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Fire & Ice: Murphy’s Law

Today we’ve got two hitters, in Avasail Garcia and Daniel Murphy, with one thing in common: they’ve both been on the DL this year. Well, and they’re both hitters too, I guess. In the majors. Maybe they both love Dungeons & Dragons, how should I know? Anyway, they both have at the very least one thing in common, and that’s the DL thing. We’ve seen some extremely mixed results between the two of them, however, so let’s find out why.

Fire – Avisail Garcia

It’s maybe a bit anticlimactic to do a write-up on a player who will be on the DL until after the forthcoming All-Star Break, but his play had been so anomalous that I couldn’t avoid Avisail Garcia. The injury is just a hamstring strain, and he should be good to go after the break, so we’ll barely have time to miss him.

On to the reason I felt the need to feature him: he’s hitting for power! Never in his previous six pro seasons had he ever hit for an ISO over .176, which he achieved last year. His career ISO is a meager .148, which makes his current .261 stand out in a big way. Unfortunately, he’s only played 35 games over the first half due to injuries, but we need to look into whether this power surge has any legitimacy.

Avasail Garcia batted ball data

Houston, we have liftoff! Here’s a look at the major factors that fuel a power surge; pull%, hard%, and fly ball rate. Historically, Garcia has been quite mediocre in all of these aspects. He’s been more of an even spray hitter, hitting for a decent average rather than pulling the ball for power. He also hasn’t had the launch angle conducive to power, and on his career has just a 26-percent fly ball rate.

This year, Garcia appears to have altered his approach. I was actually down on him coming into the year because of the lack of power versus his ADP (well, and the league-high .392 BABIP). However, I did mention this, which you can find if you follow this link:

“He’s the type of player that would really benefit from a swing plane adjustment. If he increased his FB% by even 10 percent and continued to pull the ball, he would enjoy a real power spike.”

Perhaps he heard me. In 2017, while he did pull the ball more often, he still wasn’t getting the ball off the ground nearly enough. His 33% pull% this year still isn’t quite where you’d like it, but it’s another step in the right direction. He’s also jacked that pull% up to 50%, where he is just 39% on his career. There is more exit velocity on pulled balls, feeding into his career-best 45% hard contact rate.

Will he keep it up? Only time will tell, but I’d be buying him now while he’s cheap just in case. The only format where I’m considerably less interested is in any league that rewards you for walks. He has two walks in 148 plate appearances. TWO. That’s a 1.4% BB%. Egads. Standard roto owners, however, should give him a look.

It’s time to multi-task! Keep up with all of our baseball coverage, but kick off your football prep and dig into our 2018 Fantasy Football Draft Kit. Then head on over to Fantrax and join a Fantasy Football league.

Ice – Daniel Murphy

Daniel Murphy had microfracture surgery on his right knee last October. The extensive rehab delayed his 2018 debut until June 12, and even upon his return, he’s been…rusty. His numbers over his first 86 plate appearances are smellier than a gym sock. He’s slashing .250/.279/.338 with just one homer and four doubles. His hard contact rate is 16%, which would be dead last among qualified hitters. Even Dee Gordon sits over 18%. At 33 years old, are we seeing the ultimate decline of Daniel Murphy?

A look into his splits gives us an element of hope. First, the bad. His 52 plate appearances in June were flat-out awful. He slashed just .200/.231/.240…that’s a .471 OPS. A .210 wOBA, if you prefer. A 25 wRC+, if you please. You would have been better off starting nobody in his place. Puke city. However, July has painted a prettier picture. It’s not quite the Mona Lisa, but it’s at least a sunny beach with a dog chasing a kite or something. Over 34 July plate appearances, he has a .333/.353/.500 slash line, and has even given us one whopping homer.

Perhaps it’s unfair to criticize Murphy’s lack of power too much. It’s not really his game, after all. Last year he popped 23 homers, which is fine, but his real value came in the .322 average and the accumulation of 187 R+RBI. Unfortunately for Daniel Murphy, the meteoric rise of Juan Soto has booted him from his typical 3-4 slot to the bottom half of the order. That affects the R+RBI totals dramatically and reduces the total number of plate appearances. If Murphy can return to the form he showed in 2016-17, could he climb back up the order? Absolutely. But let’s look a little deeper at why that might not happen.

Although his average has returned in July, his hard contact rate is still a very troubling 16%. A 35% line drive rate has floated his average, but that’s a mark that is completely unsustainable. It seems very premature to consider him “back”. Murphy’s overall contact skills are intact, but he’s missing more in the zone. His 91.9% zone contact rate is the lowest of his career, and that can be an indication of a loss of bat speed. Pitchers are also taking advantage of his slow return, pitching him more in the zone than ever at 48.8%. They aren’t afraid to attack Murphy, and why should they be? He hasn’t exactly been making them pay for their aggressiveness.

There’s a very good chance that Daniel Murphy is still getting his sea legs back, so to speak. Microfracture surgery is a serious procedure, and it’s very possible he still doesn’t have the normal power from his lower half. It’s also very possible that normal power doesn’t return over the second half. At 33, it’s possible it never comes back. There’s too much risk here for me to suggest a buy-low. I’d only be looking to buy if I was desperate and needed a hail mary. As a Daniel Murphy owner myself, I plan to monitor him closely after the break next week. In 10-12 team mixers, I wouldn’t be afraid to cut bait if he doesn’t show me anything over the next few weeks. If you have him in a deeper league than that, you probably have to hold and hope for the best.

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