The Philadelphia Phillies are beginning a three game series this week with the Washington Nationals.
I have to be honest here. This one hurts. If you found one hundred baseball fans…I will even make it more specific…if you found 100 National League East baseball fans (and fifty of those could even be New York Mets fans), you will not find a single one who dislikes Daniel Murphy more than I dislike the Nationals 2nd baseman.
I have never been able to pinpoint it, but I just do not think he is a very good ball player. I also hate that when he thinks he put one out of the yard, Murphy then holds his bat out like a sword ready for battle. Holster it, bro. You look ridiculous.
Yes, I know about the postseason last year, when he “Cody Ross‘d” his team to the World Series. I also know what Murphy has been doing since he signed what I feel is a deal that compliments his overrated stature. And because of all that, I have to be fair and admit that he is the player whom the Phillies need to focus their attention on this series.
Throughout the season, I will probably release another Bryce Harper article, but right now it seems silly. Harper is going to get his, and you have to hope it happens in small increments or with no one on base. Since the Washington Nationals are not hitting as a team, the Phillies staff may be able to help win the series if they can just navigate around Murphy.
Offensive production has never really been a question for the 2nd baseman. He has always been able to hit and continues to do so. Throughout his career, he has failed to reach a seasonal batting average of .280 one time. He has never been much of an on-base guy, and if his trend so far on this season continues, he will likely shatter his career high OBP high, previously .362 in 2011 and currently at a fantastic .465 mark.
Over his last 10 games, Murphy is 14/41 (.341) including a 4/12 series against the Phillies just about ten days ago. Over his last three seasons, Murphy has destroyed Phillies pitching, hitting .305 to go along with an .829 OPS in 220 at-bats. He has also knocked in 21 runs over that course of time. The 2015 NLCS MVP is thus a certified Phillies killer.
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Although the Nationals had their way with Jeremy Hellickson and Aaron Nola, they struggled with hard throwing Charlie Morton. Game one starter Vincent Velasquez throws harder than anyone on the Phils’ staff, and hopes to give a lineup who has never seen him some trouble. How can he get Murphy out though?
Murphy does not have what I would consider a heavy pull-side, so I doubt we will see any type of shifting when he hits in this series, especially game one with Velasquez bringing 96 MPH heat.
Murphy absolutely loves the ball on the outer half of the plate. He likes being able to get his arms extended and struggles when he is tied up on the inner half, especially up and in within the strike zone. We have seen how he can get tied up in that part of the zone, and ground out weakly or swing through it.
Throughout his career, Murphy has been your typical left-handed hitter who is stronger against righties than lefties, but not by a huge margin (.295 vs. righties, .276 vs. lefties). For him, it has never been about which arm slot the ball is heading out of, it is about where the pitch is located.
That location is key against Murphy and the three arms throwing for the Phillies need to ensure their location is on point this week or it could be a long three nights in the nation’s capital.