New York Mets starter Taijuan Walker went from only having one free agent offer to being a first time All-Star. Overall, this proved to be an important year in his career.
The splits on Walker tell two stories. In that first half, he was 7-3 with a 2.66 ERA, 1.056 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9. His velocity was up to the 95 MPH it was earlier in his career.
At that point, Walker had thrown 94.2 innings. That’s more innings than he had thrown in the shortened 2020 season. It was more than he threw in his injury shortened 2018 and 2019 seasons.
In fact, over that three year span, Walker threw just 67.1 innings. Walker blew well past that in the first half. To that end, his second half stumble should’ve been predictable.
Unfortunately, he did struggle. One of the issues was as he tired, he lost a tick on his velocity, and he got the ball up a bit leading to a home run barrage.
Despite that, Walker showed signs of turning it around here and there. Even with him fighting it, he came up huge a number of times.
He allowed three earned over six against the Philadelphia Phillies. Against, he vaunted Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants lineups, he allowed just seven earned over 18.2 innings.
In that stretch, Walker showed us something important. He showed big game ability. He showed the ability to raise his game when the situation and opponent demanded it. He did it at a point where he was arguably on fumes.
Walker in true dramatic fashion saved his best for last. In his last start of the season, he’d pitch into the eighth inning for the first time all year. In fact, it was his first time doing it since April 27, 2017.
That speaks to how special and important a year this was for Walker. It’s not just that he was an All-Star. It’s that he made it to the finish line, and he had a strong finish.
Walker tied a career high in starts. It was a career high if you treat his picking up a suspended game in the first inning as a start and not a relief appearance.
He threw the second most innings he ever threw with his second highest strikeout total. Some of the peripherals faltered with the second half dip, but that should not mar this season.
Walker re-established himself as a bona fide Major League starter. He showed he can be a top of the rotation type starter. For a team with World Series aspirations, he showed big game ability.
Overall, this was a great year for Walker. It was great not just for what he did accomplish, but perhaps more importantly, for showing what we can do next year.
One day, you’re in first place, and you’re a potential NL Manager of the Year. The next, your team is eliminated from postseason contention with no hope of having a .500 record.
That’s the type of year it has been for Luis Rojas and the New York Mets. As is standard, when a team falls short, the manager faces scrutiny.
It comes with the territory. Obviously, Rojas hasn’t been perfect. Assuredly, he’s made bad decisions, and there are times you wonder what in the world he’s doing.
Go pinpoint your most maddening moment. Make it out to be more than it is. Throw a few more moments on there. Magnify that.
Guess what? That’s not the reason the 2021 Mets didn’t make the postseason. It’s far from it.
In fact, for a while, Rojas was one of the things ruse was right about the Mets. At least, that was the narrative. In the end, blaming or crediting Rojas was just that – narrative.
The truth of the matter is it all fell apart. It wasn’t all at once, but rather in pieces. Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker were the only two starters to last the year with Stroman the only one to have sustained success into the second half.
Offensively, the Mets went with Chili Davis only to utilize advanced data which runs counter-intuitive to what Davis does. We saw the offense have a big letdown.
Francisco Lindor had a slow start. Michael Conforto dealt with COVID and a career worst year. That’s the tip of the iceberg with everyone not named Brandon Nimmo and maybe Pete Alonso having poor to flat out bad years.
For his part, Rojas listened to the workload management rules. The front office specifically said it was the player’s fault they got hurt.
That brings us in a roundabout way to a big part of the issue. With last year being a COVID impacted year, depth was more important than ever. For some reason, the front office was cavalier with it.
Steven Matz was traded for two relievers who had little impact and another flipped for the poor performing Khalil Lee. They also made odds unforced errors like designating Johneshwy Fargas for assignment. For our mental health, we probably should’ve dwell too much on Jerad Eickhoff pitching in five games.
Fact of that matter is if Jacob deGrom was healthy, much of this season goes much differently. If the Mets hitters were just a reasonable facsimile of their career stats, the season is far different.
