Tag: Daniel Murphy

Daniel Murphy’s Prolific October Bat Continues to Torment Dodgers in NLDS

An hour or so before the National League playoffs began, a scout with one of the participating teams wondered what the New York Mets had been thinking.

“Why’d they let Murphy go?” he asked, incredulously.

For the record, the scout does not work for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but don’t you think the Dodgers are asking themselves the same question? Why did the New York Mets let Daniel Murphy leave as a free agent, setting him free to torment the Dodgers for a second straight postseason?

And how did Murphy figure out how to hit left-handed pitching, something that remains an unsolved mystery to everyone in Dodgers blue?

This National League Division Series certainly took a left turn on the way to the left coast, with the left-handed hitting Murphy collecting three hits and driving in two runs as the Washington Nationals took Game 2 by a 5-2 score Sunday. They head into Game 3 on Monday in Los Angeles with the series tied at a win apiece, in part because Murphy is proving as big a Dodgers nemesis as a National as he was 12 months ago when he was a Met.

“Left on left, right on left, it really doesn’t matter for Murphy,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, admiringly, in his postgame press conference.

It matters to Roberts’ Dodgers, who are 1-for-14 in two games against the Nationals’ left-handed relievers, after hitting a major league low .213 against lefties this season.

It could matter greatly in this series, with the Nationals starting lefty Gio Gonzalez in a Game 3 that now becomes pivotal. If the Dodgers don’t find a way to survive a game against a lefty, they’re in danger of losing the series without getting a second start from Clayton Kershaw.

The Dodgers could also use an answer for Murphy, who has four hits in six at-bats in this series, after hitting three home runs (two off Kershaw, one off Zack Greinke) in last year’s Division Series.

Murphy hits left-handers and he hits right-handers, and while there’s no guarantee he would have helped the Mets against San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card Game, his ability to hit good pitching makes him especially useful this time of year.

The Chicago Cubs, who watched him hit .529 with four home runs in four games in last year’s National League Championship Series, can’t be thrilled at the possibility of seeing him again on the same stage next week.

The Nationals have to get there first, and they’ve still got plenty of work to do to make it happen. As Roberts rightly pointed out, the Dodgers had opportunities to put Sunday’s game away early against Nationals starter Tanner Roark. They had 11 baserunners in 4.1 innings, but by scoring only two runs, they set up Nationals manager Dusty Baker to unleash his parade of three left-handed relievers.

Baker went to Marc Rzepczynski in the fifth, Sammy Solis (to replace Rzepczynski) in the sixth and Oliver Perez in the eighth. Roberts immediately went to his right-handed pinch hitters, but it didn’t help.

This is becoming a postseason dominated by bullpens, interrupted only occasionally by a starters’ duel between Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard or Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto. The emphasis on relievers should suit the Dodgers, who lived on their bullpen all season.

The two bullpens in this series have already combined to pitch 15.1 innings, allowing just one run between them.

The guy who drove in that run? Murphy, of course. His two-out single off Grant Dayton in the seventh inning Sunday made the final two innings more comfortable.

After notching the Nationals’ first hit of the game in the second inning, Murphy worked a leadoff walk in the fourth-inning rally that ended with Jose Lobaton’s three-run home run. His second hit made it 4-2 Nationals and knocked starter Rich Hill from the game in the fifth inning, and his third hit added an insurance run to push the score to 5-2 in the seventh.

None of it should have been a surprise. Murphy was second in the major leagues with a .347 batting average and first in the National League with a .595 slugging percentage and a .985 OPS.

He has proved exactly what Mets hitting coach Kevin Long claimed last October. Long said Murphy’s great 2015 postseason wasn’t a fluke but rather a show of how he had improved as a hitter.

