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Friday, July 15, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: DANIEL MURPHY 2B WASHINGTON NATIONALS

A career-year at the age of 31?  In a spacious ballpark like Washington?  Despite losing almost all his speed?  When it comes to Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, the answer is a resounding "Yes, Yes. and YES!"  As we get set to begin the second half of the fantasy baseball season, Murphy has been one of the main stories of the first three months with his MVP bat that includes being the leader of the batting title and even more shocking, carrying over the immense power he showed last postseason which was a rate he never achieved in his previous 7 seasons.  First let's digest the numbers which again are beyond spectacular:

.348
17 HR
66 RBI
53 R
2 SB

Obviously what stanmds out here is the batting average and power and boy have both been beyond potent, especially considering the shallow state of the second base position in fantasy baseball.  Clearly a veteran at 31, Murphy has pock marked his career with "new tricks" as he has gone along the way, first with some shocking stolen bases (23 in 2013, 13 in 2014), and now of course the power where Murphy already has a career-best 17 bombs after his previous high was last season's 14.  At his most basic, Murphy's strength from the start has always been his pure bat that led to high OBP's, very low K rates, and of course a .300 average.  Murphy has hit over .280 each season of his career except for one and outside of his rookie campaign, has NEVER had a K rate 14 percent or higher.  With only middling power previous to 2016 however, Murphy was seen as a limited player overall as his defense was horrendous and the speed he came out of nowhere to show in 2013 and 2014 suddenly vanished just as quickly starting in 2015 when he had just two thefts.  It was for these reasons that the Mets let Murphy go to the Nats without a care in the world and needless to say they are seriously regretting that decision right now.

Now in digging into the numbers a bit, let's attack the average some more.  On that front, Murphy has got it all working as his K rate is tiny at a career-low 10.5 percent which of course helps a ton in hitting .300 or better.  Now to be fair, Murphy's BABIP is very well into the lucky range at .352.  So since the BABIP is so high, that means Murphy's .348 average should be headed for a fall right?  While the average will likely dip a bit, Murphy won't crash there as his decent speed allows him to stay ahead of the BABIP curve a bit and his career is filled with plus .300 marks there such as his .345 in 2011, .329 in 2012, and .322 in 2014.  Murphy has generally been in the .320 range in BABIP which means he should dip to around the .320 mark which is still tremendous.  No issues there.

As far as the power is concerned, the story goes that when Murphy was with the New York Mets in 2015, a mid-season slump had him changing his approach at the dish with hitting coach Kevin Long.  The key move there was that Long convinced Murphy to set up a bit closer to the plate which cut down on the stride of his swing and eliminated unneccessry movement.  Just like flipping a switch, Murphy suddenly became Robinson Cano at second base with his power last postseason as he went wild with his home run swing.  While his performance was lauded by all, there was complete doubt Murphy could hit for that type of power again and considered his 2015 postseason performance there an outlier.  As we all know, Murphy has gotten the last laugh as his 17 home runs are already a career-high as he heads for 30 and his name is now firmly in the fantasy baseball and real-live MVP discussion.  Murphy's fly ball rate remains above his career-norms which adds validity to what we are seeing and so we should all stop doubting what he is doing. 

When you put it all together, Daniel Murphy has been beyond spectacular this season and has been as good a fantasy baseball buy as one can get considering his affordable draft price this past March.  The guy is as dominant a hitter as there is in game right now and his numbers are boosting all of his owners to the top of their leagues. 


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