvements to his defense as the season trudges on. Also, Weezy makes an important point about Beltran, who, according to hardballtimes.com, had more OOZ's (outs made on balls hit outside a fielder's zone) than any player in baseball during the 2008 season. These things said, Murphy looks incompetent and he arguably cost the Mets another game last night. April games count too.

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  6. i think you have to leave the kid in there, he's young and will only improve, in order to improve though he needs time in the field

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  7. It makes you wonder what Murphy's defense would look like if the Mets had him play the outfield in winter league rather than second base.

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