Daniel Murphy must be the greatest hitter of all time, because I just watched him knock out 52 consecutive base hits.
OK, maybe the second baseman for the Washington Nationals isn't the best hitter ever, but he is hitting .409 on May 13 and that's pretty cool. In fact, while Bryce Harper has been the center of attention all season, Murphy has been the best player on the team, leading Harper in WAR, 2.0 to 1.5.
Murphy's .409 average through May 12 is second best through that date since 2010:
2015: Dee Gordon, .412
2014: Troy Tulowitzki, .395
2013: Miguel Cabrera, .379
2011: Matt Holliday, .390
2010: Andre Ethier, .385
Here's his heat map:
Daniel Murphy heat map. A lot of his hits are coming on meaty pitches down the middle: pic.twitter.com/1F2fTtiIFU— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) May 13, 2016
That doesn't tell us how he's hitting .409. We know about the change in his stance, going from a more straight-up stance to a crouch last season with the Mets, and how that helped him deliver more power as he started pulling the ball more often. Murphy has always been a solid contact guy, but hit just .281 last season even though he cut his strikeout rate from 13.4 percent to 7.1 percent. His BABIP was just .289, well below his .314 career mark, so that suggested a higher average was likely for 2016. Although I don't think anyone expected .409.
His BABIP in 2016 is .439, so that suggests some luck, but I wanted to see how much luck, so I watched the video of all 52 of his hits (well, 48 of his hits, since our system was missing a few). Here they are:
1. April 4: Home run on 2-0 fastball from Julio Teheran.
Drilled to straightaway center, 422 feet.
2. April 4: Double on 3-1 fastball from Eric O'Flaherty.
High fastball, soft liner just inside the left-field line.
3. April 7: Triple on 1-2 slider from Adam Conley.
Flat slider on the outside corner, lined off the right-field wall.
4. April 7: Single on 1-2 fastball from Craig Breslow.
Low and in, kind of an awkward inside-out swing as he got jammed, but a soft blooper to center.
5. April 10: Single on 2-0 fastball from Tom Koehler.
Video unavailable, but the hit is described as a sharp line drive to center field.
6. April 10: Single on 0-0 curveball from Koehler.
Video unavailable, but it looks like an infield hit on a sharp liner that deflected off the glove of first baseman Justin Bour to Dee Gordon.
7. April 11: Home run on 0-1 fastball from Bud Norris.
High fastball drilled to right-center, a couple of rows into the seats.
8. April 11: Single on 0-1 fastball from Norris.
Hard grounder in the hole between first and second, no shift on.
9. April 12: Single on 1-1 fastball from Jhoulys Chacin.
Medium-hard grounder on high fastball, past a diving Gordon Beckham. No shift on with the bases empty.
10. April 12: Single on 1-2 curveball from Hunter Cervenka.
Murphy chases a low curve well off the plate and hits a half-swing slow grounder just to the right of second and beats the throw to first.
11. April 13: Single on 0-0 fastball from Matt Wisler.
Belt-high fastball, medium-hard grounder sneaks past the diving second baseman.
12. April 14: Double on 2-1 fastball from Julio Teheran.
Jammed on inside fastball, but Murphy hits a soft line drive to right, beats the throw for a double.
13. April 15: Double on 2-1 fastball from Brett Oberholtzer.
Belt-high fastball ripped off the base of the wall in the right-field corner.
14. April 16: Triple on 1-0 fastball from Aaron Nola.
Line drive over first base, rolls into right-field corner.
15. April 17: Single on 2-2 changeup from Charlie Morton.
Ground ball to the left of second base, but the shortstop isn't shifted at all toward second and the hit slides through.
16. April 17: Single on 1-1 splitter from Hector Neris.
Line-drive base hit to center.
17. April 18: Single on 0-1 fastball from Jose Fernandez.
Soft liner into right-center.
18. April 19: Double on 0-1 fastball from Adam Conley.
High fastball, pulled hard on the ground over the first-base bag.
19. April 19: Single on 2-2 slider from Conley.
Soft liner that somehow squeezes over the first baseman's outstretched glove and then under the glove of a diving Dee Gordon.
20. April 20: Single on 1-0 fastball from Wei-Yin Chen.
Liner to left field.
21. April 20: Single on 0-1 curveball from Craig Breslow.
Reaches out and pokes a blooper to left field.
22. April 22: Single on 1-0 sinker from Kyle Gibson.
Hard liner to left field.
23. April 22: Double on 2-1 changeup from Gibson.
Medium-hard grounder pulled just inside the first-base bag.
24. April 24: Single on 3-1 fastball from Tyler Duffey.
Hard liner up the middle.
25. April 24: Single on 1-1 fastball from Duffey.
Another belt-high fastball, medium-soft liner to right field.
