Sean Murphy is a ball magnet. This year, he has been hit by 17 pitches. That's more than Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies have combined, who are second and third on the team in HBPs. Even more impressive, however, is that Murphy's done it in 757 fewer PAs than it took Acuña and Albies.
But, Murphy isn't just excellent at getting hit by pitches compared to his Braves teammates. He's better than almost anyone else in the league.
So, what does Murphy do differently to get hit so often?
Why Sean Murphy gets hit so often
Sean Murphy went viral last season when he was still with Oakland for a very memorable hit-by-pitch, but the catcher is excellent at getting hit by pitches in general.
It's easy to assume the reason is that Murphy crowds the plate but that isn't necessarily true. Compared to a guy like Anthony Rizzo, whose hands are over the plate before a pitch is thrown, Murphy's relatively far back.
You might think that Murphy just gets more pitches on the inside part of the plate but that also isn't true. In fact, pitches are thrown away from Murphy 44% of the time, compared to 36% of pitches thrown inside. The other 20% of pitches are thrown over the middle of the plate.
Despite this, it seems like every time Murphy gets pitched inside, this happens:
So... if Murphy doesn't see an abundance of inside pitches and he doesn't crowd the plate, then why does he get hit so often? Because the All-Star catcher wants to get hit.
Murphy isn't a pitch dodger (or a Los Angeles Dodger, thankfully). He won't jump away from a pitch that is riding in on him. Instead, he turns his shoulder and elbow into pitches. His feet often stay planted until after the pitch passes. Sometimes, the ball misses, like it does here:
But other times, it gives Murphy a free pass to first, like it does here:
Compare that to what happens when Ronald Acuña Jr. gets a pitch up an in.
Acuña jumps away from the pitch. While he's been hit plenty of times this year, when he does, the ball finds him. Murphy, on the other hand, finds the pitch.
The Braves catcher isn't doing something egregious, like what Michael Conforto did when he got a walk-off hit-by-pitch on a strike, but he's certainly not shying away from balls.
It's an effective strategy for the Braves backstop. Without his 17 HBPs, his .379 OBP drops to .350, which would drop his OPS from .899 to .870.
What's shocking is that Murphy does this without wearing any productive equipment. There aren't many people who can take a 95 on the elbow and walk to first as if nothing happened.