Your Annual Matt Murton Update

Matt Murton has a career line of .286/.352/.436 in 1,058 MLB plate appearances. That’s a 105 wRC+, and by all accounts, he’s a legitimate defender in LF, although likely not quite as good as his +21 UZR/150 suggests. In over 400 plate appearances at AAA Colorado Springs, Murton had a park and luck adjusted .322/.392/.492 line. Take a player like that, especially platooned against left handed batters, and you have a major league average player, if not better.

Matt Murton is currently playing for the Hanshin Tigers of the highest Japanese professional league, the NPB. His contract this year calls for a $1 million salary, with a $500,000 signing bonus.

Unsurprisingly, Murton is absolutely raking. Through 262 plate appearances, Murton ranks 12th in the entire league with an .893 OPS, with an overall line of .343/.393/.500. Murton’s 8 HRs and 12 doubles would put him on a pace for 18 HRs and 27 2Bs in a 600 plate appearance season. As our own Patrick Newman stated in one of his posts answering questions about Asian baseball, it is generally accepted that the talent level in the NPB is somewhere between AAA and MLB. Even though Murton’s line is a little batting-average heavy, he continues to show that he can hit very well in talented leagues.

Still, we may not see Murton back in the United States any time soon, as the Hanshin Tigers hold a club option on him for 2011. Unfortunately, Murton is already 28 and as such would end up playing two of his prime years out of the Major Leagues. By the time he’s able to return to the States, it may be too late for Murton to truly latch on with a team and show that he can perform at a Major League level.

There are certainly teams in need of outfield help who could’ve used Matt Murton this season. The Orioles have given Corey Patterson over 100 plate appearances this season. Nate McLouth and Melky Cabrera both have sub-.285 wOBAs for the Braves. The Giants gave Eugenio Velez over 50 PAs before jettisoning him. The Royals have played Mitch Maier, Rick Ankiel, Scott Podsednik, and Willie Bloomquist in their outfield. The list goes on, containing poor outfielder after poor outfielder who have gotten chances and, in some cases, guaranteed money, to produce at a very low level.

Sometimes, teams just miss on a player. The Rockies didn’t have room for him, and the Athletics had a crowded outfield when he was in their system. However, there’s hardly an excuse for the other 28 MLB teams in allowing the Hanshin Tigers and their $1.5 million deal draw a league average player into Japan. As Murton continues to produce, this time overseas, we can only wonder what could have happened stateside.

Thanks to Patrick Newman for help with information in this piece.

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66 Responses to “Your Annual Matt Murton Update”

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  1. chene says:

    Teams are not valuing outfielder XXX properly. Player XXX has a UZR of y.y in [] left [] right field and can handle center field in a pinch. XXX was a league average hitter in [] 2006 [] 2007 [] 2008. Player XXX could produce a WAR of 1.5 to 2 in 600 PA which is worth $7.5 to $10 million to a team. It’s a shame that XXX is [] still unsigned [] in Japan [] just released [] languishing in AAA.

    Player XXX is
    [] Matt Murton
    [] Ryan Langerhans
    [] Ryan Church
    [] Gabe Gross
    [] Random scrappy white guy

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    • Franco says:

      Not sure what your point is? Do you disagree completely or are you just ribbing FG for being repetitive? If the former than I’m not sure why you’re even reading this site. I never even heard of this guy and I’d take him over Gary Matthews Jr on my Mets. (he’s been let go finally) If the latter, maybe every 2 months they go into detail on some quality fringe starter/4th outfielder who can’t find a job.

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    • really says:

      Murton isn’t scrappy.

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  2. JB says:

    Go Big Red! Favorite player ever–shame he never got a real chance.

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  3. Laura says:

    The Orioles need someone who can play CF.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      A) What’s wrong with Adam Jones?

      B) What does that have to do with Matt Murton?

