Paying Off a Career Year at Second Base: Matt Carpenter and Daniel Murphy

Mandatory Credit: Eileen Blass-USA TODAY Sports

An inconvenient truth of fantasy baseball is that you never want to pay for a career year.

There is a behavioral term called ‘anchoring‘, which simply describes the tendency of the last piece of information we receive to become lodged in our brains. A baseball player’s previous career year sticks in our brains like earwig and we carry that information into the next year’s draft. Then we proceed to overpay.

Whether it’s an extra $10 on the auction table or by drafting them 3 rounds too early, we overpay. When the player doesn’t match – much less exceed – their career year we are left disappointed. Then all too often we repeat our sin with another player in the next year’s draft. Well, everyone except Nash, who drafts with perfection.

Both Daniel Murphy and Matt Carpenter had career years at second base. But what should we reasonably expect in 2014 and where should we draft them?

Daniel Murphy

If you think that Daniel Murphy will repeat his 2013 then please let us know in the comments. We need a way to keep track of who to leave behind when the giant space ark takes us all to new earth after the skies fall as this earth is destroyed by the Skitters and the Volm.

Here are his numbers for 2013, his age 28 season, with Matt Carpenter’s just below for the sake of comparison:

     PA       R     HR    RBI     SB      AVG
Daniel Murphy      697      92      13      78      23      0.286
Matt Carpenter      717      126      11      78        3      0.318

Every single one of Murphy’s numbers – with the exception of his 2013 AVG – is a career high. He blew past his career high in runs by more than 30, though in fairness, that is a result of being moved up in a poor Mets lineup and he’ll be there in 2014 as well. More troubling is the fact that he way more than doubled his previous best for steals. I’m just reiterating that 2013 was a career year, folks.

Murphy has always been disciplined at the plate. As proof, he was 14th in the league in contact percentage. He has a quick bat, puts the bat on the ball, and doesn’t typically swing at bad pitches.

What’s interesting is that his BAPIP has always been all over the place, which accounts for a batting average that has fluctuated from .266 to .320 over the years. I think has a lot to do with how he has varied wildly in how he’s put the ball in play.

Batted Ball       PA      LD%      GB%       FB%   GB/FB
2009     556      18.7%      40.0%      41.3%      0.97
Minors
2011     423      21.9%      47.0%      31.1%      1.51
2012     612      24.3%      50.7%      24.9%      2.03
2013     697      21.3%      42.4%      36.3%      1.17

Some years he pounds the ball into the dirt, while others he hits fly balls. Why does it fluctuate so wildly from year to year? I don’t know. But while it explains his fluctuating BABAIP, it doesn’t help us predict what 2014 will bring.Daniel Murphy

So let’s just cut to the chase and give it our best go. His runs are likely to still be solid, but will regress somewhat. He simply doesn’t have 13 home run power and he was fortunate to have knocked in 78 in 2013. His AVG likely will be even higher in 2014, but there is no chance whatsoever that he swipes 23 bags again.

That means he’s valuable as a fantasy baseball second baseman because the position is so thin, but if his career year has him go before the 12th round or so, or if his auction price is more than $12(ish) dollars, he won’t return value.

Matt Carpenter

I profiled Matt Carpenter last season and gave a positive outlook for his value at the back end of a draft. After the season a reader pointed out how I didn’t predict his career year.

I own that. He certainly blew past everyone’s even optimistic expectations. To paraphrase the immortal bard, there are more things in heaven and earth, dear fantasy baseball fans, than were modeled in our projections of Matt Carpenter.

But is that good news or bad news for 2014?

The answer is mixed. As I’ve written before, his plate discipline is elite. Read that if you want the full story, but the Cliff Note version is that I don’t think it’s possible for him to bat below .285, and .300+ is likely. Plus, he is a dream in leagues that count OBP.

The bad news is that he had 126 runs in 2013. I know what you are thinking. That sounds like good news, doesn’t it? It was so good that being 17 runs above the 2nd place Mike Trout vaulted him to the top of a lot of fantasy baseball player rankings. The bad news is that that type of run production is quite rare and almost never repeats. If 2014 brings 100 or even 105, it stills marks around a 20% decrease in that aspect of his fantasy value.

But I’ve learned not to underestimate Matt Carpenter. So I’m not saying that he won’t match his 2013 season, but I am typing it. The risk isn’t that he’ll be bad in 2014 – he won’t be – it’s that you’ll have to pay for a career year.

In an industry expert mock draft I’m participating in, Carpenter went early 4th round, but that was largely driven by panic created by a run on second basemen. I’d hope snatch him around the 7th round or for a $21 bid.

Topics: Daniel Murphy, Matt Carpenter, New York Mets, Second Base, St. Louis Cardinals

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