Daniel Murphy is the latest reminder that intangibles can often defy baseball science
As baseball has evolved into this statistically oriented and scientifically executed game, often times the human element of the game itself gets forgotten.
The human element is an old school belief based on gut feelings, intuition, hunches and rolls of the dice, which truly support the notion that this game is not played on a computer, and it is indeed played by people who have spirits, inspiration and a desire to win, able to rise above stats which may seemingly be stacked against the,m in any given moment.
Daniel Murphy is clear cut proof that guile and guts – the, “intangibles” of a player – hold true value to a club, especially in a playoff series and in a do-or-die game when one little mistake can send a player and a team home for a winter full of regrets and, “what if’s.”
Baseball scientists hate the word, “intangible,” since there’s no way to support it’s value statistically.
But indeed, it does have value, both unspoken and underrated.
The statistics suggest Murphy doesn’t hit for power against left-handed pitching – he had one home run against southpaws during the regular year.
He hit two home runs against Clayton Kershaw in the first four games of this series.
The stats say Zack Greinke can’t be beat when handed a lead – he was 19-0 in 2015 when given a lead.
Tell that to Murphy, too.
He’s far from the prettiest of baseball players. But there is no denying Murphy’s will to win and his dedication to finding any edge in any given moment to help win a ballgame.
And on Thursday night, Murphy single-handedly found that edge.
He drove in Curtis Granderson with an opposite-field double in the first inning. But when things were looking bleak for the Mets in the fourth inning against a dominating Zack Greinke, Murphy successfully won a battle with a single to right field.
Lucas Duda – who couldn’t get out of his own way in the Division Series – worked out a walk, but Murphy had a devious plan for the Dodgers.
He noticed the infield was shifted the other way, and nobody was on the left side. He casually trotted to second base as he normally would, but upon reaching second base he sprinted for third and reached without a throw, as if the Dodgers never saw it happened.
And they had the look of stunned disbelief on their faces too.
Said Murphy about his clever base running play, “They’ve got the shift worked on him, so I’m kind of running into second, and I looked for it before and hoping that nobody’s there, then you’ve got to give a peak and hope that nobody calls timeout, because then I go sprinting to third base and somebody calls timeout, and I look like a buffoon, and I didn’t want that to happen. So I take off and give a look and hope nobody’s called timeout, and then at that point I’m not fleet afoot, but I was just fast enough to be able to get in there and make it.”
Murphy would score the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Travis d’Arnaud. The score was even, 2-2.
New life, new energy, new hope for the Mets.
All stolen from the Dodgers and their baffled crowd, all thanks to Murphy.
And as he always does, Murphy refused to take credit for his base running genius, crediting Duda for working out a walk to put him in such a position, and d’Arnaud for driving him in.
But without Murphy’s cleverness, perhaps the Mets never score that run in that inning, and the Dodgers maintain the momentum they had seized from the bottom of the first.
“That was all Dan Murphy,” Terry Collins said after the game. “He said when he was on the base-on balls he was jogging. He looked up and he knew, he saw all the infielders in the middle of the infield, so he said he didn’t want to try to speed up. He just kept jogging. As soon as he hit second he took off for third and obviously made it. That tells you the player Dan Murphy is. He’s alert. He’s always trying to find an edge.
“Sometimes it doesn’t work, but tonight it worked,” Collins explained.
Jacob deGrom captured the momentum at that point as well, as he suddenly discovered his fastball and change-up and kept the the Dodgers off the board for the next two innings.
That brought Murphy to the plate against Greinke again. Only this time, he wouldn’t need much cleverness to deliver the biggest hit of the year for the Mets to date.
He clubbed a solo home run to right field on a 3-2 fastball, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish, sealing their Division Series win to move on to the National League Championship Series against the Cubs on Saturday night at Citi Field.
Murphy became only the second player in 2015 to hit a home run against both Greinke and Kershaw in the same series, the other being Cole Calhoun of the Angels.
Murphy hit three home runs against the two Dodger aces in the five games.
“I’ve been around Dan Murphy for six years. He’s a baseball player,” Collins said about his second baseman. “He’s a baseball junky. He loves to hit. He loves to play the game. Plays every night all-out. When he’s swinging the bat, he’s dangerous. When he’s hot, he is really dangerous. The home runs, you know, I think Kevin Long gets a lot of credit. They got him to pull the ball a little bit more, and he’s hitting the ball over the fence. That’s the kind of power. But Kevin saw it, and together they worked hard at it, and now Dan’s doing what he’s been doing.”
Greinke had been 19-0 when handed a lead in 2015. Murphy alone made him 19-1 thanks to his wit and sudden power surge.
And it’s that wit which is immeasurable yet can clearly be so valuable to a baseball club. There are plenty of players more talented than Murphy, but the playoffs once again are showing the intangible human elements are not necessarily replaceable even with players who have ten times the talent as Murphy has.
It’s something the Mets can’t not consider when evaluating his free agency this winter. It’s a chemistry which cannot be mathematically defined by a mathematical and scientific organization.
“Talent eventually wins,” manager Terry Collins said on Thursday.
He had a magnificent series, once again defying the odds as he’s always done throughout his career.