David Murphy might understand the ebbs and flows of the baseball season better than anyone else on the Rangers.
The stretch from April through August is so long and full of so many games that they start to blur together without much to differentiate one from another. Come September -- assuming you're in contention -- the mind turns to the playoffs and everyone starts paying a bit more attention to what's going on.
And that's when Murphy springs into action. Last September, Murphy filled in for an injured Josh Hamilton and hit .355 and posted a 944 OPS to help the Rangers put the finishing touches on their division title. That was impressive, but it was pretty mediocre compared to what Murphy is doing this time around.
Nelson Cruz is the injured party this time and Murphy is hitting so well that no one is asking Cruz to come back to the lineup. Murphy is hitting .426, slugging .809 and Tuesday night's four-hit game was his third of the month.
Murphy has homered in all of those games, putting him in some pretty rare company. Baseball Time in Arlington crunched the numbers and found that one in 321 players who gets four plate appearances in a game finishes that game with at least four hits and one home run. Murphy has done it three times in the last 10 games, a fairly shocking development for a player who spent most of the season doing his best impersonation of a washed-up player one step away from the independent leagues.
When Murphy went on his big run last year, the Rangers had no shot of losing their lead in the division. This year, he's been crucial to staying in front of the Angels and Ron Washington's made it clear that he doesn't see Murphy's playing time going away once Cruz is fully reintegrated into the lineup. It seems likely that the Rangers will play Murphy in left against righthanders with Hamilton in center and it is all because Murphy has gotten hot at the right time.
It is quite a hot streak, to be sure, but if he had the same hot streak in July there's no chance he'd be part of the starting lineup in October. All of the total numbers would look the same, but he'd still just be a fifth outfielder hoping to grab some at-bats because his midsummer run would have faded in the face of months of more mundane results.
Showmanship doesn't normally come into the equation when you're evaluating baseball players, but it isn't something to forget when it comes to Murphy. It might just be his best skill.