Murphy’s law states that, “If something can go wrong, it will.” Murphy’s Law of Expectations (made up by me) has a similar theme: Assumptions lead to outsized expectations, which translates to disappointment. Imagine if your significant other comes home one day and says, “Honey, I’m going to get a boob job or penis enhancement procedure done.” Well, alrighty then. You get all excited and start mental masturbation over gazoongas or I___________________________________________________________________I. But what if the procedure was to reduce the size, or there was a complication with the procedure? You’d be pissed because the outcome did not correlate to all the mental masturbation sessions. That is what happened with Daniel Murphy last draft season. Even though he was coming off knee surgery and missed half of the season, signing with the Colorado Rockies had owners all over the land mentally masturbating over what he could do in the confines of Coors Field. There’s no debating that hitting in Coors Field boosts hitting, but the outsized expectations led his ADP to skyrocket from 160 overall up to as high as the 36th overall player. Murphy finished the year hitting .279 with 14 homers in 478 plate appearances. As a result, he’s being selected as the 245th player in NFBC drafts according to data from 1/1/20 to 2/10/20. Does Murphy’s Law of Expectations work the other way as well?
First things first, Grey hates Murphy. In his Top 20 1st basemen, Murphy is #32 and had this written about him: If you were to put his douchebaggery on an X axis, and his ability on the Y axis, they’ve finally crisscrossed. Why you gotta do him like that, Grey? So, I’m treading on thin ice there, but The Real Joey Bart considers him a sleeper and Rudy likes him at cost as well, so….Power in the people!!! Too bad Razzball is a North Korean-style dictatorship, with all of us combing Grey’s mustache.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
2016 was the pinnacle of Murphy’s career. The triple slash was .347/.390/.595. In 582 plate appearances, he hit 25 homers, scored 88 runs, drove in 104, and stole 5 bases. The walk rate was 6% while the strikeout rate was a miniscule 9.8%. The 47 doubles were second only to David Ortiz’s 48.
Let’s compare that to last year. The triple slash was .279/.328/.452. In 478 plate appearances, he hit 13 homers, scored 56 runs, drove in 78, and stole 1 base. The walk rate was 6.7% while the strikeout rate was 15.5%. Let’s remember that Murphy suffered a fractured finger two games into the season. Then he dealt with back issues starting in May. He is 34 years old, so risk of missing games is heightened, but at pick 245, does it even matter?
All the Statcast data paints an ugly picture. The barrel% was 2.4. For perspective, during the 2016 season, that number was 8.5. The past two years, it was at 4.8. The exit velocity was the lowest of his career at 86.3. The launch angle was 14.8, compared to the 16.8 in 2016. XSLG, WOBA, etc all show the same thing. But my mind can’t stop thinking about that finger injury. The injury happened the second game of the season. While it was the left index finger and not on the hand that grabs the bottom of the bat, I assume that it affected his performance. Am I falling victim to Murphy’s Law of Expectations? Quite possibly, so then I looked at the plate discipline numbers.
The swinging strike rate was consistent with his career norm. The chase rate and swing rates were all fine. All the contact rates were in-line or even a touch better. The approach remained the same. Process over results, right? Well, the results weren’t what we expected, which makes me believe more that all the injuries were affecting his performance: the finger, the back, and being one year removed from knee surgery. Maybe he wasn’t able to generate enough torque due to back and/or knee issues? Maybe the grip on the bat was just a tad light due to the finger injury, so the contact wasn’t as solid. Maybe he wasn’t able to lift the ball due to all three? The GB/FB rate was the highest since he was a Met back in 2015 and the launch angle was highlighted earlier.
That’s a lot of maybes. I wish I knew for certain, but if that was the case, I wouldn’t be writing this from my mom’s basement. What I do know is that there’s upside with Murphy this season, which is strange to write because he’s not going to steal bases or club 30-40 homers. The main reason is the batting average. With many getting steals and home runs from poor average hitters, falling behind in batting average will be common. How many players down in this range will be able to provide the batting average needed without sacrificing in the other cats? David Peralta comes to mind, but that’s about it.
Murphy is still playing in Coors Field for half of his games and is slotted to bat fifth in a potent lineup. Steamer has him projected for a .288/.341/.485 slash with 20 homers, 70 runs, 77 RBI, and 2 stolen bases. Rudy has him down for a .288/.341.484 slash with 18.3 homers, 67.9 runs, 76.2 RBI, and 2.2 stolen bases. The expectations are very low regarding Murphy, but so is the cost. He hasn’t changed his approach and is one more year removed from knee surgery. If he can remain healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised if he surpassed the projections, but that’s the beauty of the situation, because you’re paying for floor and anything above it is gravy.