NY Mets second baseman Neil Walker struggled at the plate in April, hitting only .195/273/.310. But the month of May was much kinder with Walker hitting .321/.368/.538. Last season was a career year offensively for the Mets second baseman, as he set or tied career highs in HRs, OBP and SLG. He was especially improved against left-handed pitching. Batting an outstanding .330/.391/.610 compared to a career line against lefties of .270/.328/.376.
Neil Walker Splits
Against left-handed pitching this year, Walker is hitting .279/.354/.419, much closer to his career numbers than to last season’s great numbers. His numbers against right-handed pitchers this season are .260/.315/.440 compared to a career line against righties of .274/.341/.454. So he’s slightly under performing his career numbers against right-handed pitching this year.
He seems to be pulling the ball more against righties. See this batted balls spray chart comparing last season to this season. It could be because he’s been too quick in his swing.
Changing Batting Approach
How has Walker changed his swing? The first way is by eliminating a toe tap that he used as a timing mechanism during most of his career. He got rid of the toe tap last season when batting right-handed and produced great results. This spring, he worked to get rid of the toe tap when batting left-handed as well. Walker wanted to quicken and simplify his swing. It also makes both his left-handed and right-handed swings more alike. It’s taken some work for him to get comfortable with. It might be why he struggled in April. It also could have led to the increase in pulling balls that we see in his spray charts.
Another batting technique that Walker has talked about is increasing the launch angle of his swing. That is something that former Met Daniel Murphy has successfully incorporated into his swing. For him it has resulted in much more power without sacrificing contact rates. We can see Walker’s launch angles last season and so far this season in the chart below.
You can see more of an upward angle this season. However, so far it doesn’t seem to be generating the type of power that Murphy has. In the first 2 months of last season, Walker had 4 doubles, 0 triples, 13 home runs and a .523 SLG. This season, he has 13 doubles, 1 triple, 6 home runs and a .435 SLG. The increase in doubles is more inline with Walker’s career production. The high number of homers last season might have been more of an outlier.
This season could be Neil Walker’s last as a NY Met. He’ll be a free agent this winter and as discussed in this article, he might not be the Mets Second Baseman of the future.