NEIL WALKER ONE OF BASEBALL’S BEST HITTING SECOND BASEMAN?
Second baseman Neil Walker might be the most important offensive player in the stretch run to the Pirates earning their first post-season berth in 20 years. Walker batting .291 with 13 home runs and 65 RBIs, is hitting .320 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs since June 1st.
It’s been Walker’s ability to hit in key situations which has helped fuel the Pirates offensively. With runners in scoring position, Walker is hitting .320 with 5 home runs and 54 RBIs and he’s been clutch, hitting .333 with 3 homers and 25 RBIs with runners in scoring position and 2-outs.
Walker’s strikeout numbers are up over last year (on pace for 134 strikeouts) which is alarming to some scouts but statistically speaking, Walker is one of baseballs best hitting second baseman.
MAJOR LEAGUE RANKS AMONG SECOND BASEMEN
*Tied for 1st in RBIs (65)
*2nd in home runs (13)
*2nd in OBP (.356)
*3rd in OPS (.808)
*4th SLG (.452)
*6th in batting average .291 (5th in NL)
Walker’s improved fielding has also played a big part in the Pirates going from dead last in defensive efficiency just two years ago in 2010 to now tied for second in the Majors after being 25th in defensive efficiency last season. He’s more than just a so called over-rated hometown player by the fan base, local media.
***Starling Marte has flashed his star potential this week with power and an excellent arm in left field. His plate discipline will continue to be a concern but he’s one of the few players on this roster who can be a game changer.
*** There’s a bit of concern inside the organization of the Pirates bullpen wearing down in the coming weeks. Manager Clint Hurdle went public yesterday about Jared Hughes drop in velocity and the Pirates have also witnessed a drop in velocity from 8th inning setup man Jason Grilli. Hughes who has a respectable 2.82 ERA on the season, has given up seven runs in his last seven innings pitched. Management feels they are going to need more arms which has the team preparing Justin Wilson on the side for possible relief duty in September. Wilson (9-5, 3.88 ERA) tossed a no hitter last night for Indianapolis Indians, throwing 6 1/3 perfect innings and a no hitter through eight innings before heavy rain caused the contest between the Indianapolis Indians and the Charlotte Knights to be called Thursday night at Victory Field. While the Pirates see Wilson being an option for bullpen duty in September, Pirate officials insist that the team regards him as a long-term starter despite trying to sell teams at the deadline of Wilson being a future closer as he can bring the heat and has 126 strikeouts in 125 innings this season. Jeff Locke on Thursday had a promising outing in relief of the struggling Wandy Rodriguez throwing 2.1 scorless innings. They have some long relief options
***When the Pirates acquired Travis Snider (.280 – 3 HR – 10 RBI), a few scouts when asked about Snider made the reference that he’s Jose Tabata in that he’s a singles hitter but with more home run power. Snider now has one extra base hit in 28 at-bats with the Pirates.
***The San Diego Padres come into tonight’s game vs Pirates, winners of nine straight at PNC Park.
*** Major League Baseball announced on Thursday that the post-season schedule is set to open with the inaugural pair of Wild Card Games on Friday, October 5th. The Pirates would be playing the Atlanta Braves in the inaugural wildcard game if the playoffs started today. The Pirates enter Friday’s action 2.5 games back of the Cincinnati Reds who have lost five straight.
Game One of the 108th World Series is scheduled for Wednesday, October 24th in the ballpark of the National League Champions.
Changes to the Postseason format include the following:
Clubs from the same division will be allowed to play one another in either the Wild Card Game or the Division Series.
Tiebreaker games will be played to determine Division Championships, even if the two tied Clubs are assured of participating in the Postseason. If a Division Championship tiebreaker game is necessary, the head-to-head record between the tied Clubs will determine home-field advantage. If the head-to-head record is tied, then division record will be the next tiebreaker.
If two Clubs are tied for both Wild Card berths, home-field advantage will be determined by the head-to-head record between the tied Clubs. If the head-to-head record is tied, then division record will be the next tiebreaker.
NL CENTRAL STANDINGS
1. Cincinnati Reds (66-46)
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (63-48, 2.5 GB)
3. St. Louis Cardinals (61-51, 5 GB)
4. Milwaukee Brewers (51-59, 14 GB)
5. Chicago Cubs (44-66, 21 GB)
6. Houston Astros (36-77, 30.5 GB)
NL WILDCARD STANDINGS
1. Atlanta Braves (64-47)
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (63-48)
3. St. Louis Cardinals (61-51, 2.5 GB)
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (60-52, 3.5 GB)
5. Arizona Diamondbacks (57-55, 6.5 GB)
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