For that matter, if the front office looked at the roster problems and attacked them at the trade deadline, things go differently. At the end of the day, this was a first place team at the trade deadline, and the organization opted to fight another day.
In what way is all of this Rojas’ fault? The simple truth is it isn’t.
We can and should have the debate over whether Rojas is the right man for the job. Realistically speaking, he’s only had one year at the helm, and in that time, he’s shown good and bad.
The issue for any pure novice manager is whether he can grow. No one knows that yet. No one.
What we do know is the Mets shown they can win and fall apart with Rojas at the helm. Both instances were entirely tied to the strength of the roster. That brings us to the front office.
In the end, feel however you want about Rojas. It doesn’t matter because he’s not the reason the Mets disappointed this year. He may eventually be the fall guy but things aren’t magically improving because there’s another manager. The only way that happens is if the roster improves.
This offseason, the New York Mets have a number of holes to fill in free agency. Chief among them is third base as the Mets have not had a third baseman since 2014 when David Wright was yet to be diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Since then, the Mets have better filling around the edges and singing players like Todd Frazier, who struggled to stay on the field.
Looking at the free agent landscape, it appears the two best options are going to be Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant. While Correa is a shortstop, he has indicated his willingness to change positions like Alex Rodriguez once did. With that being the case, Correa instantly becomes the top third base option available.
Correa just turned 27, and he is on pace to have his best ever season as a Major Leaguer. Currently, he has a 6.9 WAR, and he should meet or surpass the 7.0 he had in 2016. Notably, with Correa having three seasons of 6.7 WAR or better, we are talking about a future Hall of Famer.
The reason is Correa does not have a real hole in his game. This year, he has a 135 wRC+. This will mark the fourth time in his seven year career he has had a 135 wRC+ or better. Putting aside the 60 game 2020, he has always been above league average at the plate, and only one time has he registered a wRC+ below 123.
In the field, Correa is a great defensive shortstop. After his struggles in his rookie season, Correa has a a 47 OAA and a 62 DRS at shortstop. That puts him at a Gold Glove level at the position.
All told, Correa is a Silver Slugger level hitter at the plate and a Gold Glover in the field. He could be a right-handed balance to the Mets heavy left-handed hitting lineup, solve the eternal third base woes, and add yet another MVP caliber player to the roster.
Despite all of that, many are hand wringing over the likelihood Correa would have a qualifying offer attached thereby putting the Mets in a position to forfeit a first round pick. In the alternative, they suggest Kris Bryant.
Unlike Correa, Bryant has actually won an MVP award, and like Bryant, he has a World Series ring. While the Mets would be better for adding Bryant, he is not the same caliber of player as Correa, and he probably doesn’t solve the Mets third base question.
After being traded to the San Francisco Giants, Bryant has split time between third base and the outfield. That is much akin to what he did in Chicago. Part of the reason is Bryant is a versatile player which is a bonus. However, it is also the result of his not being a very good third baseman.
Since 2017, Bryant has not posted a positive OAA at third accumulating a -9 OAA. Over that time, he also has a -2 DRS. In the outfield, he has posted better numbers in left field with a 2 OAA and a 6 DRS. Looking at the numbers and the trajectory, you could argue Bryant is really a LF at this point in his career.
Now, you could try him at third for a while, especially if your confident in your shifting, but Bryant doesn’t quite have the bat he used to have which allowed him to offset his poor defense. Keep in mind, he is still a terrific hitter, just now the 144 wRC+ he was over the first three years of his career. In fact, since 2018, Bryant has been a 126 wRC+ hitter.
That is largely why we have seen Bryant fall from being an MVP caliber player to being “merely” an All-Star caliber player. After posting an 18.3 WAR over his first three seasons, Bryant has posted a 10.5 WAR over his next four seasons (with the 2020 season caveat). While Bryant has had strong seasons, and he has a 3.3 WAR so far this year, he’s just not the caliber of player Correa has.
