Daniel Murphy started 44 games and appeared in 46 of the Washington Nationals' first 47 games before Dusty Baker gave the veteran infielder a night off in the series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals last night.
In those 46 games, the 31-year-old former New York Met, who signed a 3-year/$37.5M deal with the Nats this winter, has put up a .394/.427/.617 line, 14 doubles, two triples and seven home runs.
Murphy's 69 hits lead the majors, as does his .394 average, and his 24 multi-hit games, and he's first in the NL and second overall in the majors with a 1.043 OPS.
"Murph has been more than I think anybody dreamed that he would be," Baker told reporters, including MASN's Byron Kerr, before Thursday night's game with the Cards.
Baker has been effusive in his praise of his second baseman all season, comparing him to some of the great hitters in the history of the game in recent weeks when asked to talk about the production he's received from the left-handed hitting contact bat.
"I've seen some pretty good hitters. George Brett and Tony Gwynn and Paul Molitor and some of these guys," Baker said after Murphy's 2 for 4 game against the Mets earlier this week, which saw Murphy hit his seventh home run off former teammate Matt Harvey.
"I'm going to have to give him a rest here soon, to save his legs, because Murph has been hitting, he hasn't had a down time the entire year, but he's concentrating -- he's at a very high concentration level and when he's getting his pitch, he's not missing many. Murph is the acquisition of the year in baseball. So, I'm just glad that we have him."
"We were trying to get Brandon earlier but I don’t think we could’ve done much better with a player than Daniel Murphy," Baker said.
Though Murphy didn't play in last night's game, he was still working hard on his day off.
He was out on the field early working with fellow infielder Stephen Drew and coach Chris Speier after he made a costly error (his fifth) in the Nats' loss in the series finale with the Mets, botching a tailor-made double play grounder and setting New York up with an RBI opportunity they cashed in for their second run in the 2-0 win.
"Errors are part of the game sometimes," Baker said after the loss.
"We don't make many. That was just -- I didn't exactly see what happened -- usually it's the case where it's an in-between hop or either you take your eye off the ball. Murph works hard. He takes it hard when he doesn't make the plays."
And he works hard after them. All the hard work has paid off, as he's picked up where he left off last season in his strong run in his final season in New York.
With hits in 20 of 24 games played in May, Murphy has continued to hover around .400 two months into his first season in D.C., which is something Baker said last week you don't see all that often.
"Barry Bonds maybe. And maybe Joey Votto at some point in time," he said when asked if he remembered the last time he had a hitter closer to .400 at this point.
"Yeah, boy I don't know, it's been a while. I mean, that's hitting .400 for a long time.
"It's just hard to imagine guys like Rod Carew and George Brett and Ted Williams and those guys hitting almost .400 the whole season. Boy that's quite a feat. Especially because you get tired.
"You get tired running the bases if you're doing all of the hitting cause you're always on base and you're always running, so that's a big tribute to Daniel."
It's up to Baker to find ways to get his second baseman some rest when he can and do what he can to keep Murphy fresh all season.
"He’s been on base an awful lot," Baker said before last night's game.
"I told you that we had to watch to keep his legs strong because he’s always in a squat. This is a day to get his legs worked on and get everything back strong till the next day off."