Bob Walk (by Rusty S.)

Apart from Phil Niekro (17-4), Bob Walk was the only starting pitcher on the 1982 Atlanta Braves who managed a W/L record over .500 — and not by much. He was 11-9. Walk managed this despite posting a 4.87 ERA and a 1.448 WHIP. (His ERA+ was 77.) Illustrating the vagary of pitcher wins, these numbers indicate that Walk was probably the worst starter on the team that season. Accordingly, he did not get a start in the NLCS, and managed only one inning of relief in the series.

It really is amazing to look back at this team and see that they managed to win the division. I liken the 1982 Braves to the #14 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament who jumps out to a 13-0 lead. You start to think — could this really happen? Then you spend the next two hours sweating out the inevitable comeback. Usually, the underdogs get overtaken, but when they do hang on, it is a sweet experience. (Unless that #14 seed is Weber State.)

Walk was acquired by the Braves from Philadelphia after the 1980 season, for Gary Matthews, Sarge. Walk spent most of 1983 in the minors, and the Braves released him during Spring Training the following year. Pittsburgh signed him, and he spent most of 1984 and ’85 in the minors. He had a pretty decent career in Pittsburgh from 1986-1993, posting a career 3.83 ERA there (95 ERA+), including an All-Star appearance in 1988 at age 31.

Walk spent parts of 14 seasons in the majors, and ended his career with a 105-81 record and a 4.03 ERA.

90 thoughts on “Bob Walk (by Rusty S.)”

  1. Walk is currently the Pirates color guy, and not that bad at it. He also, of course, is in the all-time worst named players at their position, though the other players on that team escape me at the moment, other than the fact that it was his name that stopped Dexter Fowler from playing basketball.

  2. On Schaffer,

    On Talking Chop, some commenter about 10 days ago said that the reason the Dodgers flipped Peraza so fast was that they found he had a degenerative knee condition (and suspected the Braves thought something wasn’t right as well). When called to task on the source, this commenter said that he found out from a minor league coach and the coach also said they were looking at Jordan Schaffer with a possible switch to pitching. Commenter was still derided on that as well.

    Well, I am kind of proud of commenter. He got part of it right (on something that seemed way out in left field). So, he might well have it right on Peraza as well.

  3. Schafer to pitch? Wow.

    My first reaction was to laugh. Then I remembered that I’m somewhat reinventing myself for a different position at work. So… more power to him.

  4. @5, I thought the same thing. When the Pirates had Zane Smith and Bob Walk in the same rotation, I figured they intentionally formulated the most hideous pitching tandem in the majors.

  5. Rusty Kuntz. That guy has to be tough as nails. Imagine the dozens of asses he’d have to have kicked in middle school.

  6. I knew there had to be a pitcher named “Bean”:

    Beveric Benton Bean, aka “Belve”, played from 1930 to 1935

  7. Apparently there was a John Strike who played for the Quakers in 1886. He struck out 4 times in seven plate appearances.

  8. Coppy’s answering questions through the @Braves account on Twitter right now. Not that this is surprising, but:

  9. After trading Heyward and Simmons, I wouldn’t expect him to say anything different, but what do other people say about how WAR weighs defense? I think we’ve covered this a little bit, but I’d sure love for my general manager to have a good grasp on sabermetric stats, including knowing the deficiencies of each stat. If he’s right, then that gives me more confidence for the future.

  10. I find Coppy’s comments and attitude unsettling.

    Just using basic range factor data developed from play by play analysis, most of the classically good defenders fall into “WAR” arcs very consistent with their Hall of Fame induction / non induction. If defense isn’t a big deal, then Brooks Robinson and Ozzie Smith should not be in the Hall of Fame.

    If he said “We think we can measure defense more accurately than the public metrics,” then that is one thing. But if he says the stats are good for “absoltley nothing” either he is a liar or he is an incompetent.

  11. Defense == Pitching. Plus, the Braves have better data and metrics than what is publicly available. Don’t worry guys. He’s not saying defense isn’t important. He’s saying WAR weights it too high. There’s a difference.

  12. Defensive WAR isn’t a great tool. There really isn’t a good tool to measure defense. Maybe the number of out a player records?

  13. Defense is a huge deal. But the error bars around measurement of defense are much higher than those around pitching, plus (as Sam and others have pointed out), the scales are different — the best hitters in baseball may be able to produce 6 or 7 wins with their bat, while the best fielders can only produce 3 or 4 wins with their glove.

