Mets should platoon Murphy to begin season

April, 6, 2009
Will Daniel Murphy justify the Mets' faith in him? Or will he revert to his minor league performance, which was decent but far from scintillating? Ted Berg on the latter:

    Of course, there are plenty of nattering nabobs who believe he will. In message board threads around the Internet this offseason, statheads and opposing fans pointed to Murphy's small Major League sample size and good-but-not-dominant Double-A stats from 2008 and argued that Mets fans are primed for disappointment in 2009. They said the expectations levied on the young left-handed hitter are patently ridiculous given his history.

    Mets fans have seen enough to know better, though. We've witnessed his professional approach to hitting, heard his teammates and coaches rave about his work ethic and even listened to Keith Hernandez compare him to a young Pete Rose. So as Mets fans, we should be confident in Murphy's Major League success for 2009 and beyond. Right?

    The truth is, we have no idea. Nobody does. Naysaying and yaysaying is all just guesswork, and until Murphy gets a reasonable sample of at-bats at the big-league level, we don't know how he'll pan out. There's certainly a lot to like from everything we've witnessed, but remember: We've been led astray before. And Murphy, in particular, has been so Paul Bunyaned that if he posts an .800 OPS, he'll disappoint most Mets fans while outpacing most major preseason projection systems.

    The important thing for fans of Murphy and all young players is patience. Not everybody is David Wright -- remember that after Jose Reyes' hot start in 2003, it wasn't until 2006 that he again became even a league-average hitter. If Murphy stumbles out of the gate in the season's first two weeks or two months, don't dismiss him as another Gregg Jefferies or Kevin Maas.

Here's the basic problem: As Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster points out, Murphy did exceptionally well when putting the ball in play in the majors, which is great except he hadn't done that in the minors. What are you going to believe? His 151 plate appearances in the majors? Or his 1,078 plate appearances in the minors?

An .800 OPS? Even that's not likely. Murphy has some pop, but his on-base percentage is mostly batting average-driven, and his .313 batting average with the Mets last season was a mirage. He's just not a .300 hitter. Not yet, anyway. I like the Mets and I think they're going to win. But the sooner they figure out that Murphy isn't nearly good enough to start against left-handed pitching, the better their chances.



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