Too bad for the Mets that they didn’t believe it, or that they didn’t believe in Murphy enough to make him anything more than a qualifying offer last November. They moved on quickly by trying for Ben Zobrist and then moving to pick up Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Walker and Cabrera had fine seasons, but they’re home for the winter along with the rest of the Mets. Murphy, who eventually signed with the Nationals for three years and $37.5 million, is back in the Division Series, back tormenting the Dodgers and perhaps concerning the Cubs, too.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Daniel Murphy Injury: Updates on Nationals 2B’s Buttocks and Return

The Washington Nationals are on the verge of a playoff appearance, but a lingering injury to All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy‘s buttocks could cause panic. 

Continue for updates.  

Nationals Briefly Shutting Murphy Down

Friday, Sept. 23

Per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier, an MRI revealed Murphy has a strain in his buttocks, and the Nationals are shutting him down for the next few days.

Murphy has not played in a game since September 20, only making a pinch-hit appearance in a 1-0 loss against the Miami Marlins while dealing with the injury. 

Murphy is having the best season of his career at the age of 31, leading the National League with a .596 slugging percentage and .987 OPS. He’s been a standout for the Nationals, who have needed his effort to offset a surprisingly down season for Bryce Harper. 

Murphy has been able to avoid major injuries this season after spending time on the disabled list in each of his last two seasons with the New York Mets. His breakout season does give the Nationals an anchor in the middle of the lineup, though they are fortunate to have more depth than in recent years. 

With Murphy out of the lineup, Trea Turner can shift to second base as he continues to also handle the outfield. He’s shown excellent promise in his initial exposure to major league pitching, so the Nationals should be optimistic he can hold down the fort.

Since the Nationals’ magic number to clinch the National League East is down to two, they can afford to be patient with Murphy and allow him to heal in order to be ready for the postseason. 

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Murphy Records Career Hit No. 1,000 in Win over Royals

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy recorded the 1,000th hit of his career in the sixth inning of Monday’s 2-0 win over the Kansas City Royals, smacking a two-out, bases-empty double to straightaway center field off Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez, per MLB Stat of the Day.

Murphy got some help for his milestone hit, with the ball bouncing off the glove of Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who arguably benefited from favorable home-field scoring to avoid an error.

The hit was Murphy’s second of three in Monday’s game, and he also had an RBI groundout in the first inning.

After spending the first seven years of his major league career with the New York Mets, the 31-year-old second baseman has proved to be an excellent addition for the division-rival Nationals, tallying 34 hits in 24 games (and 89 at-bats) for his new team.

His .382 batting average ranks third in the majors among qualified hitters, with only Miami Marlins third baseman Martin Prado (.410) and St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz (.403) holding higher marks.

Though he only has two home runs, Murphy’s nine doubles and two triples—in addition to 21 singles—leave him with an impressive .596 slugging percentage.

He’s also drawn eight walks, helping him post a .439 on-base percentage that ranks seventh in the National League.

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Daniel Murphy Showing Signs His Epic 2015 Postseason Was No Mirage

Daniel Murphy was the most powerful hitter on the planet for a couple of weeks last October. But once he cooled down in the World Series, it sure seemed like that was that.

Or maybe not, as it turns out.

Though it’s early in their partnership, right now the Washington Nationals must be quite pleased with the $37.5 million investment they made in Murphy over the winter. He slugged a home run in the club’s opener last week and collected two hits in three of the team’s first four games.

Murphy was back at it again Monday at Nationals Park, collecting two more hits in a 6-4 win over the Atlanta Braves. The first of those was his second long ball of the year. The Nationals shared Murphy’s stats thus far this season:

Five games into the new season with his new team, Murphy finds himself hitting .471 with a 1.591 OPS, a pair of home runs and a double and triple to boot. He’s not Trevor Story or anything, but he’s definitely knocking the crud out of the ball.

With this time of year being what it is, the conventional wisdom states we must be very, very careful about reading into this. But considering what we know about Murphy’s recent history, that’s easier said than done.

Nobody can forget what Murphy did last October with the New York Mets. Murphy, now 31, homered seven times in nine games in the lead-up to the World Series, including in a record six games in a row. Though he failed to homer again in the World Series, his seven homers is a mark only three hitters have topped in a single postseason.

