Daniel Murphy had a postseason for the ages last October. Now on a different team, he’ll look to have a strong encore performance.
If the Washington Nationals hope to go far in the playoffs, they’re going to need Murphy to be the hitter he was in the 2015 postseason. The 31-year old second baseman is in his first season with the Nationals. After eight years with the New York Mets, he signed a three-year deal with Washington this past offseason. Murphy has garnered a lot of attention over the past year.
Murphy had no previous postseason experience before 2015. He wasn’t exactly intimidated once he finally got there however. Particularly in the National League Division Series and National League Championship Series, he was hitting on a completely different level than anyone else. He homered in six straight games over the course of the NLDS and NLCS, a new MLB postseason record. Overall in the playoffs, Murphy batted .328 with seven home runs and 11 RBIs in 14 games.
After such an impressive October, it was surprising how long Murphy remained a free agent. The Nationals signed him in December. It turned out to be one of the best moves of the entire offseason.
Murphy had an MVP-type season this year. He hit .347 with 25 home runs and 104 RBIs. He was clearly the Nationals’ best offensive player during the 2016 regular season. That’s saying something, especially considering the fact that reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper is also on the team. Both players are going to be extremely important for the Nationals in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The health of Murphy is a concern right now. He hasn’t played since September 17 due to a strained left buttocks. Despite this injury, he’s expected to be in the Nationals lineup this evening when they take on the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS. Whether or not he’ll be able to be as effective as he was during last year’s postseason remains to be seen.
It’s going to be hard for Murphy to duplicate last season’s unforgettable postseason. Even if the injury doesn’t affect his performance, the bar that he set is so high that it will be difficult to even come close to it. Also, in order to have the same success, the Nationals will need to at least advance past the NLDS. The Mets got all the way to the World Series during Murphy’s historic run. The Nationals have had their struggles getting out of the first round over the past few years. In 2012, they won the NL East but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. Two years later, they were defeated by the San Francisco Giants in the NLDs.
The Nationals have the potential to make a run during the playoffs. In order to do so, Daniel Murphy will need to lead them the same way he led the Mets last postseason. If he can’t, Washington might be primed for another early exit.