At this point in the season, there’s almost zero doubt that the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to grab a playoff spot for the first time in what seems like a century, barring some sort of unforeseen meltdown. One of the keys to their final stretch run in the regular season is that of second baseman Neil Walker.
Walker hasn’t had the best of seasons this year, especially coming off of three consecutive seasons with a batting average no less than .273, at least 65 runs knocked in, and 12-14 home runs. This season, he’s hitting only .252, has knocked in only 37 runs, with just eight home runs. Not terrible numbers, but a noticeable decline.
The reason for his slip up isn’t too difficult to discern. His BABIP has dropped quite a bit, to only .287, which explains how his on-base percentage is still all the way up at .347. His other numbers are right in line with where they’ve been, including a wRC+ up at 109 and a solid wOBA of .327.
The month of August has been a big one for Walker, who missed much of July with an injury. He was struggling mightily prior to going to the disabled list, with an average of only .209 in June. It went up to .245 in July before jumping all the way up to .273 in the month of August.
Walker has scored 13 runs during August, his most during any month this season. His wRC+ is at 111, the highest it was since May. The power isn’t there, and Walker hasn’t knocked in many runs, but he’s a key figure for this offense, nonetheless. He gets on base, plays solid defense, and is a solid bat near the top of the order. He’s not an Andrew McCutchen type key for this offense, but he’s an important piece for the Pirates as we near the final month of the regular season.