Last night, with the bases loaded and one out, Jerry Manuel pulled Daniel Murphy from the on-deck circle in favor of Angel Pagan.
Murphy, who was 0-2 with a walk, would have faced Jeremy Affledt. Murphy has a career .375 batting average and .414 on-base percentage against left handed pitchers in his small sample size of at-bats.
Pagan, who was called up on Saturday in place of an injured Carlos Delgado, has a .224 career batting average as a right handed batter facing a left hander, as Sam Page pointed out on Amazin’ Avenue. On top of that, Pagan has a .170 career batting average as a pinch hitter.
Pagan promptly grounded into an inning-ending double play, magnifying the move by Manuel.
But I’m not here to talk about that questionable swap. What I’d like to look at is Murphy’s playing time that is quickly drying up.
Murphy has seemingly fallen out of favor with Manuel. Here’s a chart of his plate appearances, complete with a linear trendline.
His plate appearances have dropped, though he’s making the best of his pinch hitting opportunities, picking up four hits in nine at bats for a .444 AVG.
Why has Murphy’s playing time dropped? Manuel has favored Gary Sheffield in the clean-up spot with Delgado on the DL. Sheffield has seen most of his time in left field, Murphy’s main spot.
Manuel has said that Murphy would get a start (or two) at first base during this road trip, opening up another position to get Murphy in the lineup.
Also, as the Mets are set to face Boston this weekend in the first interleague matchup of 2009, Sheffield will likely shift to the designated hitter position, opening more playing time for Murphy.
I’m pretty intrigued to see what Murphy can do at first base. He may very well be the first baseman of the future if he can flash a decent glove at that position.
He’s been struggling a bit lately, most likely due to decreased playing time. If Murphy gets back into an everyday role, I think his mechanics will come back.