Give Murph a chance

So it sounds like Fernando Tatis is coming back. Fine. Some right-handed power. A versatile player who can fill in at first base, second, third and the corner outfield spots when needed. A double-play machine. We know what we’re getting.

I just hope it’s not a platoon. Like Matt over at MetsBlog, I’d rather see what Daniel Murphy can do against left-handers. What do the Mets have to lose? This is a third-place team, at best, and it’s going to take a 100-percent healthy team (from May onward) and some injuries to the Phillies (and probably Braves and/or Marlins) for the Mets to be in it after the All-Star break.
Murphy’s still just 25 (on April 1) and though his similar players through 24 aren’t impressive, there’s one eye-raising name on the list: the Blue Jays’ Adam Lind, who broke out last season … at 25 (though it was his third year of at least 80 games). Of course, Murphy won’t hit 35 home runs — and I’m not as sure about 20 as Howard Johnson is — but I could definitely see a .290, 15-homer, 80-RBI season out of him, much like Keith Hernandez‘s 1987. Murphy was a career .290 hitter in the minors, with just 22 more strikeouts than walks over 1,078 plate appearances, and I think that plate discipline will translate in the Majors.
I looked at Murphy’s monthly splits in 2009, and his OPS vs. left-handers (though in admittedly small sample sizes) was higher than his overall OPS in April, May and September/October and lower in June, July and August (the month in which he had the most plate appearances vs. lefties):

PA OBP SLG AVG OPS
April 70 .373 .426 .324 .800
April vs. LHP 8 .429 .429 .429 .857
May 71 .278 .353 .176 .631
May vs. LHP 11 .250 .600 .200 .850
June 77 .298 .320 .240 .618
June vs. LHP 12 .250 .250 .250 .500
July 85 .323 .393 .250 .715
July vs. LHP 18 .286 .333 .167 .619
August 114 .308 434 .292 .741
August vs. LHP 31 .219 .323 .194 .542
Sept and Oct 101 .311 .580 .290 .891
Sept and Oct vs. LHP 13 .357 .846 .308 1.203

No, the numbers aren’t great, particularly from a first baseman, but the guy was still only 24. I won’t compare them in a chart — because in addition to different eras, ballparks, etc., I of course am not saying Murphy will become Hernandez — but look at their year 24 seasons on Baseball-Reference. Eerily similar.
With the way the team is set up now, looking so much similar to last season’s, I don’t think the Mets should be playing the matchups when it means taking valuable developmental at-bats away from players like Murphy for players like Tatis. It’s tough, at this point, to be saying the Mets won’t be contending, but I don’t see it. I’m not writing off the season just yet, because Opening Day is still two months away, but I am preparing myself for non-meaningful games in September.
I’ll still be out there in Queens rooting for the team, because as I commented over on Amazin’ Avenue, I can’t root against the team just so that a horrible 2010 brings about significant changes for 2011. For one thing, if the problem really does begin with the owners’ philosophy (and I think it does), a new medical staff, a true re-dedication to building the farm system (two things I wished they’d done this offseason) and replacing Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel aren’t necessarily going to put a vastly different product on the field in 2011.
Man, this new dedication to blogging has really brought out the pessimist in me when it comes to the Mets. I need to work on that.

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