“I wish I could explain it,” Murphy said in the aftermath of the Mets’ pennant-clinching victory in Chicago, per Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “I would have done it, like, six years ago.”

Thing is, though, Murphy’s power awakening actually did have a few explanations. And so far, those same explanations apply to what he’s doing this season.

Though Murphy at no point looked like a Barry Bonds-ian slugger in the regular season last year, it was a career-best season from a power perspective. He cranked out a career-high 14 home runs in only 130 games and also set a new personal best for isolated power.

This marked quite the departure from Murphy’s usual offensive approach, which called for making contact and spraying the ball all over the field with a line-drive stroke. It worked to the extent he racked up a .290 average between 2008 and 2014, but it was a soft .290.

As Kepler noted, new Mets hitting coach Kevin Long had other ideas for Murphy. He believed Murphy had more power he could tap into, and urged him to give it a try by moving closer to the plate and tucking his hands closer to his body. As Mike Petriello highlighted at MLB.com, Murphy did just that.

This obviously worked from a production standpoint, but more significant is how it worked. Murphy felt last season’s changes in his batted-ball profile, notably hitting the ball in the air and pulling the ball at higher rates. When a hitter starts doing that, extra power is going to be there.

Even after Murphy’s efforts culminated in his October explosion, though, it seemed the rest of Major League Baseball wasn’t convinced.

Even after all the talk of Murphy earning himself a boatload of extra money in free agency thanks to his October performance, the three-year, $37.5 million deal he signed with Washington was, in the opinion of FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan, “the contract [Murphy] was pretty much always going to get.” And according to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, not even Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was convinced Murphy was suddenly a hitter with real 20-homer power.

A hitter suddenly developing career-best power at the age of 30 does set off fluke sirens, after all. And besides, maybe the Nationals figured Murphy wouldn’t even try to hit for power. With Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman in the Nationals lineup, it’s not like they needed him to.

But as Murphy told Janes, he actually had no interest in reverting back to his old self.

I think early in my career, just putting the barrel on the ball was something I really strived to do,” he said. “Now as I’ve grown and matured and talked to hitting coaches…I’ve realized that just putting the ball in play isn’t necessarily a victory.”

And so far, he’s staying true to his word.

Murphy’s placement and stance in the box is still drastically different than it was a couple of years ago. Whereas he used to be upright with his hands held high and his feet a good distance from the plate, he’s once again standing close to the plate with his knees bent and his hands tucked in:

Murphy is benefiting the same way he benefited last year. He went into Monday’s action with a 44.4 FB% and 55.6 Pull%. And according to Baseball Savant, he’s gone from averaging 90.3 mph on his batted balls to averaging 97.6 mph. 

So, nevermind not backing down from last year’s power awakening. What Murphy is doing so far in 2016 is upping the ante, and it’s working.

Of course, it bears repeating that the season is in the heart of “Small Sample Size Country.” Murphy is not going to keep up his 63-homer pace. We know this not just because that’s an absurdly high number, but also because it’s unlikely he’ll keep putting the ball in the air, pulling the ball and hitting the ball with such outstanding exit velocity like he has been. Inevitably, his many big numbers will deflate.

But by now, it’s clear Murphy became a power hitter because he wanted to become a power hitter. It’s also clear he still wants to be one, and he’s sticking with the same things that worked wonders for him last October.

The way things are going, he has no reason not to.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Daniel Murphy to Nationals: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Infielder Daniel Murphy reportedly agreed Thursday to a three-year deal with the Washington Nationals, per Jim Bowden of ESPN. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports confirmed the news. 

Rosenthal added the deal is for three years and worth $37.5 million.  

One of the most productive left-handed hitters in last season’s New York Mets lineup, Murphy proved over seven years in the Big Apple that he is a great hitter. He held a .280 batting average in six of his first seven seasons and hit a career-high 14 long balls last year.

However, Murphy has been a liability in the field, committing 13 or more errors in each of the past four years. But his bat has been too valuable to keep out of the lineup. 

