Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Seriously, What Happened to Neil Walker's Switch Hitting Ability?

Neil Walker was a hot mess this year as a right-handed batter against lefties.  It's to the point where there is legitimate talk about putting him a platoon situation.  Good news is that he is still fantastic against RHP's, of which there are significantly more pitchers.

But it wasn't always this way.  What it has been is a long, steep decline.  Check out his splits for each of his full seasons (2010 to 2013).

v. RHP -- .298/.353/.465 (818 OPS), 123 wRC+
v. LHP -- .295/.344/.464 (809 OPS), 118 wRC+

As a refresher, wRC+ is weighted Runs Created above average.  100 is the base level, so Walker was 23% better than average against RHP and 18% better than average against LHP.  There is virtually no split at all here.  It's pretty much the perfect example of a switch hitter.

v. RHP -- .277/.340/.434 (773 OPS), 114 wRC+
v. LHP -- .269/.322/.350 (672 OPS), 86 wRC+

OK, starting to go downhill, but it's still manageable.  The disconcerting part is that his isolated power dropped to .081 versus LHP.  If Walker could hold the line here, it would be acceptable, but not preferred.

v. RHP -- .291/.352/.473 (825 OPS), 126 wRC+
v. LHP -- .246/.314/.288 (602 OPS), 69 wRC+

Well, now the wheels are off the wagon completely.  He's not even hitting for an empty average, as his .246 is poor.  Even worse is his isolated power is now at .052, which is Juan Pierre-esque.  And his weighted Runs Created continues to drop like an anvil in a lake.

v. RHP -- .256/.350/.455 (805 OPS), 127 wRC+
v. LHP -- .225/.281/.238 (519 OPS), 48 wRC+

I mean...c'mon now, Neil.  There's no way to defend any part of this horrible line.  A .013 isolated power?  Neil hit 1 double, 0 triples, and 0 home runs this year.  And he's 52% worse than average against lefties.

Just take a second and look at the steep and consistent decline in those numbers from year-to-year.  That's jarring.  It's at the point where someone has to say to him "Stop switch hitting, Neil."
It literally can not be worse if he batted full time as a lefty.

I am a big advocate of giving Neil Walker a moderate extension.  I'm proposing something along the lines of 4 years/$30M.  The contract would buy out the three remaining arbitration years (Walker is a Super 2) and his first free agent year.  That would take Walker through his age-31 season.  By that time, Alen Hanson would hopefully be able to take over at 2B.  My Hanson estimate is that he would be ready in mid-2015, so Hanson could apprentice in the middle infield at either SS or backup both SS and 2B.

In the meantime, for the love of baseball, stop switch hitting Neil.

1 comment:

  1. You REEEALLY want that "Neil Walker Baseball Academy for Kids Who Don't Play Baseball So Good And Want to Learn to Do Other Things Good Too!", don't you?

    He absolutely needs to drop switch hitting. If he won't, he should be platooned.