26. April 26: Double on 0-1 fastball from Vince Velasquez.
High fastball, drilled on one hop off the right-field wall.
27. April 27: Double on 3-1 fastball from Jeremy Hellickson.
Low and away, Murphy lofts it down the left-field line, where it lands just fair and bounces into the stands for a ground-rule double.
28. April 29: Single on 1-0 sinker from Mike Leake.
Runners on first and second, infield playing straight up. A routine grounder into right field that found a hole.
29. April 30: Single on 0-1 slider from Jaime Garcia.
Soft liner to center field.
30. April 30: Single on 2-0 fastball from Jonathan Broxton.
Medium-hard liner to center field, almost a duplicate of the previous hit.
31. May 1: Single on 0-0 fastball from Seung Hwan Oh.
Line drive into left-field corner.
32. May 2: Single on 2-2 changeup from Edinson Volquez.
Takes a pitch below the knees and hits it hard on the ground just past a diving Omar Infante. Again, no shift.
33. May 2: Double on 2-1 changeup from Volquez.
Line drive over the head of Lorenzo Cain and off his glove. He was there and should have made the catch, although the ball was hit hard.
34. May 2: Single on 1-0 fastball from Danny Duffy.
Ground ball to left past a diving Mike Moustakas.
35. May 3: Home run on 1-1 fastball from Chris Young.
Fastball above the belt, crushed 417 feet to right-center.
36. May 4: Double on 0-0 curveball from Kris Medlen.
Medium-hard liner just inside the right-field line.
37. May 4: Single on 0-1 fastball from Medlen.
Fastball down the middle smoked to right field.
38. May 4: Home run on 0-1 fastball from Dillon Gee.
Another home run, 374 feet into the right-field bullpen.
39. May 4: Single on 2-0 sinker from Chien-Ming Wang.
Another line drive to right field off a hanging sinker to complete a four-hit day.
40. May 6: Double on 0-0 fastball from John Lackey.
Hit to deep right-center, one hop off the ivy at Wrigley.
41. May 6: Single on 3-2 fastball from Lackey.
Bouncer to first base, hits the bag and bounds over Anthony Rizzo’s head.
42. May 6: Single on 0-1 fastball from Lackey.
Lackey wanted to go inside but left a fastball over the plate, a hard smack off the glove of Rizzo for a base hit.
43. May 6: Single on 1-1 fastball from Clayton Richard.
Hard one-hopper to the right of shortstop Javier Baez and just under his glove, for his second four-hit game in three days.
44. May 8: Double on 1-2 slider from Jake Arrieta.
Good slider with movement, low and away, but Murphy drills it off the wall in left-center.
45. May 8: Single on 1-1 fastball from Adam Warren.
Soft little blooper off the fists into center.
46. May 9: Single on 1-1 fastball from Anibal Sanchez.
No video on this one, but the play is described as a popup to center field.
47. May 9: Home run on 2-2 slider from Sanchez.
Hit 416 feet to right field.
48. May 10: Single on 1-2 fastball from Michael Fulmer.
Hit hard right up the middle past Fulmer and into center.
49. May 10: Single on 0-0 changeup from Fulmer.
Soft grounder to the right of second baseman Ian Kinsler and off his glove.
50. May 11: Single on 1-0 fastball from Jordan Zimmermann.
Half-liner/half-fly ball into left-center.
51. May 11: Single on 1-2 fastball from Zimmermann.
Kind of a half-swing poked into left field for a base hit.
52. May 11: Double on 0-2 fastball from Kyle Ryan.
Fastball up, lined into the gap in left-center.
There weren't too many cheap ones in there. Cain should have made the one catch, although it wasn't an easy play. Murphy got lucky on the hit that bounced off the first-base bag. There were a few grounders that squeezed past infielders, but even most of those were hit hard. I did this same thing with Gordon last year and, while we're talking about different types of hitters, Gordon was clearly having more luck, with infield hits and tricklers and bloopers falling in. Murphy is mostly hitting the ball hard all over the field.
He's also done a terrific job of sniffing out fastballs -- a lot of them over the plate and even down the middle. Of his 52 hits, 34 have come on fastballs. That appears to be something he's gotten better at the past two seasons. Percentage of his hits off fastballs:
2016: 65 percent
2015: 62 percent
2014: 52 percent
2013: 51 percent
2012: 48 percent
I didn't see any shifts against Murphy, didn't even see the shortstop pulled over close to the second-base bag all that often. Murphy's ability to spray the ball does it make it difficult to shift against him, but based on his hit chart, I think managers have to consider it. He hasn't hit a single ground ball in the direction of where a regular third baseman would play:
Would you shift this guy? pic.twitter.com/BiCUZuMK6U— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) May 13, 2016
Anyway, it's an amazing run Murphy is on. Hard to believe that a guy hitting .409 is only the fourth-biggest story with the Nationals so far this season.