    FRAA and UZR are the best that we’ve got in the public domain, and they’re decent enough. But teams have invested a great deal in developing their own proprietary defensive metrics, and that’s what teams are undoubtedly increasingly relying on.

  14. He’s not saying defense isn’t important. He’s saying WAR weights it too high.

    He’s also not saying it’s unreliable in small samples, or that it’s an inaccurate measurement. Strange.

  15. He also said a couple of other interesting things:

    1) Freddie is the only untouchable player, otherwise they will be “opportunistic.”

    2) They’re leaning towards taking a college bat who can move quickly in the draft after loading up on high schoolers last year, but emphasized the best available player philosophy.

    3) They still think Olivera can play third; they just like him better in left. (This was in response to a question about what they’d do if/when Mallex Smith is ready.)

    4) Obliquely confirmed the intention to buy a lot of high ceiling international players next summer.

  16. I hear a lot about these supposedly superior proprietary metrics, and I gotta ask — with the number of really smart people having worked for so long to develop publicly available metrics, just how much better are these proprietary metrics supposed to be? We have tools to generate open data that’s just about as granular as it’s ever going to get, and years and years of open discussions on how best to interpret the data, how to develop metrics that reflect those interpretations, and how to alter those metrics based on robust peer review. The community that takes part in this process is vibrant, curious, and committed, and the lack of barrier to entry means additional perspectives get added all the time. And while a number of the best and smartest voices get hired away from the open discussion, does this benefit their talents? Are their subsequent efforts actually superior, or merely inoculated from knowledgeable criticism?

  17. WAR doesn’t weight offense and defense. Runs scored and runs prevented are given equal weight (if anything, runs saved should be weighted more heavily, but they’re not). If there’s a problem, it’s with the runs saved metrics that are fed into WAR…OR the ham-fisted positional adjustments that are used.

    In other words, the problem isn’t how you handle (or how you *weight*) runs saved, it’s *whether* runs saved can be reliably measured.

    Like others here, I find Coppy’s dismissiveness and lack of nuance here concerning, but I’m going to pretend he knows better but doesn’t want to give away his advantage.

    Or, it could be that gloves are easy to find and bats are scarce. There’s only one Andrelton but there are quite a few guys just a few runs worse in the field like Nick Ahmed or possibly Daniel Castro who also can’t hit.

  18. It’s also Twitter, so he can’t exactly give a dissertation about WAR’s flaws, real or perceived.

  19. Not worried about Coppy’s comments in the slightest. He knows what he’s doing.

    35—Good questions!

  20. I’d like to know what it describes that’s not already being described, what heretofore undiscovered revelations it’s supposed to unlock. The ratio of thought given and ink spilled to what constitutes actionable information in this area of endeavor has been more than sufficient for quite some time. I would be shocked if there was anything truly new under the sun.

  21. I would wager that there’s proprietary data available at a very steep price that comes from the fact that every play of every game for the last N years has been video’d from multiple angles, digitized, and processed to the point of knowing pretty much every variable involved. Ball trajectory and velocity, positioning and range covered, time of flight, etc etc.

  22. Clearly, there is high quality proprietary data, but what I wonder is whether that data really tells you that Nick Markakis isn’t ~25 runs worse than Jason Heyward in right field or that Erick Aybar isn’t ~20 runs worse than Andrelton Simmons at SS.

    Alex refers to the “error bars” here–are we really that far off base in these assumptiosn?

  23. I think the debate is really about whether those 25 runs should be weighted equally with offense. I don’t think it’s a zero sum game.

  24. Will that level of precision constitute new knowledge? The soft science aspects of sabermetrics intrude at some point, do they not? Shining an ever-brighter light on what is already known only accomplishes so much.

  25. Regardless of the debates over the quality of the in-house data, or the “penny saved is a penny earned” mindset of runs, I think he was as clear as he needed to be even within the confines of Twitter’s character limit: they just don’t value defense as high as the market does.