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      • Laura says:

        Jones would have a hard time backing up himself. And as Murton doesn’t play CF, they chose Patterson who does.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Jones is having a rough year, but he’s young, projectable, and actually did well last year. Corey Patterson’s been all kinds of suck for the past four years.

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  4. Jack says:

    Matt Murton has always been one of my favorite players and it has always killed me that he couldn’t hang on with a pro team as he definitely had the skills to be a MLB level player and was better, as the article suggested, than some of the other trash managers were running out there. I believe he was with the cubs and Lou Pinella never really gave him a real chance. Hopefully Tyler Colvin doesn’t suffer a similar fate.

    Goes to show you, you can have the skills, do everything right and STILL not make it in the pros

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  5. Nathan says:

    Murton holds a special place in my heart for doubling four times in one end of the doubleheader that constitutes my only Wrigley Field experience.

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  6. Norm says:

    He was too slow.
    He *looked* bad in left.
    He didn’t have enough power for a corner OF.

    These were the arguments I battled while he was with the Cubs. For some reason 300/360/440 wasn’t good enough.

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  7. Joe says:

    The Red Sox could actually use a RH hitting outfielder to spell Drew against some lefties, and of course to play because of the constant injuries in the outfield.

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  8. China Brown says:

    Cool, I’ll just make my annual anti-Matt Murton post so that it may fall on deaf ears.

    You know what Matt Murton needs? MLB players to go on strike. Then, he stands a much better chance of mashing AAAA pitching at the big league level.

    Look at his numbers. He hits homers at about a 13% clip of his flyballs, so kudos to him, but he can barely get the ball in the air. He hits grounders at the MLB level with the same frequency of Juan Pierre. Practically 9% of the man’s hits are infield singles. Matt Murton could make Ted Lilly look like Brandon Webb. He’s got a LD% to rival that of a backup catcher… which won’t play at a corner OF spot. I see his 28.3% FB rate, in 2010 would put him right in the middle of Melky Cabrera and Scott Podsednik. I’m just sayin’.

    Defensively, don’t you think if UZR could talk, it would tell you it’s totally jerking your chain with Murton? He’s won the UZR lotto. I can’t explain it. He fields with a shovel for a glove but still UZR likes him.

    Sorry, Fangraphs seems to think the man just can’t catch a break. I tend to think of Murton like divorces. How many spouses do you have to go through before maybe you realize that the problem is you? Enough GMs have seen him to probably make us wonder if really – he’s just not that good.

    So you say, “it is generally accepted that the talent level in the NPB is somewhere between AAA and MLB.” I say then that Murton has identified a league for which he is perfectly suited… AAAA. Bravo to he and his agent.

    See you in 2011!

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    • Ian says:

      What did Murton do to you?
      No one is saying he’s going to be an MVP, but he certainly could be given more of a MLB shot than he received.

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    • Joe says:

      finally someone has the balls to DISAGREE with the fangrapsh coolade! i <3 you man. great post

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      • poodski says:

        He has the balls to disagree sure. I have the balls to disagree with fangraphs. It doesnt take much to have the balls to disagree.

        It takes a brain to actually be correct in the disagreement, and sadly the post was full of nothing concrete that actually proved fangraphs wrong.

        It just showed the ignorance of the majority of both fans and GM’s alike.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I’m just displaying the balls to disagree with your spelling.


        Lots of people disagree with FG. Personally, I find the reader’s comments to be the most significant, and often the most accurate (IMO), parts of the website. However, many times the disagreements with FG are nothing more than calling someone a math geek or making an unsubstanciated opinion as if it were fact, or talking as if one’s observation trumps mountains of data.

        The problem with this situation is there is no right answer. Murton has certain stats that could result to being on a roster, but he also lacks tools that could cause him to be left off a roster.

        One of the downsides in a “narrow” site such as this is essentially everyone thinks alike, or values the same metrics in spite of everything else, and the discussions can be a little “blah”. Hell, as soon as someone mentiones ERA (or anyting traditional), their opinions are cast aside, regardless of how accurate they are.

