After getting off to a scorching start atop the Chicago Cubs lineup in August, veteran Daniel Murphy has joined his teammates in struggling with the bat.
Immediately after coming over to the Chicago Cubs in a trade with the Washington Nationals, Daniel Murphy appeared to be just what the doctor ordered – a veteran table setter to help pace a young, powerful and extremely streaky lineup.
He recorded five multi-hit games in his first six starts as a Cub. The team won Murphy’s first eight ballgames and all was right with the world. At least, we thought it was. Then, the offense seemingly hit a wall – the latest evidence coming in a 5-1 loss on Wednesday night to Milwaukee.
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And, for his part, Murphy has been part of the problem, rather than the solution.
"“Obviously, it’s not been the same but he’ll be fine,” Joe Maddon said after the loss, in which Murphy went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. “Probably he needs a day off as much as anybody.”"
A fair assessment from the Cubs skipper. But that doesn’t change the fact Chicago needs their veteran table setter back on his game – and soon. There’s just 17 games remaining in the regular season and the Cubs are desperately clinging to a one-game edge over Milwaukee in the division.
So far in the month of September, Murphy has just one multi-hit effort, coming back on Sept. 5 against the Brewers. On the whole, he carries a .194/.216/.389 slash line this month – a far cry from the .321/.345/.477 line he put up in August between Chicago and Washington.
Over his last seven games, Murphy ranks dead last among Cubs position players in terms of OBP. So, with that in mind, I guess the question that looms large is whether or not the veteran is the best fit in the leadoff spot – at least right now.
Changing up the look of the lineup
With the offense struggling to come up with timely hits, don’t be shocked if Maddon decides to give the roster card a nice shake-up. We’ve seen it time and time again during his time in Chicago. He’s been particularly prone to inserting a struggling guy into the leadoff spot to see if a change in approach can jump-start his bat.
While Murphy certainly fits that bill, his struggles have come out of said spot in the order. The guy I think should get a look? Kris Bryant.
Since returning to the Cubs, he’s been an on-base machine (admittedly striking out way too much) – but a .409 OBP makes him ideal to get the offense going. Move Murphy down to the two-hole, followed by the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist.
Right now, it’s one of those times where seemingly everyone is struggling at the plate. But giving Murphy a day off and taking some of the pressure off him by moving him down in the order might be just enough to let him re-focus mentally and get locked in for the final two-plus weeks of the season.