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Murphy, Not Valdespin At Second Base

Posted By Howard Megdal On June 22, 2012 @ 10:19 am In Today's Mets headlines | Comments Disabled

On the eve of the Subway Series, part two, we seem to have a quarterback controversy brewing at second base.

Daniel Murphy, the incumbent, has been in a horrendous slump, hitting just .192 since May 16 following a .336 start. And even that start was deceptive, with his power disappearing almost entirely- he hasn’t hit a home run in 2012.

It isn’t any surprise, then, that Terry Collins has been looking for answers at the position. He started Jordany Valdespin at second base in two of the three games against the Orioles.

The question is, going forward: is Collins best served by starting Valdespin over Murphy?

Let’s attack the question from 2012 only, to start.

Daniel Murphy, for his recent struggles, is still putting up an OPS+ of 84 this season. That isn’t great. But while Valdespin has, unlike Murphy, homered in 2012, his OPS+ is just 86. See, he’s walked exactly once in 60 plate appearances. Once.

If we are going on major league track record, Murphy has the advantage. That 86 OPS+ is the sum total of Valdespin’s major league record. Murphy, over 1411 plate appearances, has been a 106 OPS+ hitter in the big leagues. So this month-long slump isn’t a good bet to be indicative of Murphy’s hitting going forward.

It was a useful look at how Collins is seeing things when he discussed Valdespin on Tuesday night [1], describing a conversation Valdespin had with Triple-A manager Wally Backman. Let’s forget for a moment how skeptical I am (and you should be of small samples). Clearly, Collins thinks Backman got to Valdespin, and here’s how the manager sees the results:

Prior to Backman conversation: .100/.143/.250, 21 plate appearances

After Backman conversation: .289/.308/.526, 39 plate appearances

Considering that Valdespin’s surge has come at the same time as Murphy’s slump, it is easy to understand why Collins is playing Valdespin.

But while there is a slight chance that the light went on for Valdespin, and even slighter chance that Murphy has forgotten how to hit, there isn’t remotely enough evidence to support either idea. Valdespin, even in this post-Backman conversation world, still doesn’t walk. His one free pass came before the Backman discussion. And his defense is every bit as poor as Murphy’s.

The only other argument for Valdespin over Murphy is if the Mets believe Valdespin hasn’t finished developing-he’s just 24- while Murphy, at 27, has reached his ceiling. That’s a good reason to play Valdespin, but it has nothing to do with 2012 results, when the 27 year old with a track record of above average hitting is far likelier to give Terry Collins production than the raw 24 year old who still swings at everything.

As long as the Mets remain in the pennant race, the second baseman really ought to be Daniel Murphy.

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[1] when he discussed Valdespin on Tuesday night: http://mets.lohudblogs.com/2012/06/19/postgame-audio-terry-collins-3/

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