February 14, 2011
More on Second Base - Where Does Daniel Murphy Fit In?

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As I’ve touched on multiple times over the past few days, the identity of the Mets starting second basemen is still very much in doubt. Daniel Murphy could get the job, but over on Metsblog, Matt Cerrone thinks Murph “is best served getting around 400 at bats, while rotating through four positions, during which he’s capable of batting around .280 with 10 to 15 HR and roughly 30 doubles, which would be terrific.”

And that would be terrific. Having a bench player who can put up those kind of numbers while backing up a number of positions is a genuine asset any team would love to have. But not as good as asset as having a good second basemen, which is exactly what Murphy would be if he had the type of offensive season Cerrone describes, even if he was a terrible fielder.

Look at it this way: If Murph gets 400 ABs at four positions, you figure the breakdown would be something like - 60 starts at 2B, 10 in LF, 5 at 1B and 5 at 3b and something like 80 pinch-hit ABs. Assume David Wright and Ike Davis are going to play almost every game this year, or assume the Mets will be really bad and don’t concern yourself with Murphy. I’d also bet Jason Bay will get the vast majority of the starts in left field, and considering the team has a few other players worthy of a start or two in LF and Murphy’s nightmarish 2009 stint there, he probably won’t get a ton of playing time in the outfield. So I think it’s safe to assume the vast majority of Murphy’s starts would come at second base.

And if his defense at second is good enough to start 60 games there, why wouldn’t it be good enough to start every day? The offensive output Cerrone suggests — which is pretty identical to what Bill James projects for Murph over at Frangraphs — would make Murphy a really good offensive second baseman. Indeed, James projects Murphy to have a .348 wOBA next season. For argument’s sake, in 2010, that would’ve ranked 7th in the majors among qualified second basemen. Add that offensive output to the UZR of Dan Uggla — which is to say really bad defense — and you would’ve had a 2.8 WAR player. That’s practically unheard of for a Mets second basemen. Even coupled with the UZR of 2010’s worst qualified defensive second baseman — Skip Schumaker — that wOBA still would’ve gotten a player to a 2.3 WAR, which still would’ve made for the 11th most valuable second basemen in baseball.

Now, for all I know, the league average wOBA in 2011 will be way higher than it was in 2010, and an offensive season like the one Cerrone and James predict for Murphy will be far less impressive. Or, of bigger concern, Murphy may just be atrocious as a second basemen. Given the Spider Man musical level disaster of that was his time in LF a couple years ago, that’s far from out of the question.

But, the larger point is that if Murphy can literally stand at second base and not regularly screw up — which I imagine would be the case if he’s getting 50-60 starts there — and he has an .348 wOBA (assuming that’s as impressive as it was in 2010), he should absolutely be starting every day, because he’d be a good second baseman.

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