WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy loves talking about hitting. He is constantly studying the craft, watching video and making adjustments. He joked that his teammates think he's crazy. He is a self-professed geek who reads articles on Fangraphs.com and learns what he can from analytics.
During the offseason, Murphy came across articles using Statcast™ data to explain Ryan Zimmerman's rough 2016 season, where he hit a career-worst .218/.272/.370 with a 69 OPS+, despite having an Exit Velocity among the best in the Majors last season. A lot of his struggles can be explained by his low Launch Angle, as outlined previously by MLB.com's Mike Petriello. Murphy, whose swing adjustments led to his breakout '16, believes he can help.
"If I can take the already elite skill of bat-to-ball and Exit Velocity off the barrel, but get it at the right angle, now we're really starting to do some serious damage," Murphy said. "So I'm excited to see how he works this year, because he hit the ball extremely hard last year. It's really hard to hit the ball on the barrel in this league. He's already doing the hard part."
When Murphy remade his swing midway through the 2015 season while still with the Mets, he began emphasizing pulling the ball and hitting the ball in the air. It resulted in one of the most memorable postseason performances in recent memory. Murphy carried over the adjustments to the '16 season, leading to a second-place finish in the voting for the Most Valuable Player Award.
"It's cool because with all the data we have now, we've kinda been given some of the answers to the test," Murphy said. "If you get it at this certain launch angle at this exit velocity, it's damage. So for me personally, I try to practice that. Off the tee, front toss, pretty much any time I hit the ball, I want to get it in the air."
Zimmerman said he found the numbers helpful. He is not someone who takes analytics as gospel, but also does not totally dismiss them. He found the information useful and although he does not plan to completely change his swing, it can help him adjust his approach.
"This is a game of adjustments," Zimmerman said. "The ones who can make them the easiest are the ones who are usually around the longest and succeed the most."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.