Last season, Seattle Mariners catcher Tom Murphy was a below average offensive player for the Mariners, but not much below average compared to other catchers in Major League Baseball. So far this year, Murphy has been one of the best catchers in baseball, and part of that is how he is being used. Murphy leads or is near the top in many offensive categories for catchers this year, and it is great to see after a down year last year.
This year, Murphy only has 40 plate appearances and is getting more chances to play against left-handed pitching. With Cal Raleigh having been sent down to Tacoma, however, he now will play versus righties more often. This season, Murphy is hitting .429 against lefties and .292 against right-handers. He also walks nearly twice as often against lefties, and strikes out nearly half as often against lefties compared to right handers.
Compared to other catchers with at least 40 plate appearances, Murphy is second in wRC+ with a 192 mark, second in batting average at .323, second in OBP at .462, second in slugging with a .484, sixth in WAR at 0.6, and first in walk percentage at 20%. Looking at where Murphy stands in those numbers, he is clearly off to one of the best offensive starts in the league at catcher. He has been a real offensive piece for the Mariners so far.
However, there are some reasons to suggest that his start is at least a little lucky. Murphy is hitting .529 on balls that he puts in play, which is incredibly high. That number is not sustainable and it will come down. It is good to see that he is getting lucky, especially since some other players like Jesse Winker and Jarred Kelenic have not been lucky at all. Even though his BABIP will come down, Murphy is still hitting the ball hard over 60% of the time so far, which is a very high mark.
All in all, after watching Tom Murphy struggle so much in the past, it is great to see him finally get going. While it is certainly a small sample size, if he can even keep this up for a few more weeks he will continue to be incredibly valuable. Hopefully, Tom Murphy can be an average or better catcher for the Mariners this year and can bring some value to the catcher position we haven’t seen for some time.