The Mets might have an issue in the middle of their infield. Second baseman Neil Walker, a month into his Queens tenure, was walked only thrice while striking out on 18 occasions, drawing free passes at a rate worse than almost all of his positional peers. That's not what you expect out of a guy whose on-base percentage the past five years ranks in the top 10 among the more than 50 qualified second basemen. Hell, his name is Walker.
Yes, that was a joke. It's all factually true -- he's whiffing a ton and walking barely at all -- but Walker has had a great month. His nine home runs are tied for the Major League lead with
Babe Ruth Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado and Trevor "NeverEnding" Story, while sporting a healthy .306/.330/.635 slash line. The Mets have won almost twice as often as they've lost, and Walker is a big reason why.
Let's talk about the dingers, though. Everybody loves mashing dingers.
Walker's past four weeks have been straight out of the Daniel Murphy playbook, October 2015 chapter. He's an above-average offensive second baseman who normally has some pop, but not this much pop. Walker hit 16 homers last year, and a career-high 23 the year before that. His 162-game average -- what we might expect if he played every game all season, based on his entire Major League career -- is 19 long balls.
What that means is the obvious: This is unsustainable for Walker. Right now, more than one out of every four fly balls Walker hits goes over the fence. That's a crazy-high rate, one that is well above Walker's career average and the league average (both about one home run for every 10 fly balls).
It's worth noting, too, that Walker is hitting fly balls overall at a greater rate than normal. More than half of all pitches he has put in play have gone through the air, well above his normal rate of about one-third. (Conversely, Walker's ground-ball rate is down to 27 percent from his usual 40.)
Walker seems to be taking a "take it while you can get it" approach.
"I don't know what to tell you," Walker told MLB.com this week. "Maybe it's my age. Maybe I'm carrying more weight in my body. I mean, I'm not, but I really don't know. Maybe I've hit the peak of where I physically can be. But I don't feel any different. I'm not approaching my at-bats any different. I'm just trying to be aggressive, especially with fastballs, and stay on them and hit strikes."
That's not meant to pound the numbers into you or put a damper on a start (for player and team) that should have Mets fans downright giddy. Consider it merely a warning that this won't last forever. Enjoy Walker's run for what it is, while it lasts.
On that nothing-is-forever note, it's fair to expect Walker to walk more, too. His three walks in 83 plate appearances make for a 3.6 percent walk rate -- less than half of his career 8.0 mark. That approximately 4 percent difference is made up in Walker's K rate, up to 22 percent this year from 17 percent in his career.
Of course, fewer homers and more walks are just expectations. Walker has bucked expectations to this point. Therein lies the beauty -- and frustration -- of April. It's hard to tell at this juncture of the season what is legitimate and what is not, what is real and what is a mirage induced by the finally gorgeous spring weather.
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Follow Tim Healey on Twitter @timbhealey.