Tag Archives: Daniel Murphy

All Things Come to an End

Today was the final day of the 2012 regular season. Once again the Mets finished below .500 and are hoping some offseason magic can make them relevant sooner rather than later. Because it is no fun to reflect on a season in which the team hasn’t been competitive or in the playoff race for months, we will instead look to next season.

So, should Mets fans be optimistic going into next year?

To be honest I’m not entirely sure. I know this is a bit of a cop out, but with Sandy Alderson claiming to be very active in the trade market, this team might be entirely different by the time the 2013 season gets underway.

But let’s pretend the Mets will largely keep the same team intact going into next season.

The biggest weakness of this club is the outfield. Who on the Mets makes you feel confident going into next season? Jason Bay? Lucas Duda? Matt Den Dekker?

There is a chance one of the young players on the Mets could blossom into an everyday starter, but we have yet to see it, and everything said by scouts says we will never see it. So unless Alderson makes some moves, the outfield situation should not be much better next year. There may be small individual improvements among the players, but nothing drastic.

The infield is less of a question mark. Daniel Murphy has proven to be a steady hitter, and (this may be generous) serviceable second baseman. Best part? He is probably the weak link. David Wright is a perennial All-Star, Ruben Tejada had a remarkable year, and Ike Davis rebounded in the second half to belt 31 hrs. Even catcher has been decently reliable for the Mets ever since the trade for Kelly Shoppach.

So how about the rotation?

Going into next season the rotation looks to be a strength. R.A. (Cy?) Dickey will be returning. As will Jon Niese and Matt Harvey. Top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler will be up sooner than later, and the Mets will potentially have Johan Santana, Dillon Gee, Mike Pelfrey, and/or Chris Young to choose from as the fifth starter. Not to mention a spot starter and long reliever in Jeremy Hefner.

The bullpen may still be a weakness, but with the improvement of Bobby Parnell, and the expected additions of Jenry Mejia and Jeurys Familia the bullpen should be at least serviceable moving forward.

So outside of the outfield things seem good. Does that mean the Mets could be in the playoff race?

They could. Stranger things have happened, but if I had to bet I would say no. Why? Well there are just too many questions that face the Mets.

First, can RA Dickey have a similar season? How will Matt Harvey look during his first full season? How will Zach Wheeler perform in the majors? Will Santana be a solid starter? Are they even bringing Pelfrey or Young back? How will Gee recover from surgery? Those are just the questions for the rotation.

Murphy is still a reliability at second, Davis hasn’t put together an All-Star season yet. Tejada is good, but isn’t a star yet. And with no outfield, and maybe one star in the infield, the offense will struggle. On top of that, we still aren’t sure how much better the bullpen can be expected to be next season.

I guess in short: the Mets have talent. In my opinion I think they are doing a nice job of building within, especially considering where they were. But they aren’t there yet. Perhaps Alderson can do something in the offseason to change this, but as of now the Mets look at least a season away from being real playoff contenders.

On to Baseball

With the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup, hockey has come to a close. All that is left standing is baseball, so until September or, if the NFL lockout continues, October (yay hockey! good thing you already got your annoying lockout out of the way!) there is only one sport left to watch. Let us all be thankful it is played almost every day.

Perhaps what is most fitting, is the day hockey ends the Mets have reached .500 for the first time in a while. Yes, the Yanks had themselves quite a day as well, but winning isn’t really new to this club. Why don’t we give some much deserved attention to the Mets today, as they have made themselves relevant for probably the first time since 2006. (I know, I know. They were relevant in 2007, 2008 and yes I’ll give them up until June of last season as well)

At the start of the season, I used to joke with a few of my buddies that whenever the Mets were tied they were losing. A one-run lead might as well have been a tie, and if they were losing it was hopeless. Now, I don’t feel that way anymore. If they are within two runs prior to the eighth inning I believe they can pull out a win. Crazy optimism for a team that just reached .500 and can’t even hit a home run during batting practice in Yankee Stadium. Especially when you consider two of their best offensive players (David Wright and Ike Davis) are currently on the DL and, with the Mets’ injury history, might stay there all season.

I don’t know exactly what has changed about these guys, but they have a swagger and a confidence I haven’t seen since April of 2007. I guess some of that credit has to go to Terry Collins. This next line has been repeated a lot by people covering the Mets so I am sorry for repeating it but: He might not be the best in-game manager, but he has kept the players accountable, and has kept them playing hard, while in previous years the players might fold with such important players on the DL. Another factor that is clearly helping the team is the play of the young guys. Gee, Niese, Turner, Murphy, Tejada, and even Pridie have been great. They have been playing so well I almost don’t want David Wright, Johan Santana and Ike Davis to come back. (I can’t stress the almost enough. I am beyond thrilled with the way these guys have played, but I am not crazy or optimistic enough to believe that this is going to continue all season.)

