New York Mets

Although Daniel Murphy shined bright in the NLDS, the New York Mets’ MVP for the series is undoubtedly their ace Jacob deGrom.  

By Bryan Pol

On Thursday night, before a frenzied, sold-out Dodgers Stadium crowd in a hotly contested, winner-take-all Game 5 affair, New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy blasted a shot to right in the top of the six inning,  providing his club a 3-2 lead, one they would not relinquish en route to clinching a berth in the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs, to commence on Saturday night, with Matt Harvey taking the mound for the second time this postseason at Citi Field.

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Thursday night’s decisive homer was Murphy’s third of the series, his second off a Cy Young candidate of note: his Game 1 blast off Clayton Kershaw began the Mets’ scoring in Game 1, while his back-breaking shot in Game 5 came off Zack Greinke, who was 30-5 entering the game with a sub-2.00 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP at Chavez Ravine as a Dodger.

To supplement his three home runs, Murphy, for the series, hit .333 with five runs scored, five RBI, and a heads-up stolen base on Thursday night delivered in the midst of a shift put on for lefty Lucas Duda and Greinke failing to cover third.  Murphy ultimately scored to tie the game 2-2 on a Travis d’Arnaud sacrifice fly to right field.

In discussing Murphy on a Wednesday afternoon segment with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on WFAN, SNY personality Gary Cohen, the Mets play-by-play commentator, proclaimed the Mets should not re-sign the gritty infielder in the off season.

“I have no interest,” Cohen told the WFAN co-hosts. “I’ve got (Wilmer) Flores and (Dilson) Herrera, both of whom can play second base. I have no interest in bringing back Daniel Murphy. Joe, you watch this guy play every day … He’s a nice hitter, and he’s hit some home runs lately, but he’s not a high on-base percentage guy.”

Cohen added, “He’s not a big power hitter. He’s a good hitter, he’s a good hitter. He’s a good sixth or seventh hitter in a good lineup. That’s what he is. And he hurts you so badly in the field and on the bases, and with all the craziness I think it’s time to move on … Murph is a lovable guy, but I think he’s a net negative, and I’ve always felt that way. Knowing Sandy Alderson and his view of the situation, I don’t think there’s any chance they re-sign him.”

Mets recap WE BEAT LA!!!! Posted by Jim Breuer on Thursday, October 15, 2015

The condemnation drew ire from comedian and diehard Met fan Jim Breuer, who took to Murphy’s defense in another brilliant post-game recap posted via social media after the Mets’ thrilling Game 5 triumph in Los Angeles.

While he is a relative adventure on the base paths and is by no means a regular Roberto Alomar with his glove, Daniel Murphy has earned his place amongst the Ray Knights and the Mookie Wilsons, unsung heroes in Met postseason lore.  While David Wright is the team’s captain, Murphy has become its leader in the clubhouse practically all season, delivering clutch hits en masse in 2015.

In 174 at bats in the regular season with the game tied, Murphy hit .310 with 5 home runs and 23 RBI, amassing 54 hits, 83 total bases, and a .814 OPS in such situations.  While Yoenis Cespedes has earned much fan fare with his brilliant play since Sandy Alderson acquired him in late July, Murphy remained a constant for the Mets in 2015.

So, too, has ace-by-proxy Jacob deGrom, who is the true MVP of the NLDS against the Dodgers, in spite of all the glory given to Murphy.

Take a long look at what deGrom accomplished in the first round:
  • He earned two wins on the road in his club’s first postseason appearance in nine years, responding to the pressure of a city and its fanbase on his shoulders with relative aplomb.
  • In those two wins, deGrom bested not one, but two dominant pitchers and Cy Young hopefuls in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the former hurler exorcising his postseason demons in a dominant 3-1 victory in Game 4.
  • He responded to a second half “swoon”—he was 5-2 with a 3.14 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 13 starts, although he struck out batters at a 10.8 per 9 IP clip, better than his rate of 8.9 in the first half—by going 2-0 with 1.38 ERA, striking out 20 batters in 13 innings, allowing only 11 hits and 4 walks.
  • His 13 Ks in Game 1 equaled a postseason record for a Met starter, set by Hall of Famer Tom Seaver.

Without question, deGrom did not have his best stuff on Thursday night.  Despite Murphy’s RBI double, which plated Curtis Granderson, granting deGrom a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, he promptly yielded two runs on two RBI singles from Andre Ethier and Justin Turner, who absolutely murdered the Mets in the NLDS, hitting .526 with a 1.362 OPS in the series.

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However, by the second inning, deGrom settled in and battled for six magnificent innings while Terry Collins warmed up Noah Syndergaard in the bullpen in the midst of deGrom’s unease in the second frame.

In the second, despite a leadoff walk to Joc Pederson, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Greinke, and Howie Kendrick making it to first on a throwing error from shortstop Wilmer Flores, deGrom struck out the upstart Corey Seager, brilliant for the Dodgers since his September 3 call-up, and Adrian Gonzalez, both of whom went down swinging.

In the third, despite a leadoff double by Turner and a walk to Yasmani Grandal, deGrom got Ethier to fly out to left and forced Enrique Hernandez into an inning ending double play that deGrom himself started.

Through the sixth, deGrom would strike out three more batters, Gonzalez and Seager once each again, and deliver a tremendous 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the sixth in spite of seeing Syndergaard warming up nearly every inning in the thick of his superbly gritty and gutsy performance in a decisive Game 5.

Never mind deGrom’s three walks, two to Pederson, mired in a woeful second half quagmire of his own.  Altogether, deGrom yielded six hits, although four of them came in the first inning alone.  Only two were extra base hits (Turner’s doubles in the third and fifth), and were otherwise stranded, as deGrom did not give up a run outside of a tumultuous first frame.

In a season when Matt Harvey was supposed to be that bulldog and Syndergaard was meant to be that electrifying, the unassuming deGrom conducted his business in a quiet, professional manner.  While the focus all season was on how Harvey would respond to being away from baseball for a year post-Tommy John surgery, another prospective ace in Zack Wheeler going down with a torn UCL, and in what month the Mets would finally call up the 22 year old fireballer in Syndergaard, deGrom performed admirably and doggedly, following his Rookie of the Year campaign with an even better effort in 2015.

For the season, deGrom was 14-8 over 30 starts, posting a 2.54 ERA (6th best in the majors), a 0.97 WHIP (5th best), and an ERA+ of 145, striking out 205 batters in 191 innings, yielding fewer walks, 38, in 51 more innings than 2014, when he walked 43 batters, good for a dazzling 5.39 SO/W ratio (7th best in the majors).  His 4.7 Wins Above Replacement mark was the 10th best among all pitchers in MLB.

Many of the leaders above him in various statistical categories, including Greinke, Kershaw, Houston ace Dallas Keuchel, and Pittsburgh ace Gerrit Cole, are no longer playing October baseball (some, like Max Scherzer and Madison Bumgarner, never even made it to the playoffs).

On the strength of deGrom’s arm, however, the New York Mets very much are.

The Mets will have two more postseason giants to slay in Chicago’s Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in what should be an epic NLCS, but if deGrom continues his brilliance, then the Mets can add several more notches to the post of all they have accomplished in 2015.

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I am an English teacher, music and film aficionado, husband, father of two delightful boys, writer, sports fanatic, former Long Islander, and follower of Christ. Based on my Long Island upbringing, I was groomed as a Yankees, Giants, Rangers, and Knicks fan, and picked up Duke basketball, Notre Dame football, and Tottenham Hotspur football fandom along the way.