Sean of the Dead Red

Josh Thusat breaks down last night's hitting performances.

Sean Murphy (OAK): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI.

Well actually, the pitch Sean Murphy clobbered yesterday in the fifth inning off Keegan Akin was a changeup, not a fastball. So he wasn’t sitting dead red. But the one he bludgeoned on April 16th against Hyun Jin Ryu was a four-seam fastball that he hammered 452 feet with an exit velocity of 114 mph.

Three days before that, on April 13th, Shane McClanahan tried to sneak a curveball by him. He promptly deposited it 411 feet from home plate.

That’s right, Sean Murphy’s line yesterday was a sample of what he’s been doing lately He went 3 for 4 with a R, HR, and 3 RBI. In the past nine days, he has surged, hitting three homers in just over a week.

According to Baseball Savant, Murphy ranks 8th in Barrel %, and he ranks 4th in Hard Hit %.

Not only that, but the Oakland backstop sits 5th in Max Exit Velocity with that home run off Ryu. He is even in the top 15 in the early going for ideal launch angle.

All of this is to say, he is a man with scary power on any pitch, as those last three home runs came against a curveball, a fastball, and a changeup. Fear Oakland’s green giant with a big stick.

Of course, the title of this article could also refer to the general perception of Oakland’s offense as zombie-like. That would be unfair. We should still consider the fact that Murphy generally bats third in the lineup. This means that he’ll have plenty of opportunities. Yesterday he was hitting behind Tony Kemp and Sheldon Neuse, both of whom have an OBP above .400 in the early going.

Murphy slumped in the latter portion of the 2021 season, slashing .210/.285/.383. But it was the first season that he had nearly 450 plate appearances. He’s probably never going to have a high batting average, but he’s still young enough at 27 years old to take another step forward.

 

Let’s see how the other hitters did Thursday.

Ty France (SEA): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB.

Every time I hear his name, I think of baguettes and the Eiffel Tower. He had 650 plate appearances last year, which is a large number that contributed to healthy counting stats. France is this high contact hitter with even splits, which leads to a high average that’ll give you around 20 home runs. He reminds me of Michael Brantley circa 2015.

Jesús Sánchez (MIA): 2-3, HR, 3 R, RBI, BB.

Hey…Zeus. Remember your time in Triple-A and the majors last year, when you hit 24 home runs? Do you recall hitting 8 bombs in September alone? Of course, you had that K% of 31.1, and people were worried. Now it’s 22.9% and your OBP is .396 through 48 plate appearances. It’s a small sample, but here is a list of every single metric in which Sanchez currently ranks in the 90th percentile or higher: xSLG, xBA, Hard Hit %, and xwOBA.

Francisco Lindor (NYM): 3-5, HR, 2 R, RBI.

And the beat goes on. Averaging a home run every 15.5 plate appearances in the first 14 games, Lindor has nearly a quarter of the round-trippers that he managed in his tough first season with the Mets. He’s cut his K% by exactly 7%. Interestingly, most of his underlying hard-hit metrics are nearly 50% lower than last year. Is some of it good luck to start the season? His SLG is .615 and his xSLG is .530. His batting average is .308 and his xBA is .285. Even if he can’t stay this hot, it feels like the pullback won’t hurt.

Franmil Reyes (CLE): 2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI.

Reyes hit his first home run of the season yesterday. Franmil hasn’t been as fran-tastic (sorry) as many had hoped to start the season. He’s hitting .191 (ouch!), but he’s only played in eleven games. There is nothing glaringly different in his underlying numbers. The power is there, but Reyes is a groundball hitter. This saps the number of home runs he’ll actually hit, but it won’t stop him from producing a healthy number of round-trippers. He’s actually hitting the ball on the ground a little less, about 6%, and he’s lining a few more balls instead, about 7%.

Cooper Hummel (ARI): 2-5, HR, R, 2 RBI.

If you’ve never heard of Cooper, he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2016. While his batting average in his minor league career has been low, he has excellent on-base skills. The highest number of plate appearances happened in Double-A, where he hit .249/.384/.450. Now consider his line through the beginning of the 2022 season. .154/.353/.385. Some might look at his age (27) and worry that he’s appearing too late in his career, but remember to subtract a year due to the pandemic and remember that he maintained those on-base skills at every single level of play.

Mike Yastrzemski (SF): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.

To start the season, Yastrzemski’s line looks eerily similar to his 2021 season. Except for that slugging percentage. In 2021 he hit .224/.311/.457. He’s currently hitting .231/.318/.333. However, his xSLG percentage is 26% higher to start the season. He struggles against lefties, which limits some of the power potential, but he hit 25 homers last year, and he’ll probably do it again.

Robbie Grossman (DET): 3-3, 2B, R, RBI, BB.

Aside from the failure to add power to the mix, it looks like Grossman had a perfect night. Oh, and there isn’t a stolen base either. This may have some people concerned since they like that power-speed combination with the 32-year-old outfielder. Did you know that Grossman increased his flyball rate last year? He went from 34% in 2019 to 46% in 2021. Many think that 2021 will be his career year, but the patience is still there. It’s early. Hopefully, last night is a sign of things to come, as they say.

Nathaniel Lowe (TEX): 3-5, 2B, R, RBI.

There are so many Lowes right now, I think you should get all of them together on your fantasy team and name it Lowe-life. Maybe just Loweball, with a picture of David Bowie’s Low album as your team logo. Lowe is hitting. A lot. However, he’s in the same club as Franmil Reyes above: Gentlemen who hit the ball harder than most people, but directly into the ground. I wish there was different news to report in the early going, but his groundball percentage is actually…up! And he’s hitting the ball in the air only 9.8% of the time, which makes it obvious that his HR/FB rate is a pristine 0%. Again, it’s early. He has a whopping .396/.431/.458 line, but that BABIP is .463.

Daniel Vogelbach (PIT): 1-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Luke Hooper on Fangraphs has compared Vogelbach to Juan Soto in terms of plate discipline. He’s the epitome of combining patience and hard contact. But he lacks speed and struggles against lefties, so this limits his skills. But with an OBP of .395, the Pirates have bought the patience, and they’re hoping for that 2019 power when he hit 30 homers.

 

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

 

Josh Thusat

Joshua is a professor of English, but he's also an avid baseball fan who puts his research skills to work for fantasy baseball gamers. In addition to Pitcher List, Josh writes for FantasyPros. He teaches in the Chicagoland area.

2 responses to “Sean of the Dead Red”

  1. Mike Honcho says:

    In a 12 teams single C league, would you rank S.Murphy ahead of Kirk, Nola, Zunino, or Narvaez?

    • Josh Thusat says:

      That’s a really good question. I was thinking about those guys today too. Some sites already list Murphy ahead of them. https://www.fantasypros.com/mlb/rankings/ros-c.php

      I tend to lean toward catchers in great spots in the lineup. I want more opportunities. Kirk tends to bat 8th. Zunino 7th or 8th, and Narvaez 6th or 7th. Nola has been batting leadoff at times! Last year he had a host of injuries. He could return to 2019 production with health. If I need a catcher right now, I have other high average hitters, and I can get Murphy, I’ll take him.

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