I doubt the team can catch the Phillies this season, but the Wild Card is not out of the question. I am not crazy enough to predict them actually winning it, but with their recent play they at least have me believing it is a possibility. For a sport that has 162 games, that is extremely important. I love baseball, but it is easily the most painful sport for the simple fact that your team can be eliminated at the end of June, and you still have 3 more months with nothing else to watch but your sorry excuse for a team. Staying relevant till football or hockey starts is awesome. Yankee fans, you might not know this, but it is 100% true. Especially if you are a dedicated (and probably stupid) enough fan to watch all the games even though you know there is no point.

Returning back to today’s game, it was awesome getting to .500 beating the Braves in Turner Field to secure a series victory. At the end of the game, when they said
that this was the first time the Mets have taken the first two games of a series from the Braves at Turner Field since… my mind went racing. I started to wonder if I was even born the last time it happened. I’m joking, but it really seemed like forever ago. The Braves have just absolutely owned the Mets in my lifetime, and at Turner Field it isn’t even a contest. When they finally gave the answer as May 2009 I was in shock. I know that is a long time ago, but it just seemed too soon. I’m conditioned to expect a loss when the Mets go to Turner Field. How in the world did they get two straight wins there as early as 2009?

On a side note: how insanely awesome was that lightning? When they showed us that clip I was mesmerized. In fact, I was almost upset they went back to the game. Honestly, during the rain delay, I would have much rather have watched that than the analysis they were giving us. Hell, I would have rather watched that than the Stanley Cup Finals game. I love game 7’s, but when the score is 4-0 and I don’t care about either team, the game becomes increasingly less exciting every second.

Anyway, tomorrow they play the final game of their road trip with a chance to sweep the Braves. I wonder if SNY will tell us the last time that happened at Turner Field if the Mets win. (I’m gonna guess sometime in 1989) With the way the Mets have been playing I really think they have a chance to win tomorrow and avoid falling back below .500. I guess the most important thing about this is: I am actually excited about the game tomorrow. Not interested, not obligated to watch, but excited. That is why, no matter how awful things get, I will always love baseball and sports as a whole. When you get excited about your team, there is no better feeling. NONE.

The Nick Evans Dilemma

Who are you?

Who are you? I really wanna know.

The folks at Amazin’ Avenue, a premiere Mets blog (and a part of the inimitable SB Nation), have generated plenty of gems throughout their reign as purveyors of everything Metsian. None may be better than the “meme” that Nick Evans, the oft-forgotten #6 on the Mets’ roster, has befallen a worse fate than dropping off the front office’s radar. He is known at Amazin’ Avenue by the moniker “Who?”–a testament to the Mets’ propensity to treat him like the invisible man. It’s only fitting, then, that he is immortalized as the English supergroup of the same name by the photoshop skills of AA commenter Spike Davis.

He has fallen into the Mets’ equivalent of the Springfield Mystery Spot, lost in a vortex where he has been passed over by the likes of Mike Hessman and Jesus Feliciano. (I have an eternal soft-spot for the Hessman and Feliciano types: minor league mashers who have never gotten much of a chance in the bigs). Although Evans will likely never reach the same stardom as Ozzie Smith (lest we forget the unfortunate victim of Springfield’s cruelest attraction) and, barring some hidden musical talent, will never rival Daltrey, Townsend, Moon and Entwistle, he should be remembered as something more than who?

Ozzie's Foray into the "Mystery Spot"

Nick Evans vis-à-vis Ozzie Smith

The 25-year-old lefty masher taken in the 5th round of the 2004 draft has been on the periphery of the Mets’ plans since 2008. Evans was once synonymous with his buddy–and fellow ’08 callup Daniel Murphy. Evans was the right handed Murphy, Murph the lefty Evans. Let’s take a look:

Murphy 2008 (AA): .308/.374/.496  in 95 games

Evans 2008 (AA): .311/.365/.561 in 75 games

[avg/obp/slg]

Both arrived in New York with similar fanfare, billed as products of Minaya’s well-scouted farm system that could potentially fill the void in left field left by the hoary Moises Alou. Evans was given 119 plate appearances [PA] in 50 games, while Murphy notched 151 PA in 49 games. Memory seems to fail us here. Recalling the end of the 2008 season, we remember a few things: Luis Ayala as the new (and rather shaky) closer, the vast improvement in “morale” instilled by skipper Jerry Manuel’s (cough), and Daniel Murphy’s emergence.

Murphy was the second coming of John Milner or even the 1975 incarnation of Mike Vail, who hit his way into Mets’ fans hearts as the “player of the future” with a line of .302/.339/.420 in only 38 games. Vail, of course, sputtered in his remaining seasons with the Mets. In 2008, Greg Prince, who along with Jason Fry, writes Faith and Fear in Flushing, another preeminent Mets’ blog that should be in your Google Reader, wondered:

Is Daniel Murphy the next Edgardo Alfonzo, the next Mike Vail, or a player who will make such an impression that eventually someone will be the next Daniel Murphy?

But where was Nick Evans in this conversation? His fate may have been sealed by a small sample size. Just as Murphy became the de facto left fielder in 2009 because of his impressive 2008 big-league line of  .313/.397/.473

Evans was shuffled off to Buffalo after Spring Training of 2009 after posting a .231/.275/.385 with the big league club in ’08. Murphy’s sweeping left-handed swing, high on base percentage and impressive slugging percentage guaranteed him a job. Evans’ statistics ticketed him for Buffalo.

