Daniel Murphy Is Channeling Surprise Heroes of Postseasons Past
Daniel Murphy has made Chicago Cubs fans a bit depressed over the last few days. At least, a little more depressed than they usually are.
You see, the Cubs came into their National League Championship Series against the New York Mets feeling really, really good. They were bashin' home runs, and they had two aces at the top of the rotation ready to go. But now, after losing the first two games, Cubs fans are already retreating into their "it'll never be us" mantra once again.
Murphy has more than done his part to help send them to the nuthouse. In Game 2, Murphy went yard again, hitting his league-leading fifth homer of the postseason -- this time off the previously untouchable Jake Arrieta. In fact, Murphy has now hit homers off of four of the best pitchers in the game here in October: Arrieta, two off Clayton Kershaw, one off Zack Greinke and one off Jon Lester.
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) October 19, 2015
Elias says only three Major League players have homered against those four pitchers in their careers: Carlos Gonzalez, Giancarlo Stanton and now Murphy. And Murphy has done it all in a little over a week.
In the playoffs.
The free agent-to-be is now 10-for-28 in the postseason, hitting .357, with a .379 on-base percentage, a slugging percentage of .929 and an OPS of 1.308. And since arriving in the big leagues in 2008, Murphy had never before hit more than five long balls in a single calendar month.
Until this month. October. In the playoffs. Against four of the best pitchers the game has to offer.
Those five home runs are the most by any Met in a single postseason, and he's tied with Mike Piazza for most career homers by any Met in the playoffs. He's the eighth player in MLB history to homer in four straight postseason games (the last was Evan Longoria in 2008), and if Murphy hits a home run in Game 3, he will tie Carlos Beltran as the only players in history to hit one out in five straight playoffs games.
So you can see why Cubs fans are a bit besides themselves and why Mets fans are giddily hoping perhaps this is their year. After all, while Murphy did hit a career high in home runs this season (14), he's not known as a power hitter. He thrives by hitting singles and doubles and did that well this year with a slash line of .281/.322/.449 and an fWAR of 2.5.
Murphy is a solid player but not a superstar. But in the playoffs, that rarely matters.
Here are some other unheralded names that stepped up to outperform their regular season numbers drastically come playoff time (starting with the 1995 season, the first year with the Wild Card).
|Joe Crede||White Sox||2005||13||4||11||0.289||0.327||0.622||0.949|
|Jose Valentin||Red Sox||1999||15||4||17||0.333||0.354||0.689||1.043|
Some of the names above trigger chills and dry heaves from the fans of teams they did their damage against. Philadelphia fans still can't stop putting a certain bad word in between Cody Ross' name. David Freese makes Rangers fans cry. Scott Brosius gave Yankees' opponents nightmares in '98, and Atlanta's Mark Lemke is legendary for his ability to raise his game in the playoffs. And I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting.
The big question now is whether New York pays Murphy for his postseason heroics. He will be a free agent after the season, and the 30-year-old could command a deal similar to what Pablo Sandoval got from Boston (five years, $95 million) last year.
Is a two-to-three win player worth that much, especially when the Mets have some players who could come in and take over for Murphy next year?
There are some cautionary tales out there. That Sandoval contract isn't looking too hot, and the Giants are probably wishing they hadn't re-signed Aubrey Huff, Marco Scutaro or Pat Burrell after their 2010 run, although they apparently learned from their mistakes with Sandoval.
That isn't to say Murphy isn't a nice player, because he is. However, he is a player with limitations. Even though he's gone deep off of Lester this postseason and twice off Kershaw (both left-handed pitchers), Murphy doesn't usually do this. He hit only one homer off southpaws this season with a slash line of .254/.284/.349 and a .633 OPS, and for his career has just 12 of his 72 career regular season long balls against lefties.
But he is versatile, capable of playing first, second or third base, and has been remarkably consistent throughout his career, with a .288/.331/.424 career slash line, averaging 41 doubles and 11 home runs a season over his seven-year career.
With Murphy, you know what you're going to get, and it's going to be pretty good. It's just not going to be what you're seeing in the playoffs.
Still, don't tell that to Cubs fans. Because to them, right now, Daniel Murphy is the greatest player who ever lived.