The Return Of Tom Murphy - An Underrated Boost To The Seattle Mariners 2023 Lineup
Return of Tom Murphy > Return of the Jedi? After the Seattle Mariners acquired Tom Murphy in 2019 and had a breakout season, Mariners fans began crediting Jerry Dipoto with another steal and a "he did it again" moment.
However, Tom Murphy ran into problems right before the shortened 2020 season. He injured his foot which put Austin Nola behind the plate and ultimately became a great thing for the Seattle Mariners. Nola played tremendously, leading to a deal with the Padres and bringing in Ty France, Andrez Munoz, Taylor Trammell, and Luis Torrens.
Tom Murphy returned in 2021 but struggled. On the positive side, he had a strong start in 2022 until being shut down with an injury again. He essentially fell off the radar as it created an opportunity for Cal Raleigh to shine, and he did just that.
Cal Raleigh is clearly the starting catcher but Tom Murphy has an integral role in 2023, and he's really the perfect guy.
Tom Murphy's historical numbers
As a young player for the Colorado Rockies, Tom Murphy didn't get much play time and was inconsistent. He played for the Rockies from 2015 to 2018 posting a .219 batting average, a .439 slugging percentage, and .710 OPS.
Although his batting average with the Rockies wasn't great, a .439 slugging percentage and a .710 OPS isn't all that bad. At the time, he was still young and we can assume that he was still developing as an MLB hitter (24-27 years old).
After joining the Seattle Mariners, he posted a .240 batting average, a .440 slugging percentage, and a .762 OPS. Again, not all that bad when you consider how Tom Murphy will most likely be the primary backup catcher.
Although the numbers I posted are promising, it is important to consider the number of games Murphy has played compared to your typical tenured veteran. The Mariners catcher has played in only 267 games so his stats are somewhat limited by sample size.
The one positive to take is that his stats are relatively consistent. His batting average increased after joining the Seattle Mariners but his slugging and OPS are pretty steady throughout his career. Murphy isn't going to be our starting catcher, but he adds a lot of offensive depth to the bench, especially at the catcher position which is often hard to find.
Tom Murphy's got that extra pop in his bat
Last year, the Seattle Mariners did not have many players that had plus pop on the bench. Carlos Santana is the only guy that really jumps out to me but he's no longer with the Mariners for the 2023 season.
Tom Murphy might not seem like he has as much power as Carlos Santana but his numbers say otherwise. Carlos Santana has a career 89.9 mph average exit velocity while Murphy has a career 89.3 mph average exit velocity.
Santana has a slight advantage over Murphy on hard hit rate percentage but not by much. Santana owns a 41.2% hard hit rate in his career while Murphy owns a 39.8% hard hit rate.
Let's also not forget that Murphy hit 18 home runs in 2019 and 11 in 2021. In 2019, Murphy only played 75 games because Omar Narvaez was handling most of the catching duties. So if the Murph played a whole season, he could have hit 30+ home runs. For 2021, the season where he struggled, he could've hit around 18 home runs with a full season.
Again, context is important because Tom Murphy isn't intended to be the starting designated hitter in 2023, or so I hope. Murphy brings a lot of pop as a backup catcher to Cal Raleigh which the team didn't have last year. Scott Servais could only choose from Luis Torrens and Curt Casali who didn't provide a whole lot on the offensive side of things.
What the Mariners should expect from Tom Murphy in 2023?
My prediction is that Murph will hit .240, slug .415, and post a .750 OPS.
STEAMER is predicting a .223 average, and a .397 slugging percentage
The big IF for the 2023 season is whether he is back to full health and not hindered by his shoulder injury. The Murph had surgery to repair damage from tearing in the rotator cuff and labrum of his left shoulder.
Even if Tom Murphy isn't able to produce as I predicted, even his bad years aren't bad for a backup catcher. The 2021 season is a good example where he only managed to hit .202 but still hit 11 home runs. His slugging percentage and OPS were down compared to other years but they were okay, .350 and .655 respectively.
Tom Murphy also brings a lot of intangible value to the Seattle Mariners. Shannon Drayer wrote a nice piece about how Tom Murphy took a more light-hearted approach to the 2022 season. This "having fun" mentality was highlighted across the team in 2022 and Tom Murphy fits right in. Who knows, maybe that approach was the reason why Murphy was off to a scorching start last year and maybe he even encouraged the whole team to do the same.
When news came out about him missing the rest of 2022, Scott Servais commented that "he means a lot to our team and what he does behind the scenes, even when he's not playing to help our pitchers and catchers out."
Based on what we have heard about the Murph, he is a real team player and is willing to do whatever it takes to help the Seattle Mariners win. He will be an integral part of how young pitchers like George Kirby and Matt Brash develop, and I am sure he will be a resource for Cal Raleigh's continued growth. The return of Tom Murphy might be the equivalent of signing a mid-tier free agent and may even be why the Mariners are being patient to trade for a top player instead of going for an average player.