Murphy is coming off a whirlwind postseason in which he homered in a record six straight games and set a postseason record for home runs by a second baseman with seven. But in the World Series, Murphy regressed, hitting .150 as Royals pitchers repeatedly jammed him inside, and he made a key error in a Game 4 loss.
Murphy’s strength is not hitting for power (he has never hit more than 14 home runs in a regular season), but hitting for average. He has hit .280 or better in each of his past five seasons, posting an above-average OPS+ (OPS compared to league average, accounting for ballpark) in each one.
Murphy is more a doubles hitter than home run hitter. His 153 doubles over the past four seasons are tied for fourth-most in the majors. He’s the only player with at least 37 doubles in each of the past four seasons.
Murphy added another wrinkle to his game in 2015: In an era in which the strikeout is common, he became almost impossible to strike out. He had the most at-bats per strikeout (13.1) of any batting-title qualifier in the majors. Murphy had struck out 82, 95 and 86 times in 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively. He cut that to 38 in 499 at-bats last season.
Clutch hitting might not be a repeatable skill, but Murphy has provided timely hits throughout his career. He has hit at least .290 with runners in scoring position every season in his career, including .309 in 2015. His .314 batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs ranks seventh since the start of the 2009 season (the year Murphy made his debut).
Yet despite this, Murphy has posted fewer than 2.0 wins above replacement in each of the past four seasons and in all but one season in his career. This is due to some of his defensive issues at second base.
Murphy’s minus-40 defensive runs saved at second base over the last four seasons rank second-worst in baseball (Rickie Weeks is at minus-62). He’ll be a defensive downgrade for the Nationals, who got more defensive runs saved from their second basemen last season (8) than any other team in the National League.
Did you know?
Prior to Murphy's streak of six consecutive games with a home run, he had homered in consecutive games once in his seven-year career (903 games).