    Heyward is a 114 OPS+ RF who is now a $21M man. Simmons has a career 85 OPS+ with otherworldly defense who is coming into $13M AAV seasons. Folks were drooling for these guys, and the Braves exploited it. I think a lot of this really get down to roster construction. Do you want All-World defense? Absolutely. But do you leave a hole at another spot on the roster because you want to spend $12M more a year on a Heyward when him and Markakis have almost the exact same OPS? Do you take Markakis’ steady and unspectacular defense and spend $12M around the diamond to plug holes? I look at the 2013 Red Sox, 2014 Giants, and 2015 Royals and there are pretty minimal superstars on the team. Shutdown pitchers, absolutely, but their lineups are filled with pieces that OPS+ in between about 105 and 120, minimal black holes (Omar Infante being the only regular to have less than a 90 OPS+), and minimal superstars (Big Papi and Buster Posey being the only players with an OPS+ over 130). They have competent 4th OFers who can OPS+ 100 and play all three outfield positions, and their benches have lots of flexibility.

    At this point, aside from the back of the rotation, we’re not looking at a roster spot and saying, “That is going to be terrible”. No Mudge, no CJ, no Struggla, no selling off bullpen pieces by the lot, just (hopefully) a bunch of guys who can make the routine play, and some starting pitchers with promise. Of course, the starting pitching will probably suck this year, but not for too long.

  26. @44, I think you’re just trolling me at this point

    Look @46 for a much better explanation than this “weighting”

  27. @48, if I were trolling it’d be less subtle. I’m serious. I don’t buy that runs saved and runs created are the same. If Markakis lets a ball drop in RF that Heyward would have caught, how many runs did Heyward save? It’s completely contextual and always will be. A home run doesn’t need as much context. Clearly a run was created.

    If you want good defense, spend money developing good pitching.

    @46, I’ll buy the theory that one way to win is to have a lineup made up of zero (or one at most) players that totally suck. I wish we’d start subscribing to that theory. 2B, LF, and 3B all look to have high suckage potential. Catcher too.

  28. @49 not only do we have looming lineup holes at 2B/3B/LF/C (though I could see one of LF or 3B turning out OK), the Braves’ decent hitters don’t project to be much better than their peers at that particular position.

  29. krussell,

    What is the difference if Markakis gets a single leading off and is still there after three outs? Should that not count toward his batting average? His on base percentage? His OPS? His “Runs Created” (RC +)?

    Every offensive event short of a homerun always requires at least one more event before it turns into a run. That doesn’t make projections based on walks and batting average fundamentally irresponsible. If you put 110 RC+ batters together, you have a good estimate of how many runs will score. You can’t say EXACTLY, but a good estimate.

    Estimating that a caught ball in the deep right field corner is worth X more based on what it would have cost in runs if it had not been caught is not absurd.

    Is defensive value ACCURATELY valued? To a precision of 80 % after 3 years of data possibly so. The 20 DRS crowd is vastly better AND more valuable than a similar crowd at 10 DRS. But the difference between 10 and 12 is probably meaningless.

    Another way of trying to verify if the defensive statistics are accurate is if you look at “team defense.” Yes, even team defense is affected by pitching in “hard hit” and “ground ball / fly ball” ways. But when the individual metrics say the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates are good defensively and that is consistent with their team’s ability to turn batted balls in play into out, it isn’t magic powder.

    AND, a run saved is MORE valuable than a run scored. It may not be able to be measured as accurately, but it is still valuable. The reason it is more valuable is because as total runs scored decreases, each run is more important.

  30. @51 well said. Runs saved and created are estimated from large data sets, which yield pretty consistent numbers. Even hitting a home run is more complicated than just generating one run. Sometimes, it drives in runners on base who wouldn’t have been driven in otherwise, and sometimes, it leads to a big inning by simply not being an out. Alternatively, sometimes a home run is functionally no different than a single or walk, like when it’s the front end of a back-to-back.

  31. We’re not necessarily at odds here. I just don’t think runs-saved and runs-created are on the same scale. Don’t compare two measures unless they have the same units.

    During the season the sample-size for offense events is much greater than the sample for defense events. Also, the vast majority of defensive opportunities are completely routine, plays that you and I could make (if we lost weight and quit drinking and whatnot…lol). The marginal plays, the ones that make Andrelton better than Aybar, are relatively few and far between.

    The pitcher and catcher handle the ball orders of magnitude more than anyone else on defense, and the pitcher obviously has the most say in preventing runs. Spend money there first. If you don’t have that then your RF defense isn’t going to be worth worrying about.

  32. Oh, see–I forgot that runs saved were in metric units. And all this time I thought you were blindly asserting nonsense.

