After a long day of work, Walters often would come home and relax by creating rosters of players he thought would exceed expectations if given the chance to play together. That led him to pursue serious academic work in baseball, and he began publishing papers in the 1990s. He ended up writing for Sporting News — and running into considerable resistance from old-school scouts and scribes who scoffed at his methods.
Back at Loyola, though, his research caused a buzz. He has long been a popular teacher — he was honored as one of the school's best in 2005 — and his other academic work has been distinguished. He's currently on sabbatical, working on a book about the future of big cities, a project that grew out of research he did before Baltimore's last mayoral election.
"He strikes the right balance," said John Burger, the economics chair and a professor at the school. "He's passionate. That shows through in the evaluations from his students. But his research is also top-tier."
Last fall, Walters saw a narrative developing that didn't agree with the numbers he had crunched or what he knew about baseball in Baltimore. The Orioles needed a new top executive, but top candidates appeared wary at best.
Walters spoke with Duquette, who had been unable to land a top job in the major leagues since being replaced in Boston. Walters urged Duquette to apply, telling him that the talent was better than most understood and that the ownership wasn't as lousy as most guessed after 14 losing seasons. The Orioles gave Duquette another chance, and Walters finally was able to work with the team in his hometown.
"It's been a dream," he said. "There's finally that feeling back in the city, the one we remember from our old neighborhood in the '80s."
Before the season, Walters' equation predicted 83 wins for the Orioles. That would have been a good year. The Orioles surprised him, winning 93 regular season games and a wild-card spot in the playoffs.
"It was a magical year because of a few other things," he said. "The way Buck Showalter managed the team, one, and the way Dan Duquette addressed problems when they came up. The numbers I ran were right on, but couldn't account for that."