And even while he approached free agency, Murphy adored the franchise that gave him his start, as he told the New York Post‘s Steve Serby: “I know that this organization has done more for me than I think any other organization in baseball would have done, and I love ’em for it.”

However, Murphy will now play for New York’s National League East rival.

Murphy could fit in the second spot of the Nationals lineup. A contact hitter who finds his way on base, he can help set the table for the likes of Bryce Harper in the nation’s capital.

In October, Murphy broke a drought in which he’d played 903 games without making the postseason, and he turned plenty of heads in the playoffs. He drilled seven home runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs and was a major reason why the Mets reached the World Series.

If he can provide the same level of production in Washington, Nationals fans will be thrilled with their new second baseman.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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Daniel Murphy Reportedly Signs 3-Year Deal with Nationals

Daniel Murphy has reportedly found a new home within the NL East after signing a three-year deal with the Washington Nationals, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports confirmed the deal.

William Ladson of MLB.com reported Dec. 23 that Washington had talked with Murphy, although he also noted the team spoke with free-agent second baseman Howie Kendrick and that “either one would be a great” addition.

Murphy hit .281 with 14 home runs, 73 RBI and a .771 OPS during the 2015 regular season, and the 30-year-old drilled seven home runs in nine games during New York’s run to the World Series. While his power fizzled in the Fall Classic (zero homers and only three base hits in 20 at-bats), he did enough to earn a look this offseason.

Perhaps the biggest concern with Murphy as a second-base option is his fielding. According to FanGraphs, he is responsible for minus-42 defensive runs saved above average at second base over the last five seasons. While Murphy is versatile enough to play first or third, that total is likely worrisome for the Nationals.

Murphy will give middle infielders Trea Turner and Wilmer Difo more time to develop in the minor leagues. MLB.com ranked Turner as the franchise’s No. 2 prospect and Difo as its No. 4 prospect before the 2015 season.

Even if Murphy isn’t the future of the position for the Nationals, he should give the team some offensive pop until its youngsters are ready.

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MLB Rumors: Latest Trade and Free-Agent Talk Entering Offseason

A week removed from baseball, MLB‘s offseason rumor mill has quickly reached full throttle with trade and free-agent chatter.

Friday foreboded a messy free-agency period when a record 20 players received qualifying offers, meaning teams must cough up a first-round draft pick to sign someone who declines the one-year, $15.8 million deal. One of those guys already has a potential suitor after his red-hot October.

Trades don’t usually develop until winter meetings, but the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays wasted little time reaching a six-player deal. Logan Morrison, Brad Miller and Danny Farquhar were sent to Tampa, while Nathan Karns, Boog Powell and C.J. Riefenhauser went to Seattle. The quick transaction could open the floodgates to more swift maneuvering.

Let’s circle the league for early offseason rumblings on the trade and free-agent fronts.


Nationals Plan to Keep Papelbon, Storen

No team fell shorter of expectations than the Washington Nationals. The preseason favorites to win it all and a virtual lock to capture the National League East, they instead missed the playoffs altogether.

A disastrous season turned even uglier when midseason acquisition Jonathan Papelbon attacked Bryce Harper—who did his part with a season deserving of MVP honors—for not running out a lazy pop fly.  

The sensible thing to do is cut ties with the guy choking teammates, but Papelbon’s younger peer instead helped calm the waters. According to the Washington Post‘s Thomas Boswell, Harper “reached out to Jonathan Papelbon to make sure their relationship as teammates is functional next season.” Not only is the hostile closer staying put, but sources within the organization told Boswell that the team also intends on keeping Drew Storen.

“In a related note, Nats people also say the team’s current plan is to have both Papelbon and Drew Storen in the back end of their bullpen again next year, with the expectation that they will work out a way to ‘play nice together,'” Boswell wrote.

