A recent hot streak by Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy has others comparing him to greatness. What’s the story?
Without the exact quote, it is hard to say whether Santangelo is right. On the surface, you can understand it. As with Boggs, Murphy’s primary weapon is the double. He rarely strikes out and just has a swing perfect for high average.
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But, Murphy is not Boggs.
After watching most of Boggs career with the Boston Red Sox, a check of the numbers 25 years later is stunning. Most of us growing up in New England remember him tattooing the Green Monster regularly and working pitchers hard. For seven straight years, he topped 200 hits.
In 1988, he reached base via hit or walk 339 times. He led the league in intentional walks that year with 18. The 23 double plays grounded into, we will forget.
Boggs was a great hitter out of the box. Murphy’s stardom came mid-career.
Although he hit over .300 in two partial seasons, Murphy never broke the mark until after he left the wide expanses of Citi Field and the New York Mets. When he cut the strikeouts down the average jumped. With 57 whiffs last year, he hit .347.
The big difference between the two hitters is drawing walks. Boggs’ eye was legendary. Never a threat to steal, he used high game intelligence to score when on base. Murphy’s career-high walk total is 39, done in 2014. Ten of his 35 walks last year were intentional. He beats you swinging.
There is an apples-to-oranges vibe comparing the two era’s. Although those 80s Red Sox teams played station-to-station baseball, the modern game is reliant heavily on home runs while strikeouts are not evil. Both players were productive for their time.
A quick check of Baseball Reference says the closest statistical equal to Murphy is Odell Hale. You remember him, right? No?
Hale was an infielder for the Cleveland Indians during the 1930s. Like Murphy, he smashed doubles and had power and speed. A consistent hitter, Hale hit a career-best .316 in 1936 to match 50 doubles, 13 triples and 14 home runs.
Where Santangelo is right is in Murphy’s approach. Hitting is a science and Boggs was a profound student. As Murphy blossoms, so is he. Past 30, the more he studies the art of the swing, the slower his dropoff happens. Ichiro Suzuki stayed productive well into his late-30s by intelligence.
As with Boggs, there is no question Murphy is the glue binding the offense together. The Red Sox had Jim Rice and Dwight Evans. Washington has Bryce Harper and Trea Turner, but the high-average low-strikeout players hold everything together.