  33. @50 There is some level of concern about 2B/3B/LF/C.

    AJP had a 114 OPS+ last year, and Flowers should improve on the 60ish OPS+ that Bethancourt/Lavarnway produced, so if they can keep AJP fresh, we should at least be league average or better at catcher. Defense is another story…

    Fredi will have his work cut out for him making good platoons, but there should be enough talent to get atleast 4 working sides of platoons out of 2B/3B/LF. KJ against righties somewhere (probably 3B) is one working side, Garcia absolutely crushed lefties last year, and I’m just going to choose to live in a world, real or not, that Olivera is a major league baseball player. He had a 99 OPS+ in his short stint last year, and I’m going to choose to believe he’s a 110 OPS+ left fielder against both righties and lefties. That’s four sides, then you have potentially Jace Peterson against righties (91 OPS+ against righties, and durability would be helped by platooning him), and Daniel Castro against lefties (106 OPS+ in very limited at-bats).

    Back to Olivera, there really shouldn’t much concern that he’ll be at least a slightly above average regular. He’s certainly athletic enough to play left field, and I’m sure his offense will improve over last year. He’s still “young” for MLB, and if I’m understanding it correctly, they only play about 28 games a year in Cuba (can someone fact-check that?). I think the question is more around was he worth what he gave up, and only Herky McJerkin’s elbow ligament and Peraza’s triple slash in three years will be able to tell us that. For now, I’m choosing to enjoy him as a pretty good to potentially even better Braves player for the next few years.

    It’s really hard to parse this crap together, but if you have a bunch of 100-110 OPS+ players and if Freddie gets back to 2013-2014 levels, a strong and deep bullpen, and a below average starting rotation, you gotta be able to squeeze 75-80 wins out of that team, right?

  34. @53 krussell,

    There is no way any of us on here could field ground balls at 3rd hit by someone like JUpton or Puig on any consistent basis. And unless situated perfectly before a fly ball was hit to you in the outfield, you’d look like Adam Dunn.

  35. Alex…

    great breaking news for you guys in DC..your support throughout was magnificent..congratulations.

  36. Defensive Metrics…the greatest bore in Christendom…there’s a game there somewhere…but Jason thanks you.

  37. There’s many thousands of players capable of playing major league quality defense. There’s orders of magnitudes fewer that can hit major league pitching.

    @58, don’t sell us short. Shagging fly balls is trivial for anyone that’s played baseball at a high level.

  38. How about we all just agree that the next person who uses “what is it good for?” quip gets tied up in a bag and beaten to death?

  39. I’m not sure it’s “given up” so much as it’s looking forward to a legitimately better option in Albies/Swanson. And that’s fine considering Jace was part of the “quantity over quality” package of Mallex, Fried, Dustin Peterson, and Jace for one year of Justin Upton. Jace might end up being a decent major league regular, or a super sub, but he’s already 25 and he just hasn’t shown much. I do think this year he will be more ready for a full major league season, and if you spell him a bit against lefties, he’ll look a lot better than he did last year. He had about a .710 OPS against righties in the first half last year.

    I think we’re due for some sort of “where are they now?” post for the trades we’ve made since December ’14.

  40. http://www.talkingchop.com/2015/12/31/10690570/jace-peterson-2016-atlanta-braves

    That sums it up pretty well, aside from the four paragraphs explaining intellectually why small people shouldn’t try to hit home runs (I think I accomplished that in about 8 words), it outlines the path for Peterson: don’t try to hit home runs, correct to the mean on BABIP, play a little in the field and on the basepaths, don’t play a lot against lefties, and you’re an above average regular.

  41. To say the board has given up on Jace is to suggest that people really believed in him in the first place. He’s what you put on the field when your team is rebuilding.

  42. @65, I think Jace is still in his try-out-for-the-Braves phase. He might make a big stride this year, but nobody ought to be banking on it.

