Braves: Is Sean Murphy a legitimate MVP candidate?

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When the Braves traded for Sean Murphy–understandably–some fans were skeptical.

I was a little myself; not that I didn’t think Murphy was a fantastic player, but because the Braves already had two All-Star catchers on their roster in Travis d’Arnaud and William Contreras. It seemed like the potential upgrade from Contreras to Murphy would be minimal, and Contreras was on a rookie contract. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Contreras is a terrific young player, and he’s performing well with the Brewers, but he is no Sean Murphy.

The newest face in Atlanta behind the plate has been a superstar in all facets. Defensively, he’s come as advertised. He’s the best backstop in baseball and is well on his way to another Gold Glove award. But it’s his offense that could potentially propel him to an NL MVP.

Even after a quiet night at the plate on Wednesday, Murphy leads all catchers in every offensive category. He’s still second in Major League Baseball in OPS, racking up 18 extra-base hits (nine homers and nine doubles) in just 33 games. That’s incredible production that–when combined with his defense–undoubtedly makes him a legitimate MVP candidate.

The question is whether this offense from Murphy is sustainable?

In Oakland, Murphy was an above average offensive player, recording a 122 wRC+ (22% better than league average). But that pales in comparison to what he’s doing this season, boasting a 178 wRC+ (78% above league average). Coming into the year, the most homers Murphy had ever hit in a season was 18, which came in 2022. He’s currently on pace to mash 39 this year, which would be more than he hit in 2021 and 2022 combined.

So will he slow down? The answer is yes; nobody can stay this hot forever, but for several reasons I expect him to shatter all of his previous offensive numbers.

The Oakland Coliseum is one of the least hitter-friendly ballparks in baseball. Playing half of his games at Truist Park will almost assuredly result in a few more homers. But more importantly, the lineup Murphy had around him in Oakland was putrid.

In Atlanta, Murphy has been a much more patient hitter. His walk-rate is up nearly 6% from a year ago, now sitting at 15.2%. And when he does decide to take a hack, he’s finding his pitch and making the most of it. He is clearly benefitting from being in the middle of a Braves lineup that is a nightmare for opposing pitchers. There are no breaks, and that’s not going to change as long as Murphy is in Atlanta. This could be the beginning of something special for the Braves most recent acquisition.

Photo: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire

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