Storen dazzled as Washington’s ninth-inning man, posting a 1.64 ERA into Aug. 1. Whether a coincidence or frustration over his switch to a setup role behind Papelbon, he then surrendered 16 runs—14 earned—over the final two months. He ended his season by punching a locker and breaking his thumb

The Philadelphia Phillies struggled to find a taker on the 34-year-old Papelbon due to a 2016 vesting option. Washington bit and guaranteed an $11 million option, as noted by Cot’s Baseball Contracts, which Papelbon agreed to reduce from $13 million. 

If moving an expensive reliever isn’t hard enough, moving an expensive reliever and temperamental bully who chokes superstar teammates should prove impossible. Pitching in the eighth inning is no different than pitching in the ninth inning, so the Nationals will hope Storen reverts into a lights-out setup man.


Veterans on the Trade Block

Teams hoping Washington would part with a high-end reliever can pursue another veteran reportedly available, while any team needing a left-handed bat also has a feasible target, as ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted:

One of baseball’s most reliable late-inning arms, Joaquin Benoit posted a 2.34 ERA and 0.90 WHIP for the San Diego Padres in 2015. Over the past three seasons, he has notched a 1.86 ERA and 200 strikeouts through 186.2 innings

The Padres recently exercised the 38-year-old’s $7.5-million option for 2016, a fair but steep price for a reliever, while also rostering All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. Benoit’s lowest strikeout percentage since 2008, as noted by FanGraphs, also creates cause for concern.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers are shopping Adam Lind a year after acquiring him from the Toronto Blue Jays. The first baseman lived up to expectations, hitting .277/.360/.460 with 20 long balls. Milwaukee, however, crumbled to a 68-94 finish, creating low expectations for 2016.

During the season, Milwaukee began the rebuilding cycle by dealing Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra. Lind will return for an affordable $8 million, but the solid slugger isn’t leading the club back into contention, especially not in the loaded National League Central. 

Rather than waste steady gains from the 32-year-old, the Brewers will search for younger talent they can control beyond 2016. An affordable hitter who crushes right-handed pitchers, Lind should attract interest across the league.


Rockies Eyeing Daniel Murphy

After belting seven postseason home runs, Daniel Murphy earned a qualifying offer from the New York Mets. The National League champions have made no efforts to woo the second baseman, whose comments after the World Series indicated the end of a run.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here,” Murphy said after losing to the Kansas City Royals, via MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. “I really have enjoyed my time. This organization has been great to me. I love the guys. I can’t sing their praises enough. I feel blessed to have been a Met.”

Due to Murphy’s postseason success, he’s an unlikely candidate to accept the qualifying offer. According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, one team is already interested in his services, if he’s willing to change positions:

Teams probably discuss a lot of kooky things which never see the light of day. Would Ben Zobrist be willing to play every position every game? What if we signed Bartolo Colon as a pinch hitter to increase team morale? A conversation doesn’t always lead to action.

Yet Murphy—a third baseman by trade who moved to steer clear of David Wright—has showcased uneven defense throughout his career. FanGraphs has discredited him for minus-42 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) at second since 2011, but he looked decent fielding at first while briefly replacing an injured Lucas Duda in 2015. 

Coors Field is perceived as a homer haven, but it produced more hits of any kind than any other stadium, as measured by ESPN.com’s park factors. A career .288 hitter is likely to hit comfortably over .300 there, and even if his October power surge was an outlier, he could easily hit 20 homers with the Rockies.

The Rockies would have to concede a compensatory draft pick to the Mets, but perhaps they’ll want to return the favor after New York bizarrely poached Michael Cuddyer away from Colorado last year. 

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Daniel Murphy’s Magical Postseason Has Crashed Back to Earth

NEW YORK — The games change quickly, and the stories do, too. Baseball is a game meant to be judged over time, but the postseason gives us little, and the World Series gives us less.

One pitch. One home run. One little ground ball that rolls under a glove and into history.

“I wish I would have caught it,” Daniel Murphy said late on Halloween night, when the trick was on him.

They all wish he would have caught it, all the New York Mets and all their fans, everyone who remembers beginning the eighth inning of Game 4 with a little trepidation but a lot of hope of evening up this World Series with the Kansas City Royals. The Mets were five outs from doing just that, five outs from changing the Series and changing the story.

