There’s no other way to put it: David Murphy just hasn’t been very good this season.
Long a model of consistency (well, at least against righties) for the Texas Rangers, the outfielder was expected to bring a solid mix of a decent BA, on-base skills and a splash of power to complement the team’s new-look offense, with the glass-half-full hopes that he could even build upon his 3.8 fWAR career year in 2012 into a full-fledged breakout campaign.
Well, there is a reason why they call it an ideal-world scenario, I suppose.
Instead of thriving in what looked to be an extended role, Murphy floundered to start the season, putting up a miserable .176/.227/.297 triple-slash over 97 PA through the end of April. It got so bad that he was losing starts to 31-year-old utility journeyman Jeff Baker as the calendar month turned.
As it turns out, that’s just the wake-up call that the outfielder needed.
Yes, he’s still carrying a very poor .219/.272/.397 line headed into play on Friday, but that improvement is the result of nearly three full weeks of Murphy being on fire at the plate.
An modest eight-game hit streak kick started his numbers, and more importantly, he’s found his power stroke, hitting four home runs in just 55 PA in May going into Friday, including a two-run shot in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics‘ Jarrod Parker on Wednesday.
In all, that’s given him a nifty .291/.344/.564 triple-slash, good enough for a top-10 OPS in the AL for the month among outfielders.
All it took for that change in production may have been his approach to hitting the hall in the air just a bit less. While a 15.6 percent infield fly rate in April illustrates his frustrating misadventures with pop-ups, he’s since trimmed it dramatically to a 5.9 percent in May, as part of a cut in his fly ball rate overall from 42.1 percent to 36.2 percent, much closer to his usual career profile.
So, while the veteran’s numbers for the Rangers have overall been far from the ideal scenario thus far this season, perhaps his flirtation with near-disaster was just what he needed to start getting back there.