Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Neil Walker is having a Career Year…… or is he?

Over the first quarter of the 2014 season Neil Walker is putting up some impressive offensive numbers. He is tied with Pedro Alvarez for the team lead in HRs with 8. Among National League second basemen only Chase Utley and Daniel Murphy have a higher OPS than the .803 that Walker has posted. Only once in his career has Walker eclipsed an .800 OPS, and that was back in his shortened rookie season of 2010. The advanced metrics seem to support Walker maintaining this offensive pace. His Home Run numbers will likely tail off some, but his .265 batting average should rise. He is striking out less than ever, just a 12.0% rate this season, and he hasn’t benefited from much good fortune. He has just a .262 Avg. on balls in play (BABIP) this season. His career BABIP is .309. Eventually he should start finding more holes in opposing defenses. Walker has already created 25 runs of offense. That puts him on pace for 100 this season, which would shatter his career high of 79 set in 2011. So yes, it does appear Neil Walker is on his way to a career year.
But there is a catch, or in Neil Walker’s case it might be a lack of catches. A large chuck of Walker’s offensive value has been negated by some rather bad defensive numbers. Walker is last among all second basemen this season with a -7 in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). That puts him on pace for -28 DRS for the season. Last season he was +9 DRS. Obviously this season has been a drastic swing in the wrong direction when it comes to his defense. I don’t think Walker’s DRS stats for this season are a true representation of his defensive talents. Defensive stats require much larger sample sizes than 40 games to make any real determination on ability. But the stat can’t be ignored either. They do reflect his defensive performance for the season thus far. When you subtract the -7 DRS from his 25 Runs Created on offense you get 18 runs. That is what Walker has been worth to the Pirates this year. That puts him on track to be worth 72 runs this season. That is actually less than what he produced in 2013 when he was worth 78 runs (69 RC + 9 DRS =78 Runs). So is Walker having a career year? I still say yes, but the defense has got to start leveling out.

1 Comment

  1. if his offense stays consistent his defense will come along, It almost looks like he pouts after a bad at bat or two and i think that has something to do with his play at second. noticed this at the end of last year but i think his offense will stay solid especially after they adds polancos bat soon

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