In October for the last two years Facebook has seen fit to remind me of a particularly painful moment in Cubs postseason history by taking a look back at a particular status of mine that was only five words long:
"Stop. Pitching. To. Daniel. Murphy."
It took a few years, but Theo Epstein finally figured out a way to make that happen by claiming the former National off waivers. I don't have to worry about the Cubs pitching to Daniel Murphy in the postseason for at least the rest of 2018.
So, let's take a look at the newest Cub's stats and what he brings to the rest of 2018.
The launch angle revolution
In 2015 I was incredulous watching the there to for 2-ish WAR second baseman join the launch angle revolution and transform himself into an elite bat during the postseason. I watched him obliterate the Dodgers in the NLDS and then continue to massacre Cubs pitching in the NLCS. He was rightly named the 2015 NLCS MVP.
I thought it was a fluke and the Mets must have too, because they didn't sign Murphy when he hit free agency, so the Nationals picked up the second baseman, signing him to a three-year, $37 million deal that will expire at the end of this season.
Well, I was wrong, and so were the Mets. Murphy has played all or part of 10 seasons in the National League. During that time he's accumulated 24.0 total fWAR. His fWAR from 2016 to 2017 accounts for 10.2 of that total. In fact, over half of his total fWAR was accumulated between 2015-2017.
Also of note from the Fangraphs link above is how much Murphy influenced other Nationals' hitters approaches, notably, Ryan Zimmerman. The Cubs have quite a few analytically minded players who may be able to benefit from their new teammate's knowledge of hitting.
It's important to note that this value is almost all offense. Murphy is a subpar defender at second who makes up for it with his bat. While his hitting prowess should boost the Cubs inconsistent offense, it will come at a price. Murphy isn't as adept a fielder as Ben Zobrist, let alone Javier Baez. Although I have to imagine the latter will be spending more time at third until Kris Bryant is off the disabled list.
This hasn't really been Murphy’s year. He started the season on the DL after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee. As a result he's only played in 56 games this season and his fWAR for the year is almost precisely replacement level at 0.1.
Murphy's production in 2018 hasn't been close to his last two breakout years. His slugging is down pretty significantly in 2018, but he still gets on base a lot and is slashing .300/.341/.442. His wRC+ of 108 is above average but no where near as pretty as the 155 he put up in 2016 or the 136 he put up last year.
He gives the Cubs a consistent offensive threat coupled with a defensive liability while they wait for Bryant to return.
Honestly I think the real motive for this trade is the performance Murphy has put up in the postseason. For starters, I'm sure I'm not the only one suffering from flashbacks from 2015 when he slashed .529/.556/1.294 in the NLCS.
No, that's not a typo, I didn't mix up OPS and SLG. He OPS'd 1.850 in those four days in October.
While the Cubs had better luck against him in the 2017 postseason (he only slashed .211/.318/.421 last fall) he still hit a homer, a double and drove in two in the series.
But despite all the jokes on Twitter right now (including my own) about claiming Murphy so other teams can't, I think there is a different method to Theo's madness here.
Murphy is an exceptional postseason hitter. In 108 plate appearances he's slashed .323/.407/.613 in the postseason. That bat is a nice addition and now that Kyle Schwarber is a plus defender in left, Murphy could draw DH duties if the Cubs make it to another World Series.
Oh, one other important note. Daniel Murphy has outrageous numbers at Wrigley since 2016. He's played 10 games (nine starts) at the Friendly Confines in that span and slashed .487/.500/.821 in 39 plate appearances (19-for-39). Those plate appearances resulted in four doubles, three home runs and 10 runs scored.
I think it's safe to say he likes his new home.
While this doesn't address the pitching inconsistencies most fans are concerned about, it's still a solid move to add some offensive consistency from a prover postseason commodity. It definitely bolsters the offense while the Cubs wait for KB to return, and fans can worry about playing time in the infield later.
And I'll finally be able to smile when Facebook reminds me of the 2015 NLCS in October.