by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The offseason hasn’t officially started and we are already getting news that has a significant impact on our outlook for 2018. As we wait for free agency and the hot stove to kick into gear, we got some surprising news late last week. In a series of tweets Mark Zuckerman reported:
#Nats just announced Daniel Murphy had right knee surgery today.
Surgery (debridement and microfracture) was to repair damage to the articular cartilage in his right knee. Rehab “throughout the offseason.”
There hadn’t been any talk of a knee injury in particular for Murphy, though as the Washington Post’s Chelsea James reports “Murphy missed a few games at a time, here and there, for unspecified leg soreness” throughout the season. The issue didn’t impact his performance, finishing strong (.346 in September) and hitting .322 with 22 HR overall.
The more concerning part of the story is the lack of a timeline that’s been provided by the team. The procedure is not a minor one, and there’s a very good chance that Murphy isn’t 100% by the time Spring Training rolls around. Could the issue cost him regular season games? That too is realistic, though a complete unknown at this point.
You also have to wonder if, when he is back on the field, the injury will impact his actual performance. While Murphy used to be able to sneak 10+ SB a season, he hasn’t been that player in a few years.
Will the surgery also impact his power stroke, though?
When talking about his growing power, prior to 2016, James wrote the following (click here for the full article):
Murphy said he and Long also emphasized using his legs more, as well as “getting pitches you can be dangerous on,” adjustments he said he plans to continue honing with Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu.
That obviously only adds to the concerns, and expecting more in the 14-17 HR pace is going to be a fair one. A knee injury shouldn’t impact his ability to make consistent contact, and he’s always hit the ball hard, but without the power and maybe a little less speed (meaning a drop in his BABIP from the past two seasons, .348 and .341 is likely) the issues only grow.
Is anyone going to complain about a player who hits .290ish with some power? Of course not, but that’s not elite and seeing him produce those numbers even isn’t a guarantee. Throw in the potential for some missed time, and if there’s a setback a lot of it, and the outlook is even cloudier.
While we’ll have to reexamine his situation as the season draws closer, and we hopefully get a more defined timeline/outlook, for now Murphy is a hands off option for 2018.
Sources – Fangraphs, Washington Post
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