Sean Murphy needs to fix his major flaw in order to turn the Braves season around

Sean Murphy is playing a big role in the Braves' offensive woes this season, but he can still turn it around in the second half.

San Francisco Giants v Atlanta Braves
San Francisco Giants v Atlanta Braves / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

After spending the first two months of the season on the IL, Sean Murphy has not been his usual self at the plate. He is slashing .222/.293./.389 with an OPS of .682 so far in 2024, which is far from his usual numbers and production. More than ever, the struggling Braves could use a bat like Murphy's,
but the big issue stems from an uncharacteristic problem this year: his inability to hit the fastball.

Disclaimer: All statistics are reflective as of time of writing on morning of 7/6.

Catching up to the heat

The fastball is usually the pitch that most batters like to hit. It is the easiest pitch to track as a hitter, and the faster the ball comes in, the higher exit velocity a batter can get after squaring it up. Similar to most of the league, Sean Murphy has historically hit fastballs very well when compared to breaking and offspeed pitches, having a batting average of .275 and slugging .521 off of them in 2023.

This season, his production off of fastballs took a nosedive. He is currently batting .179 and slugging a mere .359 off of them, putting the most halt on his offensive performance thus far. To go along with that, he is whiffing on 26.1% of all fastballs he sees and has a put away percentage of 25%, meaning that one in every four fastballs he sees in a two-strike count results in a strikeout.

When specifically talking about the four-seam fastball, that was historically one of Sean Murphy's favorite pitches to hit. In 2023, Sean Murphy had a +15 run value when facing four-seamers, one of the highest in the league. This year, it is at a -1 run value, removing one of his largest contributions to the team as a batter.

Trending up?

While Murphy has struggled on fastballs so far, he has crushed off-speed pitching. Regardless of the minimal plate appearances he has had against them, Murphy is batting .250 (xBA of. .320) and slugging .750 (xSLG of .840) on all off-speed pitching this year, with his lowest whiff and put away percentage compared to the other two pitch types this year of 20% and 4.8% respectively.

To go along with that, Murphy has been crushing the baseball in the recent weeks, slugging .542 with a .313 batting average and 3 homers in the past 15 games, showing that things may be looking up for the Braves backstop.

At the end of the day, Sean Murphy has only played in 27 games this season, giving him much room to improve on his rather slow start. While metrics across the board seem down, especially on fastballs, he has proven historically that he can crush the baseball and I have heavy doubt that he has lost that ability in even the slightest way.

As it stands right now, it seems like Murphy has turned a corner during these last two weeks, and we may now be seeing the start of his rise in production in an Atlanta Braves lineup that desperately needs his bat. Atlanta's sits nine games back in the NL East right now, but a first-half of 2023 version of Sean Murphy returning could be the key to Atlanta's success.

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