Murphy got back on track at the start of this season (in Triple-A, of course). He got off to another hot start in 2018 and spent way too much time in Albuquerque, hitting 16 bombs and 46 RBI in just 50 games.
So far, his 31 big league games in 2018 are a personal best but, unfortunately, we might not get to see him in the lineup again until September. This was not Murphy’s best offensive season, but that’s not his fault. After being recalled, Murphy was used primarily as the Rockies’ starting catcher through June and hit .310 with six RBI in 12 games (10 starts). But after a good month, Murphy was relegated to occasional pinch-hitting opportunities through most of July … a role he is not accustomed to, and a role he struggled in.
From the end of July through the start of August, Murphy was thrown back into a starting role in what appeared to be partly an excuse to not trade for a catcher at the deadline. After a month spent warming the bench, Murphy’s timing was off and he struggled. However, he was still hitting .282 as recently as July 29, a day in which he hit a key two-run homer in Colorado’s 3-2 victory over the Athletics.
Murphy went hitless on the Rockies’ recent road trip (though to be fair, the whole team struggled) and had a rough defensive ninth inning in the last game in Milwaukee, the last inning he played before his demotion. Murphy struck out in 15 of his final 21 at-bats and only recorded one hit during that span. But, despite his slump lowering his batting average to .227, that average still leads Rockies catchers!
That is why his demotion is so mind-boggling. If the Rockies had another catcher anywhere near league average offensively, they could at least try to justify this roster move. But they don’t. Tony Wolters is hitting .157 with the same number of home runs as Murphy and only a couple more RBI in several more at-bats. And despite his rough inning in Milwaukee, Murphy is a solid defensive catcher whose only real problem is a knack for getting called for interference.
After sending Murphy down, manager Bud Black praised his bat as well as his work defensively, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding.
"“But if you look at Murph, he’s got power, he’s got arm strength. I love the way he calls the game,” Black said."
But Black also said that Murphy “still has to work on” his defense.
No one expects Murphy to come into the big leagues and immediately be Yadier Molina. Young catchers are going to make mistakes. It is part of the growing process. But Murphy has proven he has the potential to be a really good Major League catcher if he ever gets the chance. And if we’re concerned about ironing out mistakes on the defensive side, why didn’t Wolters get sent down to work on not throwing to the wrong base against St. Louis?
The Rockies needed to send down a catcher, but it shouldn’t have been Tom Murphy. We can only hope he’ll be back very, very soon.