        Sometimes the base here is a little like the kid that likes the band that no else listens to … if for no other reason than no else listens to them, hence he must be the only forward & independent thinker, because it couldn;t possibly be that the band is trash. *grin*

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    • Zack says:

      “He’s won the UZR lotto. I can’t explain it. He fields with a shovel for a glove but still UZR likes him. ”

      This is the whole “Jacoby Ellsbury is fast so he’s an elite CF, while JD Drew has decent speed so he must be below average in RF” argument.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        That’s not what he said at all.

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      • Zack says:

        “Defensively, don’t you think if UZR could talk, it would tell you it’s totally jerking your chain with Murton? He’s won the UZR lotto. I can’t explain it. He fields with a shovel for a glove but still UZR likes him. ”

        That’s what he said.
        That’s the “My eyes tell me he’s a bad fielder, I watch all the games, I know better than UZR” argument. Which is the Ellsbury argument.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        His argument was the Murton doesn’t look like a good defender. He didn’t say that a good defender had to be fast or make the “Jacoby Ellsbury” argument. He said Murton looks like a crappy defender.

        And do you realize just how inexact UZR is? Saying “I know better than UZR” isn’t exactly blasphemy, especially when we’re talking about a player with less than 2 full season in the majors worth of innings in the field.

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  9. SF_Matt says:

    A corner OF with a sub-.790 OPS in over 1,000 at bats? Where do I sign up?

    Here’s the problem with the players in chene’s post above (Ryan Church, etc…). They’re all average-talent players. If they underperform by even a little bit, they’re below average. Below average players are often replaced.

    This isn’t a Roberto Petagine situation where a guy mashes in the minors and is given no chance in the majors. He received over 1,000 at bats and didn’t produce. While he may be more talented than his production leads a casual observer to believe, you can’t just dismiss almost 2 full season’s of at bats.

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    • poodski says:

      Considering the averages LF’er this year has an OPS of .754 I would imagine that many a teams would be signing up for his service. That would make too much sense though.

      Even RF’ers are OPSing only 805.

      There are 13 teams where RF’ers are hitting below 790 OPS. Including the Cubs and the Athletics who gave up on him.

      There are only 12 teams in the ML’s who have a LF out hitting that 790 OPS.

      So yeah while he may not be a super star he would still improve 13 teams RF, and 18 teams LF. All this with above average defense.

      But yeah where do you sign up?

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      • Jack Straw says:

        Are those the numbers of the players who have had the most ABs for each team at the given position, or the numbers of all players who have played the position?

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  10. CircleChange11 says:

    I think CB made a reasoned arguement using well-accepted, advanced metrics.

    I like Matt Murton if for no other reason that long , red, sideburns. But , he seems to have gotten his chances in MLB. A guy can only be ” at the wrong place at the wrong time” so many times where the phrase no longer fits. FG does the same thing with Alex Gordon.

    Having said that, I’d like to see Murton’s performance compared to the Nick Jay Mather OF clones that StL seems to always have.

    I’m not sure if CB was being sarcastic or not, but I’m happy for Murton that he’s doing so well in 4A ball and making a cool mil while doing so.

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    • Carligula says:

      Quibble – Alex Gordon’s young enough, and was dominant enough in college and the minors, that he deserves a chance to make good. IMO Murton’s generic enough that no one should be shedding tears over him not making it, as opposed to his dozens of comparables.

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  11. Dan Greer says:

    The reason he’s not in the majors is simple: Murton’s been worth 0.8 WAR over the last 3 seasons. While he didn’t get much of a shot in 2008 or 2009, he also didn’t do much when given the chance. Josh Fogg has been worth 0.8 WAR over the same period of time, for a bit of perspective.

