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De-bunking a couple of David Murphy Myths

Is David Murphy the Michael Young of the 2013 Rangers -- the player Ron Washington is starting every day despite poor performance?


Something I've seen on Twitter and in the comments here at LSB of late is the theory that David Murphy is the 2013 version of Michael Young from last year.

As we've talked about before at length, Michael Young was awful in 2013, but Ron Washington ran him out there every day anyway, almost never gave him a day off, and famously said that, if the Michael Young ship is going down, he (Wash) was going down with it.

Michael Young started 154 regular season games for the Rangers last season, and played in 156 games. There were 8 games all season in 2012 that Young didn't start...and three of those missed games were because he was out for paternity leaves. Of the 159 games Young was available, he started all but 5 of them.

Here is how the Rangers' outfield starting arrangement has worked out:

There are five outfielders. The Rangers have played 66 games. Of those 66 games, Murphy has started 53 -- about 80% of the games. He has not been in the starting lineup for 13 games this season -- more than Michael Young sat all of last year.

In terms of the handed-ness split, the Rangers have faced 21 lefty starters this season and 45 righthanders. All 38 of Leonys's starts have come against righthanded pitchers this season. Craig Gentry has started 21 games against lefties, 11 games against righthanders. Murphy has started 9 games against lefties, 44 against righthanders. Jeff Baker has started against 18 of the 21 lefties the Rangers have faced, though some of those starts are at first base, and he has started five games against righthanders.

So in terms of the numbers, Murphy is playing against righthanded starters, and sitting against the majority of lefthanded starters. Gentry starts against every lefty, Leonys sits against every lefty, and generally speaking, either Murphy or the first baseman (Mitch Moreland before his injury, Chris McGuiness since) sits against lefties. Moreland, for what it is worth, has 16 starts against lefthanders...once he started hitting well, he played against lefthanded starters, and Baker was getting his starts against lefties in place of Murphy.

So when people say Murphy needs to sit more, the question is, in favor of whom?

Nelson Cruz has started 63 of the team's 66 games, and no one is clamoring for him to start more...if anything, they are asking him to start less.

Jeff Baker is already starting against virtually every lefthander, and so long as Chris McGuiness is the other first baseman, Baker is going to continue to play first base, not left field, against lefties. Once Mitch Moreland returns, we will likely see Baker start more often in place of Murphy against lefties, but again, Murphy has started 9 games in almost three months against lefties, so its not like he's getting regular playing time against them.

There's been some suggestion that Baker should be playing left field against righthanded pitchers, but he's bad defensively out there, and he has a 599 OPS against righthanders this season, and a 652 OPS against righties in his career. There's no reason to expect Baker is going to hit better against righthanders than Murphy, and Murphy is definitely better defensively.

You could say that Leonys Martin should get more starts against lefties instead of Murphy, and play left field, and I think that argument has merit. But Leonys isn't hitting lefties either (636 OPS on the season, 599 OPS for his career), and only has a 715 OPS overall on the year...he's been better than Murphy, but not by much. The argument for playing Leonys more in left field and Murphy less is that it will help your defense, not your offense.

You could also argue that Murphy should lose playing time to Craig Gentry, that Gentry should be starting in center field more against righthanders, with Leonys in left and Murphy on the bench. However, Gentry has a 642 OPS on the season, and has a 506 OPS against righthanders this year, with a 624 OPS against righties for his career. A Leonys/Gentry/Cruz alignment is better defensively than a Murphy/Leonys/Cruz alignment, but I don't think it gives you enough defense to offset the fact that Gentry can't hit righthanders, and Murphy, you have to believe, is going to start hitting them at some point.

And there's no other real options, other than those outlined above, to take playing time away from David Murphy. Leury Garcia has been suggested occasionally, but he can't hit major league pitching. Jurickson Profar's name has been floated, but he's not likely to out-hit Murphy the rest of the way, and he's never played the outfield.

As the roster is currently constructed, there's simply not a better option against righthanded pitchers than David Murphy playing left field. Yes, I'd like to see Leonys get more starts in left against lefties, but he's not lighting it up with the bat, and Murphy rarely starts against lefthanded pitchers anyway, so that argument is ultimately not terribly relevant.

And the end of the day, the Rangers have little choice right now but to keep sending Murphy out there against righthanders and hope his bat gets going. And if it doesn't get going, well, they'll have to make a deal in July, I suspect.

But let's be clear...the idea that the Rangers are sending David Murphy out there every day while better options rot on the bench is false. And the notion that he's Michael Young (who, after 66 games last year, had a 655 OPS and had started all but three of them, playing every inning of 62 of those games), never even getting a day off while sucking the life out of the offense, is silly.