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Murphy and Sanchez

Mike SteffanosTuesday, March 10, 2009
By Mike Steffanos

It's after midnight and I still have a couple of hours work to do before I hit the sheets, but here's some quick Mets-related thoughts for your pleasure (or displeasure.)

When I get really swamped with works, it's often e-mails from readers that keep me up on what's going on with the Mets. I had a couple this evening that brought up two items of which I've already given a lot of thought to this spring.

The first one was from someone I've developed an email quasi-friendship over the years. He sent me a link to a Rob Neyer column that had a link to someone else's analysis that was one of those "Daniel Murphy isn't as good as you think he is" columns.

My friend is a devoted Sabermetrician, and is convinced that I am anti-statistical analysis. Actually, that's not true. I believe sabermetrics is a tremendous tool to understand baseball. I just don't believe that these numbers tell us absolutely all that we need to know. I distrust those whose understanding of the game of baseball is based completely on numbers. Then again, I also distrust those who refuse to acknowledge the way statistical research has revolutionized baseball.

Anyway, the above is a topic for a day that I have more time but, needless to say, Murphy has been a topic of ongoing debate between me and my number crunching friend.

For what it's worth, I don't believe that I am guilty of overrating Murphy's potential. I agree that Murphy's minor league numbers don't scream "superstar", but I was impressed with the way he improved from his first full minor league season at High-A St. Lucie (502 AB, .285/.338/.430, 11 HR, 78 RBI) to his second at AA-Binghamton (357 AB, .308/.374/.496, 13 HR, 67 RBI). He improved a lot against lefties from his first season through his second, and that improvement is what gives me hope that his potential is more than just what can be read from less than 1,000 minor league AB.

I think a hitter that can control the strike zone always has an advantage over your typical undisciplined rookie. A lot of being a successful major league hitter is not getting yourself out. If Murphy continues to improve, I think he can be a solid major league hitter and draw enough walks to maintain a good OBP. The big question will be power, as he just might not have enough for a corner OF or 1B. If he tries too hard to hit for more power he might lose the approach that makes him promising.

I want to see what he does when he hits a prolonged slump and the local papers make it sound like it was his fault that the Mets didn't make a play for Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn. I want to see how he reacts when the pitchers find his weaknesses and he had to make adjustments. I think Murphy is going to be a fascinating story in 2009, and I'm looking forward to it, even if Rob Neyer thinks that there is only a "thin reed of hope" that Murphy justifies the team's faith in him. I think my hopes for him are reasonable and achievable, and either way, it will be fun to watch.

Next, on Duaner Sanchez, the speculation is really hot and heavy every time out that the Mets should release him, which is something that was the subject of more than one email today. I would only point out here that we are still 4 long weeks away from real baseball.

Some guys who look real good now will flounder between now and then, others will step up. I agree, as I've already written, that Sanchez needs to show more velocity. Still, the pitching coach seems satisfied so far, and I won't contradict him until I've seen more.

The same with Ollie Perez' dreadful performance in the WBC. It's not unusual for the lefty to struggle early in the spring. That's why the timing of this tournament just makes no sense for me.

Guys like Perez and J.J. Putz have to dial it up and get outs, and then eventually return to camp and dial it down before they dial it up for the season again. In Perez' case there is always some spring struggle to find himself, and I suspect pitching in the classic is going to hinder that a little.

Oh, well, back to work. It's going to be another late one.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (3)

Agreed, I think, with you regarding Murphy's prospects. I love his attitude, as of course everyone does; guys who constantly work to improve often surprise us, having better careers than seemed possible. I'm thinking of Ty Wiggington, another scrapper who in 2002-2003 I put down as an earnest, marginal talent, who has willed himself into having a fairly decent career; Murphy is starting out younger and with more tools than Ty did.

I see Murphy as a Keith Hernandez type, a selective line drive hitter who hits with authority but doesn't loft the ball enough to collect many taters. And yes, I have already crossed myself for daring to mention a Mets prospect in the same sentence as Keith! Seriously, if his destination proves to be 85% of the hitter Mex was I'd be happy enough.

And now Sanchez is officially an ex-Met, saving the team 83% of his '09 salary. Cutting him loose so early in March surprised me, especially with all the question marks surrounding who will fit where on the Mets' pitching staff. Maybe it's an act of kindness - it gives Duaner a couple of weeks to hook on somewhere else.

I like watching Murphy hit. Same with Nick Evans. They were two of the only Mets I saw in person a few weeks ago with a legitimate shot at making the 25-man roster, and both acquitted themselves well at the plate.

I like DD's notion of a style comparison between Murph and Mex. Even if he turns out to be just the next Dave Magadan, those singles start adding up over time.

I've made numerous comparisons of Danny Murphy's batting style to that of Wade Boggs. He approaches the plate pretty much the same way, and I figure him to be a similar kind of hitter as Boggs was- a guy who can hit for average, get alot of singles and doubles, and occasionally hit a homer.

DD, I think that you have a good idea about Ty Wigginton, who I wish the Mets had never traded. That being said, Wigginton's bat is more of a power bat; I see him getting 25 homers regularly, but also hitting with a weaker average than Murphy is capable of, largely because Murphy has a lower power ceiling, and I believe his overall focus is to hit the field, anyways. They both bring a nice scrappy style to the game, but I think they produce different results.

I'm not yet sure what to make of Nick Evans. He's clearly got talent, but I think his bat is further away from the Majors than Murphy's is. He strikes out too much, and doesn't have a great sense of pitch selection yet. That being said, I'd project him as the Mets future 1st baseman, replacing Delgado. He won't hit the 30+ homers that Delgado can, but I can see him hitting 25 homers a year, if he gets his swing around.

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