In part two of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Orioles” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at veteran lefty reliever Jamie Walker… THE FIGHTIN’ LOOGY!
I’ll be honest; I forgot Jamie Walker pitched for the Orioles this year. Walker had a very rough 2008 – to the tune of a 6.87 ERA – and while 2009 was better, it wasn’t better enough to keep him on the team for too long. Before the season I projected Walker for 35 innings of 4.72 ERA ball, but didn’t get that far. The Orioles had enough after just 22 games and released him, with no other club picking him up. I always liked Jamie personally – and he seemed like a a good guy – but the 3 year, $12 M contract the team gave him going into 2007 never made any sense. That’s obviously not to fault him for taking it though.
He came to the O’s with the role of LOOGY (even though his career platoon split is relatively small), but was destroyed by lefties this year. The batted .458/.462/1.042 with 4 home runs allowed in 24 at bats. His 5.11 ERA in 12.1 IP was an improvement over ’08, but his FIP actually got worse – going from 6.92 to 7.15. The funny thing is, it was completely due to the homers. The 6.57 K/9 wasn’t overpowering, but right in line with his career rate (6.48). He didn’t walk a single batter all year. It was the 3.65 HR/9 that killed him. Walker was a flyball pitcher for whom 22.7% of balls in the air left the yard. That, in a nutshell, is what ended his career.
According to FanGraphs, Jamie was a below replacement level pitcher (-0.3 WAR) in 2009, as well as 2008 (-1.0 WAR), after his OK 2007 (0.7 WAR). That means that over the course of his contract, Walker was worth -$3.1 M and was paid $12 M for a net loss to the team of $15.1 M. That’s part of the reason why you don’t give middle relievers big money contracts.