When Murphy burst onto the scene in 2008, many people penciled him in as a starter in 2009. We at Fonzie Forever were not as optimistic. But still, all winter and spring, we heard about Murphy's work ethic, determination, and so on.
In yesterday's interview, however, Murphy no longer sounded like this world-beating grinder who would just grind the heck out of any pitcher, ball, or player in his path. Of course, he still sounded determined, which is wonderful. But he also sounded like he had finally embraced the true give-and-take of the major league level - the realities which go beyond making your self the best you can be.
I did my best to transcribe the part of the interview which interested me most:
Murphy: Last year was a learning experience, unfortunately I had to get beat up a little but to learn... I got beat up the first half of the season.I love his stubbornness. But I love more the fact that he grew to realize that he had to channel it. You can be stubborn and determined and be in the gym all night - but when it comes down to the game, if you are physically talented enough to play at the major league level, it is just as much mental as anything else.
The pitchers made adjustments to me and uh, I think part of my own stubbornness, really continuing to want to hit the ball the other way because what I have been able to do my entire career, coming up through the minor leagues they weren't going to let me do anymore. It was an adjustment that took me two months to make.
Francesa: So you've got to adjust to their adjustments?
Murphy: Absolutely, it's always ... and you see if you can figure them out. Hopefully it doesn't take two months.
Francesa: When did the light go on? When did your adjustments to their adjustments begin to work?
Murphy: I think ... probably a couple weeks after the All-Star break. I'd say I felt really good at the plate in the last two, two and a half months. I felt a lot better.
Francesa: So it wasn't just September?
Murphy: I felt pretty good going in, I'd say August, around there.
So let's crunch numbers for a minute. How did Murphy fare in the second half of the year, when he said he felt comfortable with his adjustments?
Pre All-Star: 25 bb, 30 k, .248/.314/.364
Post All-Star: 13 bb, 39 k, .282/.313/.485
September: 3 bb, 10 k, .290/.308/.580
I don't usually put much weight into monthly splits, but the statistics do back up what Murphy said somewhat. Although his OBP didn't improve, he certainly hit the ball with a lot more authority. It may well be that Murphy, in adjusting to the pitchers refusal to let him go opposite field with the ball, started being aggressive and pulling the ball more. In doing so, he may have been a little out of his comfort zone.
I, as all Mets fans with good stomachs do, remember watching Murphy down the stretch last year. With little to play for, he may have been swinging from his heels a little bit.
So what can we expect from Murphy this year?
As I mentioned earlier, we tried to act as the voice of reason when people expected the world of Murphy in 2009. But things change. In fact, we recently implored the Mets community for forget the silly idea of platooning Murphy with someone like Fernando Tatis.
He posted a line of .266/.313/.427 last year, but the stats say he was a little unlucky on his balls hit into play. In 2008, he put up a line of .308/.374/.496 in AA.
If his improvement is legitimate, and he gets a little more luck this year, and if he has a capable right handed hitter batting behind him (so that lefties can't eat him up), I think he has a chance to hit .280/.345/.480 this year with 17-20 home runs. I realize this might be a little bullish, but as I said, things change. Murphy held his own in 2009, and I am excited to see if he can build on that while settled at first base and with a year of experience under his belt.
 Francesa did bait him several times with questions, trying to get Murphy to blame Omar/Jerry for putting too much pressure on him last year. It was pretty obvious. So good for Daniel for keeping some controversy away.
 We said in October of 2008: Now I don't know whether Murphy is ready or not -- I am not ready to anoint him the next big thing right away -- but I could be convinced that he's worth a shot. To temper the enthusiasm a little, he posted an 870 OPS in the majors... but also an 870 OPS in AA.
 My favorite Murphy anecdote, and I'm sure the source is out there somewhere, was when he arrived at college and was asked by someone what his position was on the team. His response? "Hitter."
 Another exchange which made me laugh:
Francesa: If you're trying to hit home runs, that's an imposing ballpark, right?
Murphy: If you're trying to hit home runs, you're in trouble to begin with.