He struggled mightily at AAA at the beginning of 2009, and as Murphy had assumed the role of the Mets’ starting first baseman in place of Carlos Delgado, Evans found himself in Binghamton, the Mets’ AA affiliate. He didn’t see major league action again until August 25th, and only in a limited role. 2010 saw more of the same. This time, (albeit in another small sample size) he posted a respectable wOBA (for more information on weighted on base average, click here) of .346. Evans’, according to Bill James’ projections for 2011, will notch a wOBA of .339, which would rank around the 60th percentile of all major leaguers. Not bad for a player who has fallen into a bottomless pit.

Evans’ disappearance from the Mets’ plans is most certainly a testament to the former regime’s often frustrating tendency to favor veterans over internal minor league options. Think Abraham Nuñez in 2008, Marlon Anderson’s $2.2 million deal, Alex Cora’s vesting option (that thankfully, did not vest). Or the Minaya/Manuel hierarchy’s refusal to give Nelson Figueroa starts. Or the Darren O’Day fiasco, where the Rule 5 pick (who has since blossomed for the AL champion Texas Rangers) was demoted in favor of the forgettable Casey Fossum, who is back in a Mets’ uniform this spring. Following suit, Evans was lost in the often confusing decision-making of 2009 and 2010.

Nick at the bat

Evans, after posting 37 PA for the Mets in 2010, remains in limbo in the spring of 2011. He is challenged by Scott Hairston, who is guaranteed a bench spot after signing a major league deal, Willie Harris, the notorious Met-killer (via defense), and light-hitting Chin-Lung Hu. Evans’ downfall in the Mets’ plans may be his defense. He cannot play centerfield, which Harris can. He can’t back up the middle infield positions, like Hu. He doesn’t have the caché of Murphy or even of rule 5 pick Brad Emaus. Most importantly, he is out of options, leaving him exposed to waivers if the Mets decide to keep him off the 25-man roster this spring. He has, to new manager Terry Collins’ credit, been receiving much needed playing time in the early part of the exhibition schedule. Aside from 1st, Evans has been taking reps at 3rd, a position largely unfamiliar to him. (Remember, for the sake of argument, that Daniel Murphy was originally a 3rd baseman). He still can play left adequately, if not unspectacularly. His biggest asset remains his bat, especially against lefties. His defense, in all likelihood, will not win any games for the Mets. Yet, it should not lose any for them either, especially if Evans sees a majority of his plate appearances as a pinch hitter.

But, assuming that Willie Harris makes the team for his superb defense (and despite his weak bat), while either Hu or Emaus fill another bench spot and Murphy starts the year with the Mets at 2nd, it would appear that Evans will be out of Flushing. It isn’t likely that another big league team will pass on a still-young player who can, at worst, perform as an average major leaguer. His upside could be more. And although jettisoning a talented young hitter may be a sign that the Mets’ bench will be strong, there is another distinct, and depressing possibility that lingers: that Evans will forever be the “26th man” as long as he is a Met; he will never be able change his nameplate above the number 6 from “WHO” to “EVANS.” It may take another team to know who he is.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

Murphy at Second?

Via the Washington Post:

Murphy has been putting in some extra time learning the position, especially with his pivots. He often comes in early or stays late to get in some practice time by himself.

“We have a pitching machine in the batting cages, so I go in there and turn it on and work on transfers and some of my footwork without it being too taxing or worrying about finishing the play and throwing it, so it’s not too tiring on my arm,” Murphy said. “That’s more of a ‘me’ time, to get a feeling for my body and what I can do, things I need to work on, what I’m not quite as good at. It’s basically just me trying to get an understanding of myself as a second baseman.”

Murphy said playing second doesn’t feel any different on his knee, and he is completely healthy and ready to compete after testing it in winter ball this offseason.

“I got a chance to play some second base in a game situation, and it was also a chance to prove to myself and confirm what I already knew, which was I am healthy,” Murphy said. “I played for a month and didn’t miss a beat. I felt good, stole some bases and was able to kind of make up for some of the at-bats I missed last year.”

This is something that is really nice to hear. The Mets have not had a good option at second base since Jose Valentin got injured, and even he was a surprise. I have been a fan of Murphy’s since he was called up near the end of the 2008 season and it is nice to see that he is getting a chance to start. Not only that, but it is great to hear about all the hard work he is putting in.

My main concern is probably the same as everyone’s: can the kid field the position well. We all remember Ruben Gotay and his poor play at the position. Even his hot bat couldn’t help him from losing his spot to the more seasoned Luis Castillo at the trade deadline, (Sad to say Castillo was a step-up from what we had before him). However, with the commitment Murphy is putting into learning second base, I am confident he can do well enough to justify putting his bat into the lineup.

Let’s hope Murph doesn’t let us down, it would be sick to have all our infield starters be homegrown talent.