Share This Page

Stats Corner: Pirates' Walker swinging smartly, driving pitches with power

| Saturday, April 26, 2014, 7:37 p.m.

Who is the Pirates' premier power hitter? The easy answer is Pedro Alvarez, but Neil Walker has blasted his way into the conversation.

Walker has launched six home runs already, tying Alvarez for the team lead and Minnesota's Brian Dozier for most among major league second basemen.

He's not hitting wall-scrapers, either: Walker is tied with Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Mark Trumbo for the National League lead in “no doubt” home runs, which ESPN Hit Tracker defines as homers that clear the fence by at least 20 vertical feet and land at least 50 feet past the fence.

Walker is showing unprecedented pop thanks to a more enlightened approach. He's swinging at fewer pitches outside of the strike zone (O-Swing) and taking a cut at more offerings thrown over the plate (Z-Swing). By swinging at strikes and laying off junk pitches, Walker has gotten ahead in the count in 39 percent of his plate appearances, well above the 34 percent MLB average.

Finding his pitch

Year O-Swing Z-Swing

2014 27.4 71.4

Career Avg. 31.1 65.8

MLB Avg. 28.8 64.5

Source: Fangraphs.com

If Walker keeps getting the upper hand on pitchers and then punishes them with deep drives, he could make power-hitting history. ZiPS, a projection system on Fangraphs, expects Walker to finish the season with 22 home runs. That would set a single-season record by a Pirates second baseman.

Bill Mazeroski (19 home runs in 1958) is the leader, followed by George Grantham (18 in 1930) and Walker's 16-homer campaign last season.

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.