So far this July, Neil Walker is hitting .362 with a .935 OPS. That is compared to his June, where he slumped with a .247 batting average and .701 OPS. Last week, Tim Williams wrote that the Pirates are getting the best version of Neil Walker at the perfect time, and I felt that this has been a continuous story for years for Walker as the calendar flipped to July. Let’s take a look at the trends of exactly how well he really does turn things on in July.

The July hot streak is not a new thing for Walker, as he hit similarly last year in June and July, batting .255/.362/.682 and .316/.558/.941 respectively in 2014. Statistics from every June and July in his career suggest Walker heats up regularly as the calendar turns to July. It is actually quite amazing to see the consistency in Walker hitting that much better in the month.

“I don’t know if it’s this time of year in particular,” said Walker. “For whatever reason, it takes me a little while to settle into my approach and settle into my swing to connect and get my swing off consistently. That’s something I was really fighting in the early going. For me, when I’m getting my swing off consistently and getting my foot down, I swing the bat like I’ve been swinging it recently.”

He isn’t kidding that it takes him some time to settle into his approach. See his career June and July splits below.

Neil Walker has consistently turned a corner going into July during his entire career.
Neil Walker has consistently turned a corner going into July during his entire career.

 

Since Neil Walker has entered the league, he has been at the very top of the tier of hitters in the month of July. It’s been very obvious how much Walker turns in on when the calendar turns, but exactly how good has Walker been compared to the rest of the league?

I took statistics from the month of July from the last six seasons (2010 – 2015) and filtered the players who have had at least 400 plate appearances over that time. I chose to use a minimum of 400 plate appearances to try to attest for the players that have been most durable over the month of July as well. The number was initially a minimum of 483 (~26 in the month with the All Star Game, 3.1 PA/G, 6 seasons), then I lowered it to 400 to allow some breathing room (and to allow Mike Trout to qualify in the results). Here is what I found.

Rk Player Split From To BA PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB OBP SLG OPS
1 Melky Cabrera July 2010 2015 .347 493 452 157 35 3 13 61 33 .388 .524 .913
2 Joe Mauer July 2010 2015 .345 470 414 143 28 0 8 58 50 .416 .471 .887
3 Neil Walker July 2010 2015 .336 525 473 159 32 4 19 77 41 .390 .541 .932
4 Buster Posey July 2010 2015 .330 430 385 127 25 1 17 73 35 .388 .532 .921
5 Ryan Zimmerman July 2010 2014 .328 511 454 149 29 0 22 79 49 .391 .537 .929
6 Mike Trout July 2011 2015 .322 427 370 119 23 4 27 71 43 .403 .624 1.027
7 Delmon Young July 2010 2014 .321 408 383 123 27 1 12 58 17 .353 .491 .844
8 Robinson Cano July 2010 2015 .318 604 541 172 41 5 19 88 53 .381 .518 .898
9 Miguel Cabrera July 2010 2015 .318 529 449 143 29 2 29 92 70 .405 .586 .990
10 Adrian Gonzalez July 2010 2015 .318 568 509 162 24 0 22 98 47 .376 .495 .871
11 Marlon Byrd July 2010 2015 .317 470 432 137 22 4 14 53 28 .370 .484 .854
12 Daniel Murphy July 2011 2015 .316 481 456 144 43 3 6 55 20 .347 .463 .809
13 Andrew McCutchen July 2010 2015 .316 559 484 153 30 8 25 87 64 .394 .566 .960
14 Carlos Gonzalez July 2010 2015 .315 418 381 120 23 3 23 65 32 .368 .572 .941
15 Freddie Freeman July 2011 2014 .314 449 392 123 24 3 16 72 50 .396 .513 .909

As you can see, the only players that have a better batting average than Walker over the past six years in July are Melky Cabrera and Joe Mauer. From an OPS standpoint, Walker would be fifth using these metrics. Therefore, Walker isn’t only the best hitting over the last half decade in July for the Pirates, he is one of the best in the league.

The Pirates are a team in need of their second baseman continuing his hot summer hitting through the rest of the year, especially in the next six weeks or so while Josh Harrison is out with a torn UCL in his thumb. His three home runs in July are a welcome sign, especially when he only had four going into the month.

Another thing about Neil Walker that is a welcoming sign so far this year is the fact that he has been able to stay healthy. Throughout his career, Walker has been plagued with injury after injury, from concussions to back problems to an appendectomy. Health, of course, is an extremely important aspect of Walker’s game. This season, Walker has been seeing a MAT (Muscle Activation Techniques) Specialist, who has tweaked his post game recovery process and routine to help him stay healthy. Walker said that he has employed some different methods of recovery like using the ice tub more regularly.

“The most important thing for me – staying on the field,” Walker said.

I’d say that’s the most important thing for the Pirates, as well.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. With the trade deadline approaching it’s time to consider what are the best moves for the Pirates to make to improve the club. Looking at the team statistics the Pirates are relatively weak in team power and defense. Here’s my list ranking the team’s starters with regards to who are the “weakest links” , which reveals where the Pirates need to make a move to improve the team

    1. Alvarez at 1B
    2. Mercer at SS
    3. Polanco RF
    4. Kang 3B
    5. Walker 2B
    6. Cervelli C
    7. Marte LF
    8. Cutch CF

    The best moves the Pirates could make would be the following:

    1) Obtain one or two RH power hitting 1B / RF types (quality players). This is the type of player they hoped Hart could be but wasn’t. Trade Alvarez for one of these if possible.
    2) Obtain a power hitting 3B man combined with moving Kang from 3B to SS replacing Mercer. Mercer may be slightly better than Kang defensively but his offense just doesn’t cut it.

    • I do not think we want to see Kang defensively at SS man. Kang is not a problem at 3B. He’s been clutch and hit well, although not for significant home run numbers.

      I would be interested in seeing Alvarez traded IF the Pirates could acquire Adam Lind (who just as a fun fact is right behind McCutchen currently in OPS amongst the league leaders list). His loft and approach at the plate would destroy the ball at PNC Park.

      Wonder if we could trade Alvarez (plus) to a team like the Athletics for Kazmir/Clippard and Zobrist.

      • I don’t have a problem with Kang at 3rd. He has played well there. But his bat profiles better at SS. The Pirates need more SLG and 1st and 3rd are the places to get it. Moving Kang to SS keeps his bat in the lineup with only a small drop in defensive performance at SS if the right 3rd baseman can be found.

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