Michael Conforto was going to be the focus on this night, Conforto and another rookie named Steven Matz. They were going to be the reason the Mets were back in this, and Murphy’s World Series slump (2-for-16 with no RBI at that point) was going to be an unnoticed postscript to the home run streak that had carried the Mets here.

But then Tyler Clippard walked two straight batters. Then Mets manager Terry Collins went to closer Jeurys Familia, perhaps a batter too late but certainly early enough to get the job done, especially when Familia began his night by getting Eric Hosmer to hit a little roller to second base…

A little roller, yes, not exactly like the one Mookie Wilson rode into Mets and World Series history but not that dissimilar. A little roller Murphy charged and watched go right under his glove, which allowed Ben Zobrist to score the tying run and set up the inning that gave the Royals their 5-3 win Saturday night.

“Jeurys did his job,” Murphy said. “I didn’t do my job. … I just misplayed it.”

On all those nights when he hit all those home runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, Murphy turned every postgame question into a chance to deflect praise to his teammates. On this one night when it all went so wrong, he kept all the blame for himself.

His teammates tried to help, with Mets captain David Wright repeating over and over that this was a team loss, not a Daniel Murphy loss.

“There’s a dozen different things we could have done to win this game,” Wright said. “[Murphy’s misplay] was not the reason we lost this game. That’s definitely not the reason we lost.”

There were other reasons. There are always other reasons. Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS was the Steve Bartman game, even though Alex Gonzalez’s error was just as (or more) costly. Game 6 of the 1986 World Series will always be the Bill Buckner (and Mookie Wilson) game, even though it was Bob Stanley’s wild pitch that cost the Boston Red Sox their lead.

October narratives are tough to break, and that was true even before we called them narratives. It’s just as true now, and a Mets postseason that was known before Saturday for Murphy’s seven home runs (including a record six in consecutive games) now could be known as the one that crashed on Murphy’s misplay.

That still says “could” because Saturday’s win was only the third for the Royals in this World Series. They need one more, and the Mets have Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard ready to start the three games they hope they’ll play.

The Mets still have hope, and Murphy still has time to change the story back.

“Without him, I wouldn’t be here,” Michael Cuddyer said. “He still has tomorrow, and I think he’s going to be a hero.”

The Mets are in need of multiple heroes now and probably in need of multiple hits, too. Conforto became the third-youngest player to homer twice in a World Series game (only Andruw Jones and Tony Kubek were younger), but his long balls gave the Mets just two runs. They scored a third only because Royals right fielder Alex Rios seemed to forget how many outs there were, and Wilmer Flores came home on a sacrifice fly.

A 3-2 lead and 15 outs from Matz put pressure on the weakest parts of the Mets, their middle relief and defense. Neither held.

Murphy has never been the strongest of defenders, a weakness easily overlooked when he hits the way he did for much of October. He hasn’t hit that way against the Royals, perhaps because of the Mets’ pre-Series time off or perhaps simply because no one stays that hot for too long.

“I’m just not getting any hits right now,” he said.

Murphy said he felt a little better in his later at-bats, including the one that resulted in an infield single in the ninth inning. He shrugged off a suggestion that he needs any mechanical changes.

“We’re running out of at-bats,” he said. “So hopefully, I can figure it out quickly.”

Things happen quickly this time of year, as Murphy knows all too well. Games change quickly, and stories change with them.

Sometimes all it takes is a little roller.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball. 

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What Postseason Hero Daniel Murphy Should Be Worth on Free-Agent Market

Each one of Daniel Murphy‘s home runs this October wasn’t accompanied by a cartoon cash-register sound effect, though they all probably should have been.

Murphy slugged the New York Mets to the World Series, sure. But he’s also bashing himself toward a hefty free-agent payday this winter.

How hefty will it be? And how hefty should it be? Let’s parse those questions.

First, it pays (get it?) to recount what the veteran infielder has accomplished in his historic postseason debut.

