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A season of struggles for Daniel Murphy

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The aging veteran suffered the worst statistical year of his career

Welcome to the 2020 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2020. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

★ ★ ★

No. 40, Daniel Murphy: -1.3 rWAR

When Daniel Murphy signed with the Rockies in late 2018, the reaction was mixed. Though it was obvious he was now past his prime, Murphy was still a solid hitter who had hovered around .300 for the majority of his career. That offseason, teams were cautious and could see a decline coming. Already not known for his defense, his age wouldn’t help and the impact of that on his bat was yet to be seen.

The Rockies made a bet with themselves when they signed him. They bet that he had more in the tank and that any future decline offensively would be slightly offset by playing at Coors Field. They bet that he could figure it out at first base and be close to average defensively. They also bet that he would help replace what D.J. LeMahieu did for them (even though LeMahieu’s contract would have cost them exactly the same).

The Rockies lost that bet.

After a lackluster 2019, Murphy’s offense declined even further in 2020. His once steady and reliable bat disappeared, and his defense became just about unplayable.

Daniel Murphy’s 2020 season was by far the worst of his 12-year career. He posted career low averages in just about every statistical category. A near .300 hitter for most of his career, Murphy finished the season with a line of .236/.275/.333 in 123 at-bats giving him an OPS of just .608 — a steep drop off of his 2019 .780 OPS and nowhere near his previous career low of .733 in 2013. He also had notable career lows in BABIP (.260), XBH percentage (4.6% compared to last year’s 10.3%) and -0.6 WPA.

On defense, the struggle continued for Murphy. He was oftentimes trying to do too much and not making the simple plays at first. After being worth 3 DRS at first base last year, he dropped down to -3 DRS in only 29 games.

Throughout his career, defense was never Murph’s strong suit, but it was always withstandable because of what he normally gave with the bat. With no offensive production, Murphy became unplayable and lost the starting first base job to Josh Fuentes in late August.

That could be the last we see of Daniel Murphy in a Rockies uniform. Murphy has a $12 million mutual option for next season with a $6 million buyout, and although nothing is certain with Jeff Bridich, it’s hard to envision him looking at what Murphy gave them this year and think, “Yeah I’ll have more of that please. Here’s $12 million.”

If that’s it for Murphy in Colorado, he leaves behind a legacy of *checks notes*, nothing.

(Not true. Don’t listen to Twitter.)

The Rockies didn’t get what they expected from him or the teams he was on, but no one else played the game with as much enthusiasm or exuberance as Daniel Murphy. He was the level-headed but confident veteran who’d been in almost every situation. I wasn’t in the clubhouse, but his presence had to have been worth something.

(But probably not $24 million; the Rockies should have re-signed D.J.)