    I’m not saying that I think GMs are always rational in their decision-making, but I don’t think it’s any crime against nature that Murton’s been given up on by MLB. Here’s hoping he gets another shot in a couple years.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Difference is Fogg’s done it in about a season and a half’s worth of innings, while Murton’s done it in two-thirds of a season’s worth of innings. Nobody’s saying he’s an all star, but he’s serviceable enough that he should be able to get an MLB gig (and for the person mocking his OPS, sort the MLB left fielders by that metric, and then tell me a good number of them wouldn’t prefer Murton’s career average to what they’re getting).

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  12. SF 55 for life says:

    it’s amazing how two people can read the same article and come up with two different interpretations.

    The article, in my opinion, is in no way, shape, or form saying that Matt Murton is a great player. They aren’t even saying he is a very good player. Mr. Moore is simply saying that Murton is a solid player who can contribute to a team for an extremely low cost. What this article is trying to say is that there are multiple teams throwing out much less qualified players (and in some cases for considerable sums of money) when they all had a shot on Murton.

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    • wasabi1212 says:

      I read “matt murton is a god and would be a HOFer if he only had the chance.”

      but really, we’re talking about a 4th or 5th OFer, a nice bench player on an NL team. Christ he’d be starting for several teams today… God knows he’s better than Frenchie.

      Not every team has or needs a big slugger in both corner OF positions to be successful.

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  13. Randy says:

    While being an MLB player is probably really cool and is the pinnacle for baseball, I actually think it would be pretty awesome to spend some time playing in Japan. Think about all of the Asian tail you’d get.

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  14. Treize_Khushrenada says:

    I think we are all forgetting a hugely important fact about Japan. It is FULL of sexually uninhibited (no western religion influence) women who love and worship Caucasians and African Americans. Even though Murton is making only a million bucks a year, that is plenty of cash to live comfortably over there, and he’s probably having the time of his life. Another bonus is if he likes seafood. And school girl uniforms…

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  15. Ed Nelson says:

    All that being said it’s tough to argue that Murton’s .304 .372 .480 line against LHs coupled with Colvin’s line against RHs wouldn’t be a very attractive platoon. The Twins have been very successful the last few years employing fairly low cost platoon heavy hitters in the outfield and DH, so it’s not as if that philosophy can’t pay dividends.

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  16. Michkin says:

    Matt Murton and unicorn, nuff said.

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  17. Zack says:

    Wow, who would have thought a Matt Murton article would cause people to get so pissed off.

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  18. Bob R. says:

    I think people too often overlook a player’s strengths because he has obvious flaws and is not a star. The issue is not whether Murton was going to be an all-star, but whether he had any skills that could be useful on a 25 man roster-and whether there are other players whom he could replace and be an upgrade.

    I cannot speak to his defense, and I recognize that there are legitimate differences of opinions about his offense, but it seems to me he has useful skills. In 1058 plate appearances his line is .286/.352/.436 which is exactly a 100 OPS+. So he seems to be a league average hitter, heavier on OBP than power. Can’t some team use such a player on its bench or in a platoon?

    After all, vs. left handed pitchers his line is .304/.372/.480. Neutralizing his overall line makes him appear a lesser hitter. On the other hand, in the one year he was nearly a regular he hit .297/.365/.444. The next year he was given only 261 PAs although his line was pretty close to the same.

    With rosters littered with below average OF reserves it seems that Murton should have a decent chance to contribute to a team. Good front offices and managers focus on what a player can do, not what they cannot do, and use their positives to help the team.

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  19. CircleChange11 says:

    There seems to be the thinking that once a Matt Murton type shows he will not be a starter, many organizations think “Let’s play the kids (prospects) until we find one”, or teams will overpay for a starter who produces slightl more rather than go the platoon route.

    I think that’s one aspect (platooning) that sabermetrics have demonstrated as an advantage, but that few teams employ with success.

    It would be interesting to see the list of current ML OF’s that Murton’s career stats are superior to, and what benefits (tools) the ‘other guys’ may have that Murton does not.

