What In The World Has Happened To The Old Daniel Murphy?

Apr 11, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy (20) hits a two run homer against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fifth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy (20) hits a two run homer against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fifth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

Who would’ve thought that the Daniel Murphy we saw in the 2015 NLDS and NLCS would be the player we would essentially have for good in the 2016 season and beyond with the Washington Nationals?

Realize how I didn’t mention “2015 World Series” in that opening line because we saw the Daniel Murphy in that series that we essentially saw through his 7-seasons as a super-utility man for the New York Mets. We saw an extremely hot/cold hitter who was a liability in the field.

Let’s be clear that Murphy carried the Mets offensively to the World Series in 2015. Without him, they would’ve been golfing with just about every other team at that time. That said, he disappeared on the biggest stage at the most crucial time possible.

Through 5 games and 20 at-bats during the World Series, Murphy collected 3 hits, none of which were extra-base hits. He struck out 7 times and didn’t collect a single RBI. On top of that, he committed 2 errors and rocked a fielding percentage of .846. The lasting image Mets fans have of Murphy is his nervous chap stick-applying, which he did when he made a mistake, or pretty much the entire series.

"“He wants to beat their brains in. He won’t say anything, and he won’t say anything to us. It’s not like he’s in here boasting that he wants to beat the Mets, but he wants to beat them apart.” Max Scherzer on Daniel Murphy, via nypost.com"

Through seven seasons as a Met, Murphy was a career .288 hitter. He hit 62 home runs and drove in 402 RBI. Never a power hitter, 14 in 2015 was the most he ever hit in a season. It was also the highest slugging percentage he had seen, coming in at .449%.

When the team he had been with since he was drafted in the 13th round in the 2006 MLB draft offered him a qualifying offer, that said a lot. While it was a ton of money for a man who many said didn’t have a natural position, he rejected it. The Mets would’ve gave a below average fielder with a good bat $15.8 million for the 2016 season. That’s a pretty good pay day in my book, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Rather than accept that deal, Murphy went on the open market. Why? He just didn’t think he could earn more money the year later, especially if he posted a season we were more prone to seeing. Batting .280 with 10 home runs and 60 RBI wouldn’t get you a big contract. Murphy was only in the conversation of getting a multiyear deal worth the big bucks because of his postseason, sans the World Series of course.

He waited, and waited, and waited some more. He finally signed his deal with the Nationals on Christmas Eve in 2015 (only because Brandon Phillips vetoed his trade from Cincinnati to Washington weeks before) and the rest is history.

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Since his signing with the Nationals, Murphy has gone from average all-around player to Ted Williams. This isn’t a guy who went from a .280 hitter to .310 hitter. Murphy is posting numbers that no one ever expected. You probably had better odds to win the Powerball, quite honestly.

Last season, Murphy batted .347, only eclipsing the .300 mark twice during his Mets career (2008 was the first, in only 131 at-bats). He had 104 RBI, more than 25% his entire RBI total during his time with the Mets. He hit 25 home runs, more than 33% of his entire HR total during his time with the Mets. He led the league with 47 doubles, and slugged .595, almost .150 points higher than his previous season total.

Is it the protection in the lineup? He sometimes batted behind Bryce Harper, sometimes even 5th in the lineup, as he’s doing this season. Is it a change of scenery? In 2015, through 76 at-bats, Murphy batted .171 against the Nationals with 1 home run and 7 RBI. At Nationals Park, he batted .158 with 0 home runs. Compare that to his God-like 2016 and 2017 seasons against the Mets. Last season, he batted .413 against New York with 7 home runs and 21 RBI (4 HR and 14 RBI came at Citi Field.) Through 3 games against the Mets this season, he’s already cracked a grand slam.

Were the Mets right in not offering Murphy a long-term contract? Based on his entire career and World Series, I’d say they were. $15.8 million is a lot of money, so it’s not like they offered him nothing. Just imagine if he took that deal, what kind of contract he would’ve gotten this off season.

Next: How Bryce Harper Compares to Mantle and Bench

In what seems to be a destroyed copy of an old Twilight Zone episode, not even Rod Serling knows the answer to this one. He went from base running blunders and destroying easy fielders all over the diamond to destroying aces of opposing rotations. If New York knew Babe Ruth was leaving their clubhouse to go to a division rival, I think they would’ve stopped it from happening, too.