Wednesday, November 7, 2012

#243 Duane Walker - Cincinnati Reds

The pink border on Duane Walker's rookie card makes the red on his hat and uniform look pink as well which is unfortunate.   Walker seems worried in his cameo pic. Maybe he knew the struggle for playing time he would face in the upcoming years.

Player:  Duane Walker was a first round pick in the January draft in 1976.  In his 7th year in pro ball he finally cracked the Reds roster in May of '82.  The lefthanded outfielder started 58 games, all against right handed pitchers.  He pinch hit 21 times and knocked just 2 hits in that role.  Overall he batted just .218/.298/.322.

The Reds had a crowded outfield with Walker, twenty-somethings Gary Redus, Eddie Milner, Paul Householder and veteran Cesar Cedeno all fighting for at bats.  When the playing time was sorted out, Walker pinch hit and occasionally started in left and right field with a .236 average.

Walker had his best season in the majors in '84.  In 231 trips to the plate, he batted .292 and showed some patience with 33 walks for a .391 OBP.  Add in 10 doubles and 10 homers and Walker sported a robust .528 slugging percentage. 

The '85 season wiped away any memory of Walker as a productive player.  He batted just .167 before a mid-year trade landed him in Texas.  He fared no better in his new locale as he hit .174 for the Rangers.  Walker was not a Texas Ranger for long as they parted ways in March '86. 

Walker spent the next two years in the minors before getting another chance in the majors with St. Louis in '88.  He eked out four hits in 22 at bats as he came off the bench in all 24 of his games played.  Walker retired with a .227/.311/.367 line in five seasons of major league action.

Flipside:  Those home runs against the Astros on 8/16/82, yeah, they came off Nolan Ryan in the first and third inning. 
That definitely has to be one of the  top highlights of Walker's career.

Oddball:  Walker was another player who was strictly platooned as he started just two games in his career against lefties.   His lifetime stats show he hit .179 vs southpaws and .232 vs righties.

History:   Walker blends into a blur of Reds outfielders that came up in the 80's.  Players like Walker come and go, often unable to translate moderately successful minor league seasons into positive results in the majors.  He had one productive year with 2.1 WAR in '84.  The rest of his career resulted in negative WAR each year.  

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