    We don’t have the “inside dope” on just what GM’s feel about Murton, so it’s hard to know exactly what is going on.

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  20. D-Rock says:

    Does anyone else find it odd that there are 33 comments about Matt Murton?

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  21. Pete says:

    Now 34 comments, Matt Murton is the man hope he gets a shot in the bigs again someday.

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  22. CircleChange11 says:

    It’s not so much about Matt Murton, but the situation of a guy that produces a decent amount for a good price can’t find a MLB job.

    It’s somewhat interesting and gives is sethimg to talk about in between Strasburg starts.

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  23. Alex says:

    Murton could be a useful player, but I’m not seeing the big deal here.

    First of all, he’s clearly not a starter. He’s got a league average bat. Great. He’s also a slow left fielder with a questionable glove. Slow left fielders with average bats don’t make it far in Major League Baseball. What is the highest career WAR for a left fielder with an OPS at or below league average and fewer than 50 career steals? Morrie Arnovich, with 6.0 WAR over seven seasons. Arovich played during the 1930s, and aside from one really good seasons, was about a replacement level player. Maybe Murton is more than that. But he’s had more than 1000 at bats. At some point, he is what he is.

    And can you really blame a GM for not wanting this guy to fill out the bench? He does one thing well – he hits for a solid average. He’s got a very limited skill set and very little versatility. I’m sure some team was willing to give this guy a shot. But he’s making $1.5 million, starting in a league were he can be a highly successful player. Why would he take a minor league deal, with the hope of hanging on as a bench player. He’s in a good spot right now.

    The argument that he could be a 1-2 WAR player if given 600 plate appearances, IMO, is kind of irrelevant. Guys with average bats, who are slow and play left field don’t get 600 plate appearances. As a bench player, he’s probably not worth much more than the next guy. He’s a dime a dozen type of player.

    Maybe GMs haven’t quite appreciated this guy, and maybe he hasn’t been given a fair shake. But he is what he is. He’s a fairly limited player. I can’t blame a GM for not wanting to fill out there bench with a $2 million Matt Murton, and I can’t blame Murton for not wanting to take a minor league deal to maybe make a team and be a role player, when he can take $1.5 million and contribute every day in Japan.

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    • Zack says:

      “And can you really blame a GM for not wanting this guy to fill out the bench?”

      Yes, have you seen some of the names on benches around the league?
      Sorry, if Matt Stairs can be on a ML roster, Murton can.

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      • BlackOps says:

        nuh-uh, Stairs is a VETERAN. With LEADERSHIP and locker room PRESENCE. He KNOWS how to play the game.

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      • Alex says:

        And I’m sure there are plenty of players better than Murton that can’t get bench jobs. Like I said, I’m sure if he wanted to battle it out for a spot on the bench, someone would have given him a minor league deal and a spring training invite.

        Unless you really buy Murton’s GG caliber UZR/150, he’s only a decent bench option. And decent bench options are a dime a dozen. I don’t buy that Murton, as a fourth or fifth outfielder, would be that much better than any other fourth or fifth outfielder.

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  24. Larry says:

    I was expecting a sentiment of ‘free Matt Murton’ from the choir, but was pleasantly surprised that at least there were some legitimate opinions as to why he isn’t stateside and starring as a bit player for a MLB team.

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  25. vivaelpujols says:

    Okay, so Matt Murton isn’t that good, but have you guys seen some of the pieces of shit currently playing in left field or the DH position? You have guys like Jason Michaels and Cory Sullivan and Garrett Anderson who are barely even replacement level players and haven’t played competent baseball for 3 years. Or you have the “he has potential but really sucks right now” Jake Foxes of the world.

    The fact is that Murton has been a solid hitter everywhere he has gone, and it’s strange why so many of these players who are obviously so much worse than he keep getting shots while he is in Japan.

