This was supposed to be the year that Sean Murphy took a major step forward. The Oakland A’s catcher had hit the ball well in 2020, but did not see the statistical results until later in the year. Nonetheless, his solid overall showing was enough to give plenty of hope for Murphy to take that next step in his development in 2021.
To this point, that has not happened. Murphy has still be a productive hitter, especially for a catcher, but he has yet to become that offensive force he was expected to be. Thus far, he has produced a .219/.306/.414 batting line in his 333 plate appearances, hitting 13 homers and 18 doubles.
Oakland A’s still waiting for Sean Murphy to take step forward
As it is, Murphy’s 101 OPS+ is still solid, especially for a catcher. However, he has taken a step back from his .233/.364/.457 batting line and 129 OPS+ last season. The power is still there, but the rest of the package has not been.
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That can be seen in regards to Murphy’s Statcast metrics as well. His launch angle has increased by 2.1%, and his barrel rate is essentially the same as in 2020, but everything else has decreased. Murphy’s average exit velocity has dropped by 3.2 MPH, and his hard hit rate has dropped by 7.2%. That combination has led to a sharp decrease in productivity.
the biggest factor in that decrease is that Murphy has been more aggressive at the plate. He has managed to cut down on his strikeout rate, but his walk rate has more than halved from 2020. While he did need to be more aggressive at time, he has not been driving those pitches as well earlier in the count.
In the end, baseball is a game of adjustments. Murphy had adjusted from his performance last season, looking to be more aggressive earlier in the count. That has not resulted in the improvements to his offensive profile that he or the A’s had hoped for. Chances are, Murphy needs a happy medium between the patience of 2020 and the aggression of 2021. The future is still bright as Murphy just needs to tweak his approach a bit more.
Sean Murphy has not taken the step forward that the Oakland A’s had expected this year. His approach just needs to be refined a bit more.