I wrote an article on Daniel Murphy and then encountered a doubter online.  He offered a bet and I took him up on it.

In an article posted here in December, I said the following about Daniel Murphy

The best thing for the Mets is for Murphy to get 600 at-bats next season batting in the two-hole between Reyes and Wright.  I firmly believe he’s going to hit if given the chance.  And if that’s true, when people speak of the team’s core, they will say Reyes, Wright and Murphy give the Mets a huge advantage.

And Jerry Manuel has come through for me in spades.  First he announced that Murphy would be a full-time player and at the end of Spring Training he indicated that Murphy would indeed hit second in the lineup.  Now, if only he had made him a second baseman, it would have been perfect.  But as baseball fan Meatloaf once said, two out of three ain’t bad.

Still, there is a large contingent of people out there who view Murphy as a huge question mark for the Mets coming into the season.  I understand their thought process; however, I do not agree with their doubts.  At first I was won over by Murphy’s approach in the majors but now I am even more convinced because of the various environments he has succeeded.

If we look at these on an individual basis, the doubters can come up with reasonable objections or reasons of concern for each stop.  But taken together it seems the bulk of the evidence is on the side of Murphy being able to hit.  Let’s break it down stop by stop since the 2008 season.

Binghamton – .308/.374/.496

So, he hit nice in Double-A in 357 at-bats.  Binghamton is a nice hitter’s park and this was substantially better than what he did the year before in A-ball.

Mets – .313/.397/.473

Most major leaguers can point to a 131-AB stretch in which they played well.  Murphy also benefited by having the platoon advantage in most of his AB, as he had just 13 PA versus LHP.

Arizona Fall League – .397/.487/.619

Sure, he tore the cover off the ball, but it was only 63 at-bats and besides the AFL is a big hitter’s league.  Most clubs do not send their top pitching prospects there because they do not want to risk injury with guys who have already pitched a full season.

Spring Training – .349/.396/.500

Everyone knows that Spring Training stats are meaningless.  Hitters are facing guys who won’t be in the majors and even the established pitchers are working on various things rather than being worried primarily about results.

Every one of the above objections has merit.  But at some point, when a player does consistently well again and again, you have to take notice.

And I think it is important to note that these stops were not without hardships for Murphy.  In the majors last year, he was playing LF for the first time in his professional career.  In the AFL, he was playing second base, a position he had not handled well in his brief time there in the minors.  In Spring Training, he had to deal with Manuel handing him a full-time job while making veteran Ryan Church earn his way out of a platoon situation.

I know that it is not a good idea to combine lines from different environments, but just for fun let’s add together Murphy’s stats from the four leagues mentioned above.

League AB Runs Hits 2B HR RBI BB SO
Eastern 357 56 110 26 13 67 39 46
NL 131 24 41 9 2 17 18 28
AFL 63 22 25 8 2 18 13 6
Spring 86 13 30 6 1 16 7 11
TOTAL 637 115 206 49 18 118 77 91

That is a .323 average over a season’s worth of at-bats.  Now this is not to say that Murphy will hit that high in 2009.  Chances are he will fall considerably short of that.  But I think it would be very surprising if he was not better than a league-average hitter over a full season of at-bats.  The average NL player hit .260 last year.

So, we have a guy who makes contact, can hit for a good average, one who is not afraid to take a walk and who has enough sock in his bat to hit a good amount of doubles with some HR sprinkled in.

I understand that people want to see him do it against major league pitching for a full season before jumping on the bandwagon.  I also understand that every hitter goes through slumps.  My main hope is that Murphy doesn’t start the season in a slump and lose playing time because of it.

I just encountered someone online who does not believe in Murphy and we ended up making a wager.  If Murphy posts an OPS under .775 in 450 or more at-bats, I lose and have to sponsor a page over at Baseball-Reference.com but over .775 and I win.  For a frame of reference, Ryan Church had a .785 OPS last season, albeit in 319 at-bats.