During the 2015 playoffs, then-Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, at the age of 30, suddenly transformed from a decent gap hitter into dinger-swatting god. Maybe you thought that was a fluke. Last season, Murphy joined the Nationals and hit 25 home runs to go along with a .985 OPS. Maybe you thought that was a fluke, too. Almost two weeks into this season, the now 32-year-old Murphy is hitting .450 with with five doubles and two homers.
I don’t need to tell you that Murphy won’t end the season with a 1.188 OPS, but it appears that anyone who was still waiting for Regular Daniel Murphy to return should give up. The guy is a legitimate powerhouse at the plate now.
Murphy began to rethink his approach at the plate after working with Mets hitting coach Kevin Long. It worked. He no longer is the good-hitting, charmingly sub-par defender that was easy to overlook in the Mets’ lineup. Now he’s the guy who can say he finished second in the 2016 MVP race, coming in (pretty far) behind Kris Bryant.
The easiest way to convey just how drastic Murphy’s transformation has been is with a visual aid. Let’s look at a graph from our friends at Fangraphs, just for fun:
You don’t even need to know what each of those individual lines are measuring to be blown away by that graph. If you want more juicy visuals, the Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg nabbed some more graphs that show Murphy’s heat maps and hard-hit rates.
You hear about hitters making adjustments to their swings and approaches all the time, but it’s rare to see those adjustments pay off with results that are as spectacular and enduring as the kind Murphy has seen. This is just who he is now, and we have to accept it, even if it still seems a bit improbable.
I suppose all there’s left to do now is sit back and enjoy watching a great hitter go to work:
An offensive pivot like Murphy’s is incredible in its own right; it’s made more incredible by the fact that he is 32 years old. After seven full seasons in the majors, he has become a must-watch player, capable of overshadowing even Bryce Harper (albeit in a down season). If he continues to pop off in the coming years like he did in 2016, he will cement himself as one of the decade’s best baseball stories.