Murphy hit .333 with three home runs in the division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. As it turns out, that was merely a prelude for the National League Championship Series, when he went 9-for-17 with four more dingers as the Mets swept the Chicago Cubs.

Overall, Murphy carries a .421 average and 1.026 postseason OPS into the World Series. And he owns an MLB record after homering in six consecutive playoff games.

“I can’t explain it,” Murphy said, per USA Today‘s Jorge L. Ortiz. “It’s just such a blessing to be able to contribute to what we’ve been able to do.”

Murphy’s done more than contribute. He’s joined forces with the Mets’ stable of power arms and turned New York into a genuine juggernaut. And he’s transformed himself into one of the offseason’s hottest commodities.

Murphy wasn’t a slouch before he became the lovechild of Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth. He made his first All-Star team in 2014 and hit a career-high 14 home runs this season.

But after shining this brightly on baseball’s biggest stage, Murphy has significantly upped his value.

Maybe the best recent comparison is Pablo Sandoval, a solid regular-season contributor who won World Series MVP honors with the San Francisco Giants in 2012 before inking a five-year, $95 million deal with the Boston Red Sox last November.

Sandoval hit just .245 for Boston this year and posted a career-worst minus-0.9 WAR, per Baseball-Reference.com, so he’s a cautionary tale. And he was 28 when the Red Sox signed him, while Murphy will turn 31 in April.

Still, the allure of October glory can take a good player and round him up to a legend. And legends tend to get paid.

“Obviously, he’s not going to be as hot as he’s been in the postseason, but he plays positions where his power plays well,” an unnamed American League general manager said of Murphy, per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

That same GM cited the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels, three of the top seven MLB clubs by payroll, as potential suitors. And, he concluded, “He’s going to be sought-after and get a five-year deal at around $75 million. Maybe more.”

Murphy, who got the bulk of his starts at second base but can play third and first, is part of a free-agent class that also includes analogous veterans Ian Desmond, Howie Kendrick and Ben Zobrist, whose Kansas City Royals will battle Murphy’s Mets for the Commissioner’s Trophy.

So the supply might be high enough to drive down the price. And New York figures to make a qualifying offer to Murphy, which would mean any other club that signed him would surrender a draft pick.

Either way, the Mets are apparently out of the running.

Despite Murphy’s status as the reigning King of Queens (with apologies to Kevin James), the Mets don’t intend to bring him back, per Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News.

“He’s been great, really great,” an unnamed source told Ackert, “but it changes nothing.”

That’s a peculiar stance to take, at least from a public-relations standpoint. Yes, the Mets consider Dilson Herrera a potential replacement up the middle. And, double yes, a Murphy overpay would strain their bottom line, especially as they look to retain their young pitching nucleus.

Symbolically, though, how do you cut loose the guy who did this against NL Cy Young hopeful Jake Arrieta in Game 2 of the NLCS, with one hand to boot:

For the moment, as the Amazins charge full-steam toward their first title since 1986, it’s a moot point, as Newsday‘s David Lennon argued:

So what if Murphy is inflating his next contract offer with every swing? Right now, his plate production is getting them that much closer to the World Series. What good would it do the Mets to suddenly whisper during the playoffs that they’ve reconsidered and intend to have Murphy as their second baseman for the next half-decade or so?

The Mets have other goals right now, as does Murphy.

Someone is going to open his checkbook for Daniel Murphy in a couple of months, and when he does, he’ll be thinking about Murphy’s hero act through the NLDS and NLCS and possibly what he’s about to do for an encore in the championship round.

That may be irrational, and it could lead to a Sandoval-esque boondoggle.

But with each colossal swing, Murphy keeps the cash-register sound effects coming—and sends the doubters spinning deeper into orbit.


All statistics current as of Oct. 25 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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World Series 2015: Full Schedule and Players Who Will Decide MLB Championship

The New York Mets didn’t want to leave any doubt in the minds of the casual fans. An 8-3 thrashing in Game 4 on Wednesday and a sweep of the Chicago Cubs meant they secured their place as the best team in the National League and a spot in the World Series.