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  26. Kyle says:

    I watch a ton of NPB games, Murton usually plays centerfield for Hanshin. He hasn’t seemed like that much of a defensive liability. Murton is better then most teams (mlb) fourth outfielder.

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  27. Chuck says:

    Not knowing anything about it one way or the other, what are the chances that Matt Murton’s inability to catch on with any major league team as even a fourth outfielder is due to clubhouse issues? In other words: is he a douchebag and no one likes having him around the team?

    We’d like to think that teams make their decisions based on strictly performance measures, but that wouldn’t explain Neifi Perez’s ability to continue to find work way after everyone had figured out he could barely lift a bat. Maybe Neifi was a god in the clubhouse. And maybe teams sometimes make decisions based more on this than performance in certain extreme cases?

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  28. Treize_Khushrenada says:

    Have you seen what Matt Murton looks like?

    I’m telling you, he is over there for the Japanese women. No way in heckfire he gets attractive women over in the states like he can across the Pacific.

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  29. Bronnt says:

    I have no issue with the fact that Jason Kubel might be useful on a MLB roster. I really dislike the implication that the Braves made a mistake by not signing him (two Braves outfielders were mentioned in the article). For one, it’s like he was going to get a roster spot over Nate McLouth anyway, who is on a multi-year deal. They weren’t going to move him this offseason. And all the projections for McLouth had him at a .350 wOBA.

    Likewise with Melky-he was a single piece in a big trade, and since the Braves control his rights for multiple years, he wasn’t getting a roster spot over Melky Cabrera. Melky is also an above average fielding corner OF who had similar offensive projections. There was no reason to think that Matt Murton would be significantly better than Melky prior to the season.

    If the Braves were to give him a roster spot, it would have been over Eric Hinske, who is putting up a .400 wOBA and has previously played both corner IF spots as well, giving them even more flexibility.

    The premise is fine, the examples are kinda crappy. He would certainly have been an upgrade for the Phillies’ bench, and definitely would be better than Garret Anderson or Corey Patterson who are established sub-replacement level players, but it irks that he cited two guys WAAAAY underperforming expectations and saying the Braves made the wrong move. Perhaps in hindsight they should have added Johnny Damon, but Murton was nothing that the Braves didn’t already have.

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    • Bronnt says:

      Fail-was thinking about Jason Kubel since he’d just struck out to end the game for the Twins. Kubel = Murton

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  30. Jivas says:

    I once saw Matt Murton at O’Hare – he was there to board a flight to Iowa, having just gotten sent down to AAA – and I told him he was a big-leaguer. It was true then, and it’s true now.

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  31. Jishwa says:

    I always really liked Murton. He led the Cubs in batting one year and then the next year they screwed around with his playing time with the likes of Jacque Jones and eventually traded him when he started sucking because he never got any real consistent playing time. It’s a shame he couldn’t stick somewhere…but then again, when there’s managers who bat Jose Bautista or Andruw Jones in the leadoff spot, it’s not surprising that Murton never got to stick somewhere…

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    • odbsol says:

      Neifi Perez. Jacque Jones. I thought I had forgotten those years and you guys had to bring back the memories. F’ing Dusty and his love for vets. I think Dusty blackballed Murton because he was clogging up the bases by taking too many BBs.

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  32. I’m a big Cubs fan, and I like Matt Murton, but I do not think he is a better option than either of our FIVE current outfielders. (maybe Nady)

    I think if Matt wants to make it in the big leagues he should consider a move to 2nd base, unless he either starts stealing more bases, or hitting more home runs.

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  33. Matt Murton says:

    I’m setting records in Japan, people:

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  34. Joe says:

    Need a new update. Has been a year.

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  35. Nate says:

    Would love to see an update to the update!

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  36. Fan says:

    Hey jackasses…Murton is a good Christian man…watch what you say about him.

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  37. Stinky Pete says:

    Prediction: Theo brings Murton back as bench player in 2015.

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