Walker’s late-season improvements

July 11, 2010- Milwaukee, WI. Miller Park..Pittsburgh Pirates Neil  Walker gets ready for the next pitch, Walker was hitless at the plate today..Milwaukee Brewers won over the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5, sweeping the pirates in a three game series at Miller Park..Mike McGinnis / CSM.

Neil Walker - Mike McGinnis/CSM (ZumaPress)

In late July, I wrote the following about Neil Walker:

However, that walk rate has crashed back toward his career mark upon his arrival in Pittsburgh. It currently sits at 5.7%. Connecting the dots, we see that Walker’s offense is being driven by an unsustainably high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .366. Using this Expected BABIP (xBABIP) calculator, we find that his xBABIP is just .310. When the actual number inevitably regresses down to that expected level, Walker’s overall stats are going to take a serious hit.

Of course, Walker proceeded to make me look very stupid in August. His numbers, buoyed by a .361 BABIP, actually improved over the course of the month despite a 5.9% walk rate. I predicted regression, and Walker just kept hitting.

His BABIP finally fell off a cliff in September, and his overall batting average dropped along with it. However, his overall production remained above average, thanks to dramatic improvements in his walk and strikeout rates. By walking in 11.4% of his final 132 plate appearances, Walker finished the season with a 7.2% walk rate. That is still a bit below average, but it is high enough to keep Walker afloat during any stretches of misfortune on balls in play.

Month PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA BABIP
May 29 3.4% 10.7% 0.321 0.345 0.464 0.353 0.360
Jun 91 5.5% 22.6% 0.286 0.319 0.464 0.331 0.328
Jul 99 6.1% 24.2% 0.319 0.364 0.462 0.361 0.397
Aug 118 5.9% 20.4% 0.306 0.359 0.491 0.368 0.361
Sept/Oct 132 11.4% 14.8% 0.270 0.351 0.435 0.343 0.284
Overall 469 7.2% 19.5% 0.296 0.349 0.462 0.351 0.340

I finished my original article with the following sentence:

Quite simply, if he does not improve his patience and begin taking some more walks, Walker will not continue having success at the plate.

Well, Walker did begin drawing more walks. As a result, he continued contributing to the Pirates offense despite a falling average.

  • I don’t think you’re too hard on yourself. I thought your sample size was too small. I wasn’t 100% sure he’d adjust, but you were dishing grief to a guy who was on a hot streak. I wasn’t saying he’d do what he did, but I thought you were jumping the gun on him.

    The thing is, he just wasn’t making contact, he was hitting the shit out of the ball, even when he made an out. It was seeing eye hits, but legitimately struck balls all of the time.

    The real question is, he’s now a known quantity. Pitchers are going to adjust to him next year, especially with a whole off season to figure out his weaknesses. How is he going to adjust after the pitchers adjust to him?

    If he can adjust, and that’s a huge if, then he’s going to be a legit major leaguer, with all star potential. I thought your original write up left 0 chance of this, which I felt was premature.

  • You’re too hard on yourself man, if you remember correctly there was a period immediately following your article on Neil’s production when exactly what you predicted happened. I’m calling you Mattsradamous from now on. Well, if I could spell it I would.

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