Things haven’t been quite as cut-and-dry in the American League, with the Kansas City Royals holding a 3-2 lead on a Toronto Blue Jays team that got a big performance from its bats at exactly the right moment in Game 5.

But with only two games at most remaining in the American League Championship Series, the World Series is nearly upon us—which means it is time to start previewing the Fall Classic and what it will take to bring home the crown.

Let’s take a look at the remaining schedule for the playoffs and preview which players will have an impact on the final outcome of the World Series.


Players Who Will Decide World Series

Mets 2B Daniel Murphy

Has anyone ruled out the theory that Daniel Murphy is a wizard? Until there is substantial evidence to the contrary, I’m not willing to ignore the chance that the Mets second baseman is a practitioner of the Dark Arts.

Murphy finished the regular season with 14 home runs to his name—not a bad number among second baseman but not exactly the type of stats that would hint at what he has done in the postseason. Going yard seven times and in each of his last six games, the 30-year-old is playing like the best player in baseball heading into the World Series.

It would be fair to assume that Murphy is bound to come back to earth at some point in the near future, but seeing as he is already in uncharted territory in terms of baseball history, predicting anything for him would be folly.

The Mets have become the most exciting team in baseball in recent weeks and after completing a sweep of the Cubs are a step closer to securing the franchise’s first title since 1986, in large part thanks to Murphy.

Whoever wins the ALCS—the Royals lead the Blue Jays 3-2 heading into Friday’s Game 6 in Kansas City, Missouri—will have to be wary of Murphy now or risk watching the ball sail into the stands every night.


Royals P Johnny Cueto

As stated above, the Royals carry a 3-2 lead into Game 6—the first of two games at home—and look like the likelier of the two teams to advance to the World Series, even with the hitting the Blue Jays bring to the plate.

Brought in by the Royals at the trade deadline this season from the Cincinnati Reds, Johnny Cueto was the big-name pitcher Kansas City wanted as it became clearer and clearer that a second straight shot at the World Series was in the cards.

Since coming to Kansas City, though, Cueto has been less than consistent, recording a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts with the team in the regular season. Since the playoffs started, things have gotten even worse, with a 7.88 ERA masking an incredible performance in Game 5 against the Houston Astros.

When Cueto is on, he is still one of the best pitchers in the league and has the ability to shut down any lineup, but when he isn’t, having a stellar day in can be brutal—just ask the Blue Jays to whom Cueto gave up eight earned runs in two innings pitched.

The ALCS schedule has Cueto set to pitch in Game 7 against the Blue Jays should it be necessary, meaning even if the Royals don’t make the World Series, it will be partially on their ace pitcher. But if Game 6 does go in favor of Kansas City, Cueto will likely get the Game 1 start against New York and could set the tone for the series to come.


Mets P’s Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey

It doesn’t seem entirely fair to lump the Mets’ three young elite pitchers together—to say nothing of leaving out rookie Steven Matz, who has only started nine games in his career in the majors—but should the Mets win the World Series this year, it will be hard to separate 27-year-old second-year Jacob deGrom, 23-year-old rookie Noah Syndergaard and 26-year-old third-year Matt Harvey.

The Mets have been carried by their core of young pitchers this season in that trio, and even with the offensive explosion, not much has changed since the calendar turned to October.

The three have combined for eight starts in the postseason, allowing 12 total runs among them with the Mets, and won all but one of the games they have started, a 5-2 Game 2 defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series.

While Murphy is busy hitting an unbelievable amount of home runs for the Mets and stealing all the headlines, the pitchers have been going about their business like nothing has changed from the regular season, and that is all New York can ask of them.

This is a group of three pitchers—who are incredibly inexperienced—had never been to the playoffs before this season and are pitching like some of baseball’s greatest historical rotations. Whichever team emerges from the ALCS has a tough task on its hands in figuring out how to beat these pitchers. No one else has done it so far, so odds aren’t in the Royals’ or Blue Jays’ favor.

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