Neil Walker is a popular man in Pittsburgh, some teammates even call him The Mayor. But now the hometown kid is on a mission to make it known that he’s the best second baseman in the league. Some might laugh at that, but when healthy, Walker, who now plays without an appendix, is an absolute monster.
Maybe it was the appendix that was holding back his power? But seriously, let’s look at some of the numbers Dave Littlefield’s 2004 first round pick has put up this season:
In his last twenty at-bats, he has ten hits. In the month of July his OPS is 1.022. With runners in scoring position he is hitting .289 and his OPS is .850 in those clutch situations. In his last 29 games at PNC Park, he has hit safely in 25 games with six doubles, four bombs and has plated fourteen of his teammates as the Pirates have surged back into the pennant race.
Among National League second baseman he is the leader in homers with 15 and RBI with 48. Remember all that noise about hitting left handed pitching? The Pittsburgh Kid has 19 hits against lefties, batting average of .292, and all of this comes after getting just 18 hits in limited opportunities against southpaws last season.
Looking deeper at Walker’s season he has a wRC+ of 135 and Fangraphs has Neil Walkers’ performance at 2.0 WAR--which still seems to be drug down by a negative defensive rating. The infield hit percentage is at a career low–just one this season, but he also has a career high in infield fly ball percentage. So there is room for improvement in that regard along with his line drive percentage which is right around his career average.
One stat that many point too is just how lucky has a hitter had it during the season? Batting average on balls in play can fortell some of that luck factor, but Walker’s BABIP is right around the league average.
The more we look, the more the numbers say there is plenty more of both offensive and defensive performance from the Bucs clean-up hitter. Coming into the season, Walker told us on the RumBunter Podcast that his goal was consistency and we are starting to see that from his performance. Since May he has collected 69 hits in 226 at-bats with nine homers, 12 doubles and a triple.
A consistent and healthy Neil Walker is a scary thought if you’re an opposing pitcher. Especially if you disect the fact that the Pirates play in more one run games than any team in baseball. And when all the chips are stacked on the table, Walker delivers—check out the stat line known as late/close–Walker is hitting .396 with an OPS of 1.013 in those situations.
That’s money in the bank.
Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates