Texas Rangers Positional Preview: Left Field
If this article had been written a month ago, it would have featured Josh Hamilton as the starter with David Murphy as backup. Fast forward to the end of Spring Training, and there is no clear-cut centerfielder that will allow Hamilton to play left field. As it stands, Murphy will play left field at least against RHP which should amount to around 100 games.
Murphy is a fan-favorite primarily because of his intangibles: great work ethic, Texan and boyish charm. He is similar to a backup quarterback in football in that fans think he can start everyday despite lack of talent and numbers to back it up.
In 2011, Murphy hit .296/.348/.461 against RHP in 297 Abs while hitting .215/.274/.234 against LHP in 107 Abs. His OPS dropped over 300 points against LHP. Pro-Murphy fans would say “Well, that is just one year.” Take the last three years of Murphys’ numbers (.830 OPS vs. RHP & .612 OPS vs. LHP) and it is easy to see there is still a staggering difference in his splits.
Defensively, Murphy has performed best (according to UZR) in right field over the course of his career. Over the last two years in left field, he has cost the Rangers almost six runs while saving seven runs in right field despite only playing in right field half the time. Murphy has an above-average arm, but lacks speed to cover left and center field effectively.
In this case, the bench would be Hamilton against left-handed pitching. In 2011, Hamilton hit .314/.362/.554 in left field. Defensively, left field is Hamilton’s best position as he has saved over 12 runs the last two seasons.
Murphy will start 100 games, primarily against right-handed pitchers. This leaves 62 games to be started by Hamilton or Cruz.
(2012) BA HR RBI SB BB K E
Murphy: .270 8 55 9 42 81 3
Bench: .285 7 40 5 17 32 1