Rookie A’s catcher Sean Murphy played in just 20 games in 2019. and when he is out of the lineup nowadays, his presence is missed.
The 25-year-old from Peekskill, N.Y. is known for his maturity but most importantly his ability to really know his pitchers and do his homework. He is constantly thanked and appreciated by veterans and young players alike on the mound.
Murphy made his MLB debut in 2019 before starting behind the plate for the 2020 season opener. In 43 games this season, Murphy is tied for third among qualified AL catchers in fielding percentage and is fourth in runners caught stealing with six. At the plate, Murphy is batting .233 in 140 plate appearances, with 7 HR, 14 RBI and 27 hits.
Individual stats, though, don’t capture all of the contributions a catcher can make to a team. The A’s have a 3.77 team ERA, fifth-lowest in the majors and while the pitchers get much all the credit, attention is also deserved for those who are calling the games and helping pitchers get their best possible outings. Obviously pitchers need to hit their spots, but trust in their catcher plays a huge part.
Murphy said he would rather catch a shutout in every game than hit a home run everyday, and that shows how much of a team player he is:
“My favorite part of baseball is being on the same page as the pitcher and kinda cruising through a game. I love when that happens. It is a satisfying feeling when you know that your reports are right and the pitcher is executing and you are on the same page.”
A’s pitching coach Scott Emerson has been very vocal about what Murphy has been able to do in his short times in the bigs. When he and Murphy talk about each pitcher, he said he doesn’t really need to teach him or tell him too much:
“Murphy behind the plate has been outstanding for us and to touch on Murph’s baseball intelligence … he is off the charts as well. I actually let him kinda start and run the meetings and he gets out notes and he is well prepared, well studied. I have him start and run the meeting, I think that is important. I have to trust the catcher on the important stuff because he is putting the finger down and suggestions down but of course during innings, part of my love of the game is to also dissect what the other team is trying to do.”
All season, just about every pitcher whether they are starters, relievers, veterans, rookies, even former catcher and A’s skipper Bob Melvin, all are impressed with the young stud’s abilities.
Chris Bassitt, with the third-best ERA in the American League at 2.29. gave all credit to his catcher Friday night, explaining the trust he has in such a young catcher:
“I think his homework that he does every single game is top of the line. I feel really good physically and think it is kinda the perfect storm. Today I felt great and when I have all my pitches working, Murphy can kinda toy with hitters the way that he is doing.”
Bassitt has been preaching that Murphy has every right to override him whenever the catcher feels necessary. In Friday’s 3-1 win against the Mariners, Bassitt was on the mound and shook his head about two or three times before finally coming set for the pitch. When asked later about the sequence, Bassitt explained what was going on with the signs:
“He called for a sinker in and I shook it off. He said sinker in again and right then and there, I said alright here we go. His maturity and his pitch calling is top in the big leagues. I mean, that is what happened. I shook him off sinker in and he threw down sinker in again and I said alright, I know for a fact this is the best pitch to throw and obviously I got the last out and yeah, that is on Murph.”
Emerson obviously charts the games and makes suggestions but explained that when he meets with the pitcher and catcher, they form a plan and they have a plan A, plan B, and plan C. If plan A isn’t working, they go to plan B, and if the opposing team picks up on plan B they have plan C.
Wright State University draftee Murphy helps put together the game plan with Emerson and the two figure out what works best for their pitchers. Success comes from Emerson’s knowledge of the game and Murphy’s ability to do his homework. Emerson said:
“I want guys doing their own homework sometimes. … I’m not pitching. I’m just putting the game plan together to do what I think is best for the pitchers but they might have another game plan and they might be feeling a certain way, so going out and getting outside information is fine with me as long as when we collaborate and we get it going, it works.”
At the plate, Murphy draws walks and hits homers (7, all solo) which are two things that look wonderful for an A’s resume. He is tied for third in the Majors for rookie walks, with 23 walks this season in 37 starts.
Oakland is 25-12 when Murphy starts this season. His teammates don’t look at him like a rookie, sometimes they even forget.
Murphy may not have been here for long but he has quickly earned the right to stay. Jesús Luzardo may be the name that comes to mind when thinking about stellar A’s rookies, but Murphy doesn’t seem to get enough credit for the hard work and success that has come this season.