Second baseman has consciously altered approach to opt for more power at plate
By Alex Putterman
WASHINGTON D.C. -- Daniel Murphy keeps hitting like it's October 2015.
The Nationals' second baseman -- who briefly turned into Babe Ruth during last year's postseason for the Mets -- collected two hits, including a home run in Monday's 6-4 Nationals win to raise his batting average on the season to .471 (8-for-17).
In the first inning, Murphy launched a two-run homer off Braves starter Bud Norris for his second long-ball of the year, then followed with a single in the third that helped key a run-scoring rally. He has now collected two hits in three straight games.
After the game, Murphy credited his success to the four guys ahead of him in the batting order, who reached base a combined eight times Monday.
"One of the biggest things you have to look at is the amount of traffic that's on the basepaths," Murphy said. "Anytime you can put the pitcher into high leverage situations, they're more prone to make mistakes. I've been hitting with a lot of people on base."
Murphy's scorching hot start to the season is a continuation of an equally torrid end to last year. After hitting a career-high 14 home runs in the regular season, Murphy exploded for seven in the playoffs, including six in as many games at one point. He finished October with a .328 batting average and a remarkable .724 slugging percentage.
The 31-year-old's transformation into a dangerous power hitter began during the second half of 2015. Murphy's post-All-Star break slugging percentage was 85 points higher than his first half figure, and he launched nine of his 14 homers after the break.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Murphy is operating "on a 100-percent confidence level," after closing last year so strong.
"He has a pretty good idea how to hit," Baker said. "He has a pretty good idea of what they're trying to do to him. And he also works hard. You don't just hit. You have to work hard, and he works as hard as anybody."
The more Murphy hits, the more it seems his incredible run last fall was more than a small-sample-size fluke. He has spoken in the past about using his legs more in his swing and focusing on power over contact when the situation calls for it, making his power surge seem like the result of conscious effort, something that might not go away anytime soon.
For a Nationals lineup desperate for protection behind Bryce Harper, Murphy's slugging is a welcome development. As Baker said when asked about the second baseman's approach at the plate, "I don't care where it came from, I'm just glad it's here."
Alex Putterman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.