Do Mets need HR at 1B?

September, 27, 2009
9/27/09
3:11
PM ET
In the service of promoting Daniel Murphy as the Mets' First Baseman of the Future, the Times' Jim Luttrell constructs a straw man that I can't resist setting a match to:
    The Mets were contenders with Keith Hernandez and John Olerud at first. Hernandez hit more than 15 home runs only twice in his career. Olerud, never a classic slugger, hit a high of 22 while with the Mets. Mark Grace was a three-time All-Star in a 16-year career without ever hitting more than 17 homers in a season.

    Murphy is never going to reach 4,000 hits and will probably not win Gold Gloves like his Met predecessors. But he may compare favorably with the Dodgers' James Loney, who will be going to the postseason for the third time in four years and had all of 13 homers entering Saturday.

    Murphy is just 24. He struggled for three months this summer while first trying to become an outfielder, then moving to first. But before the defensive struggles and before injuries hit the team and increased the pressure on him, he batted .324 in April. And through Friday, he had batted .294 since Aug. 1, with 28 extra-base hits.

This argument is risible.

First, anybody who says a first baseman has to hit home runs is an idiot.

Second, it's hard to win a lot of games with a first baseman who can't hit (the Dodgers this year being a notable exception).

Third, anybody who thinks Daniel Murphy can hit really isn't paying close attention.

This season, 23 major league first basemen have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Among them, Murphy ranks 20th in slugging percentage and 22nd in on-base percentage. He's just not getting the job done, and isn't likely to. You can compare him to James Loney, except James Loney isn't getting the job done, either. You can compare him to Keith Hernandez and John Olerud, except Hernandez and Olerud were both on-base machines. Olerud posted a .425 OBP in his three seasons as a Met; Hernandez a .387 OBP in his seven seasons.

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