Abreu Way of Looking at david murphy

**ORIGINAL POST DATE 6/28/12**

Like most of you, I have been a lifelong, devoted Texas Rangers fan.  Not always easily, but I kept up through many lean and nauseous times.  I enjoy reflecting on the past couple years’ successes and American League pennants.  A lot remains constant, but many of the faces between 2010, 2011, and now changed. One thing that pleases me the most regarding the Rangers’ past 2 seasons is that there was a former LAA Angel that came over and played pivotal roles in those Championship runs.  
Vladimir Guerrero signed as a free agent with the Rangers for the 2010 season after the Angels made no real attempt to keep him.  Bad Vlad then went on to win 2010 AL Comeback Player of the Year (voted and decided by MLB players).  Vlady was mostly used as a DH but also played some right field in Interleague games and never went on the disabled list.  In 152 games, he batted .300, 29 HR, 115 RBIs and his OPS for the season was .841.  To say he was pivotal is an understatement; he was arguably the team’s best offensive player.  His offense was great, but the defensive prowess and rocket arm of his younger years declined and he was gone for 2011.

Prior to the 2011 season getting underway, the LAA Angels traded embattled Catcher Mike Napoli along with Juan Rivera (now with the Dodgers) to the Toronto Blue Jays for Vernon Wells.  Then, in a move that still makes me scratch my head, Toronto traded Napoli to the Rangers for FRANKIE FRANCISCO!!! As a Ranger fan, I still feel a little guilty about stealing from the Canadians.  Nap Nap finished 2011 as one of the most productive players on the team and a fan favorite.  NAP-O-LI chants can be heard even on the road this season.  He finished 2011 batting .320 and with an OPS of 1.046.  To say Vernon Wells’s 2011 season didn’t rise to the Angels’ expectations would be putting it mildly.  Napoli becomes a free agent at the end of this season.

The offseason before 2012 games began didn’t land the Rangers a former Angel for the first time in two seasons.  However, the Angels landed a former Ranger through free agency in C.J. Wilson, who the Rangers treated similarly to the way the Halos did Vlad Guerrero in 2010. Wilson is not missed much by the Ranger faithful (at least not yet), but his season so far is undeniably off to a great start and a return trip to the All Star game is likely (just wait until he costs the AL home field in the World Series again).

The Rangers did have an opportunity to snag an ex-Angel this season when Bobby Abreu was released by the Halos on April 27th after Mike Trout was added to their roster.  Abreu made a career out of astounding plate discipline and hitting for power and average, particularly in clutch at bats.  He isn’t a gazelle in the outfield but can still do enough to warrant starts when not DHing.  He is also a very accomplished base stealer.   At the time of his release, I secretly hoped the Rangers would sign Abreu even if for no other reason than picking up discarded Angels the past two seasons have led to World Series runs.  Abreu’s release seemed like the perfect opportunity to continue the tradition.  However, the Rangers faced the same problem as the Angels – there was no place to put Abreu.   The analysis had to come down to David Murphy.  Both are left handed batting corner outfielders, a power hitting position.  According to Daniels, the Rangers received calls/offers on David Murphy during Spring Training, most notably from the Minnesota Twins.  Daniels is quoted as saying Murphy is more than just the Rangers’ 4th Outfielder and that he is an integral part of this club.  The two sides settled Murphy’s arbitration year for over $3 Million dollars this season, which is certainly more than a 4th Outfielder generally earns.  Bobby Abreu signed with the LA Dodgers soon after being released by the Angels.

What is the big difference between the two men, and how did the Rangers make the decision to stick with Murphy and not go after a proven clutch hitter like Abreu?

First, Bobby is 38 years old.  At that age, he is undoubtedly past his prime physically.  He can still produce at that age and provide golden leadership.  It is worth noting that Vlad was 36 at the beginning of the 2010 season.  ‘La Luche’ (Abreu) at the beginning of this season was second among active ballplayers in doubles, third in walks, sixth in stolen bases, and ninth in on base percentage.  He also has hit 284 career home runs and 1,330 career RBIs.  In 2011, he had 502 plate appearances, hit .253 with 8 HRs and 60 RBIs.  By his standards, a very down season (career .293 avg).   One thing we know is that off seasons happen to lots of good hitters.  See David Ortiz, Adam Dunn, and Jim Thome.   Defensively, Abreu had more looks in left field than right in 2011, and he can still throw, if he can get to the ball.  For the most part, his main use would have to be as a DH, like Guerrero.  So far in 2012, Abreu is showing the Rangers made the right decision.  In 151 at bats, he is hitting .258 with 2 HRs, 19 RBIs, 25 BB, .735 OPS, and 40 strikeouts.  We’ll have to see if he can bounce back in the second half, but so far his below average 2011 has continued into 2012.

In contrast, David Murphy is having one hell of a month of June, and an overall great first half of 2012.  He has 224 at bats, batting .289 with 9 HR, 32 RBIs, 27 BB,  .878 OPS, and 41 strikeouts.  While these are not All Star numbers, consider that in all of 2011, he hit 11 HRs and 46 RBIs in twice as many at bats.  This really highlights the dilemma the front office must have been facing before the season started about whether to hang on to Murphy – his 2011 numbers are average at best.   Somebody made the gamble that he would breakout if given more playing time. You have to give credit to the front office and to Ron Washington for not only how to build a ball club, but for how well they know each individual player and what that player has inside him to produce.  Since June 17th, Murph is batting .375 with too many clutch hits, homers, and clutch at bats to include, he’s hitting lefties better than he ever has in his career, and his defense has been adequate enough in the outfield in regards to his arm, his range, and his positioning.

Finally, this year the Angels swapped the formula on the Rangers by acquiring C.J. Wilson as opposed to the Rangers going after one of the Halos ex-pats.  The Rangers do not miss him.  C.J. is having a good season so far, but I’m not ready to give him the credit Guerrero and Napoli deserve for their impact on the back to back AL Champs just yet.  Bobby Abreu could have been an interesting and even influential addition to the team in April, but it would have come at the expense of David Murphy.  And at $3+ Million this season, David Murphy has been a steal.  Baseball has great sayings that apply in life as well as on the field.  For this move, I like the adages, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and sometimes it’s the moves you don’t make that make you better.  For me, I’m most glad they went with the native Texan.

Will Mitchell is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Will.Mitchell@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @WillMirtchellesq.
Will Mitchell

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