  43. I wrote this over at Tomahawk Take last year, so maybe I’m just being blindly stubborn on Jace:

    13. 2b/SS/3b, Jace Peterson

    Jace Peterson– Considered a B- prospect by John Sickels prior to the 2014 season and followed that up by having his best year to date against more advanced pitching, putting up a .307/.402/.447 slash line against AA and AAA pitching. He’s not making most prospect gurus’ Top-10 lists out of the Braves organization, and that’s a bit of a head scratcher for me. Jace has been primarily a shortstop, yet could adjust to life anywhere on the diamond. Was deemed by Baseball America, prior the 2014 season, as the Padres best athlete, best hit-tool, and best defender. Players that receive all 3 of these rankings are few and far between and most of the time become productive Major Leaguers, if not superstars (not predicting that, but merely stating it). He’s an advanced contact hitter that shows control over the strike zone, and while he doesn’t have much over-the-fence pop, he’s most definitely not a powerless slap hitter. His baseball instincts are well-advanced and uses every bit of his speed on the bases. While he doesn’t have the speed of Billy Hamilton, he has the basepath instincts that make him highly successful in stolen base attempts (think Nate McLouth). Jace was promoted a few different times to the bigs and did not share the success that he’d had in the upper minors, and yet, it was kind of expected. Here’s an excerpt from MinorLeagueBall.com from before the 2014 season:

    “Given his lack of upper-level minor league experience, it would surprise no one if Peterson struggles initially in the majors. However, his tools are solid and his broad base of skills, particularly his combination of on-base ability and stolen base potential, makes him one of the more intriguing infield prospects around. He should wind up with considerable value for both a real team and a fantasy squad.”

    Prior to last season, Jace’s highest level had been A+ ball, therefore the jump from AA to AAA then to the Majors in 1 year was a bit much for the then 23-year old and that may have taken the shine off of a wonderful 2014 campaign, but not for me. I ranked Jace very aggressively, at #6 in the organization and I think he has the ability to produce on a team that is built for contact, defense, and speed. I’m drooling over the idea of the Braves having Jose Peraza, Peterson, Mallex Smith, Eury Perez, and Ozhaino Albies all on the same diamond together at some point in their careers. Some of these guys better find an OF glove, and other teams better have a fire extinguisher in their dugout.

  44. I wonder if him being new to this team makes us unaware of his AA/AAA success. I didn’t know he also had a .306/.407/.464 line at AAA. At the end of the day, he’s already 25, but hopefully he turns the corner this year.

  45. I think he just hasn’t convinced anybody that he’s a better player than Daniel Castro yet. But we have time. Convince us, Jace.

  46. I think Peterson showed some glimpses of being a pretty solid player. He also had some stretches where he looked over matched.

    Unless he is just terrible, I think the Braves are going to give him at least 12-18 months more to fail.

  47. Jace had a .751 OPS through first 70 games of the 2015 season. IMO, took a nosedive when he added slight uppercut to his swing.

  48. I hadn’t noticed he had done that well. A mixture of cleaning out his swing and being in his second full season might be big for him.

    Who is in our rotation on April 1, June 1, and August 1?

  49. I think the durability thing is a good point because he played more games than before. He wore down as the season went on.

  50. @75
    4/1- Teheran, Norris, Wisler, Chacin, Folty
    6/1- Same (unless injury)
    8/1- Teheran, Wisler, Jenkins, Banuelos, Newcomb

  51. So no Aaron Blair in the rotation all year? I think I might trade Banuelos for Blair towards the latter end, but otherwise, I’m right there with you. I think Folty is a late-inning reliever and not a starter by August. Newcomb, Blair, and Jenkins get a shot by year end, and Norris gets dealt at the deadline.

  52. @78
    There’s next to no way that the rotation stays healthy all year. I’m sure we will see Blair at some point.

  53. 4/1 Tehran, Norris, Wisler, Perez, Folty

    6/1 Tehran, Wisler, Perez, Folty, Banuelos

    8/1 Tehran, Wisler, Banuelos, Newcomb, Blair

  54. Predicting something different:

    4/1 – Teheran, Norris, Chacin, Perez, Wisler

    6/1 – Teheran, Norris, Perez, Wisler, Blair

    8/1 – Norris, Wisler, Perez, Blair, Sims

  55. Job well done by both Jason’s and Justin’s teams. Opt out clause and a long term $20+m per year contracts for both. Precisely what the team has predicted a year ago.

  56. It made sense to trade Miller after his great 2015 and where we were in the rebuild, but I seriously doubt they’ll trade Teheran. He’s only 24, he’s signed to a team friendly deal, and the Braves will be much closer to being competitive by the time they would, in theory, trade him. Plus, I don’t think it’s been their intention to completely strip out the rotation. Trade one, sure, but don’t trade both.

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