Colorado Rockies hitting coach Dave Magadan spoke to the media, including Rox Pile, on Tuesday about infielder Daniel Murphy.
In the 2018-19 offseason, Daniel Murphy was the only MLB free agent that the Colorado Rockies signed and he was signed, in a roundabout way, to replace DJ LeMahieu (who signed with the Yankees on the same contract that Murphy did with the Rockies).
Murphy was somewhat of a disappointment in the 2019 season while LeMahieu flourished in his season in the Bronx. Part of Murphy’s problem was due to a fractured finger that he sustained during the team’s first series of the year in Miami but that was only part of the reasoning behind his struggles.
One of the other factors is that he struggled with the transition of playing at Coors Field or, more specifically, playing at Coors Field and then going on the road.
His home/road splits tell the story well.
There was one thing that was consistent between Coors Field and on the road, though: a lack of power.
In 2018, his power had diminished some as well (.454 slugging percentage in 2018 and .452 in 2019) but in the previous two seasons (the best two in his career), he had an average slugging percentage of .569, well more than 100 points higher than it was in 2018 or 2019.
To fix some of his issues in 2020, Murphy has been working extensively on trying to regain that power. Murphy spoke with Rockies’ hitting coach Dave Magadan at the end of the season to try to fix the issue and on Tuesday, Magadan spoke with the media, including Rox Pile, after the team’s workout.
One of the many things that he discussed in nearly 25 minutes was the diagnosis that Murphy had of himself in 2019.
"“Daniel and I spoke at length at the end of the season last year and he felt like he wasn’t covering the inside pitch like he had been in the previous three or four years,” said Magadan. “…[H]e took his game from being a pretty good major league player to being one of the best hitters in the game [once] he started dominanting the inside part of the plate. You couldn’t pitch him in there. He pressed the plate, he started standing closer to the plate, and he dared pitcher’s to throw inside to him in there and he understood [then] what it took for him to get the ball in the air on the pull side.“He didn’t do that a lot with us last year and we addressed some of the reasons why with a lot of data to back it up. He agreed with it and he worked his but off in the offseason to get back to where he was able to get to pitches that were even in, off the plate, in which he was able to do for many years in Washington and New York and now, [he’s] able to get those pitches up in the air and… he showed it the first Spring Training but now, in the Spring Training 2.0, he’s getting to pitches that he was not getting to last year.“If he was getting to them last year, he was hitting them on the ground. He was hitting them hard but he was hitting them more on the ground to first or down the first base line or in the 3-4 hole. Now, he’s getting those pitches up in the seats and when he’s doing that, he’s really dangerous."
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Magadan said that Murphy would “never blame” the finger injury (or his injuries in 2018, for that matter) as the culprit of why his power/launch angle went down but Magadan said, “I’m sure that it did affect him” because the injury “was [on] his top hand. Your top hand is involved in getting to those pitches on the inside part of the plate.”
Magadan said that he “expects [Murphy] to be a lot better this year” and to be “a force” in the Rockies lineup.
In 2016, in 142 games, Murphy hit .347/.390/.595 with an OPS+ of 155. He led the NL in slugging percentage and doubles (47) and he also had 184 hits, 25 home runs, and 104 RBI. He was an All-Star, won a Silver Slugger Award, and came in 2nd in NL MVP voting to Kris Bryant.
In 2017, he led the NL in doubles (43) and he hit .322/.384/.543 with an OPS+ of 136. He had 172 hits, 23 home runs, and 93 RBI, and, once again, he was an All-Star and won a Silver Slugger Award. He came in 19th in NL MVP voting.
If Murphy is healthy and can retain the changes, he could put up numbers similar to those for the Rockies, and coupled with a shorter season, Murphy and the Rockies could give themselves a great shot a comeback season.