We should note that disparity is likely only going to grow. Next year, Correa will be 27, and Bryant will be 30. Bryant is nearing the end of his prime as Correa is just entering it. As a result, you are likely going to get far better production from Correa over the course of their respective contracts. Indeed, Correa is better now and will very likely remain better.
If you’re a Mets team with not much help on the way from the minors and the impending free agency of players like Carlos Carrasco, Jacob deGrom (player option), Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Brandon Nimmo, and Taijuan Walker coupled with Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Dominic Smith being arbitration eligible, you are a franchise very much set on expanding this window. That goes double with Javier Baez, Michael Conforto, Aaron Loup, Marcus Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard as free agents this offseason.
This is a Mets team which needs to focus on winning in 2022 or tearing it down to rebuild. If you are really focused on winning now, Correa is the far better option than Bryant regardless of the qualifying offer being attached. The Mets should not be overthinking it. Go get the far better player and make this Mets roster the best it can possibly be.
After Taijuan Walker got knocked out by the Boston Red Sox, you knew it was going to be another long night for the New York Mets. When you’re as bad as the Mets are, that’s just the case.
Since the trade deadline, the Mets are 17-31. Since the All-Star Break, they’re 25 -39. They can’t beat good teams or much of anyone.
Seeing all the one run losses and same mistakes over and over again, it’s as if this is Groundhog Day. Time just stands still.
As it turns out, it basically is. As Mark Simon of Sports Info Solutions points out, the Mets have played 10 straight games exceeding three hours 30 minutes.
10 in a row!
Oy vey https://t.co/uYLJb0xFXg
— Mark Simon (@MarkASimonSays) September 23, 2021
To make matters worse, the Mets are 2-8. In that time we’ve seen the Mets postseason hopes go from plausible to needing an act of God to essentially dead. It’s now at the point where even Pete Alonso admits defeat.
The Mets are not a good team right now. They’re uninteresting. Worse yet, they’re borderline unwatchable. Aside from Gary, Keith, and Ron, it’s hard to find a reason to hang on in for a blowout loss taking nearly four hours.
Each and every one of these games are long and drawn out. It’s punishment for the fans. It’s just a long drawn out funeral while we try to figure out what went wrong.
With 14 games remaining in the season, the New York Mets are seven games back in the loss column of the Atlanta Braves for the division, and they are six in the loss column back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot. Long story short, the postseason is a near impossibility, and yet, a path actually remains.
The Cardinals, despite being red hot, have a difficult end of the season. They play seven more against the Milwaukee Brewers, and they have a pivotal series against the San Diego Padres this weekend. Now, the Cardinals are aided by having seven games against the Chicago Cubs to offset some of that.
The Cincinnati Reds have the easiest path and seem well poised to grab the second Wild Card. Putting aside three against the Los Angles Dodgers, they play the Pittsburgh Pirates six times and the Washington Nationals three times. Yes, they do have three against the Chicago White Sox, but the White Sox have already rapped up the division and are really getting ready for the postseason.
Going back to the Padres, it is hard to see how they’re not done. After the Cardinals, they play the San Francisco Giants six times and the Los Angeles Dodgers three. Now, this is where things get a bit interesting for the Mets. The Padres do host the Braves for a west coast series.
The Braves do not have an easy end of the season schedule. They’re heading out for a late in the season west coast trip. First is the Giants, and then after a respite against the Arizona Diamondbacks, they have a four game set in San Diego. They then end the season at Citi Field. The Mets mission is to somehow get to that last weekend at least three back in the loss column.
It’s not an easy road. The first thing which really needs to happen is a pair of sweeps. The Giants need to sweep the Braves, and the Mets need to do the same to the Philadelphia Phillies. For the Mets, that’s much easier said than done with the Phillies having Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Kyle Gibson lined up. There’s also the matter of Bryce Harper, who is playing at an MVP level.
After a pair of sweeps, the Mets would be four back in the loss column with 11 to play. In that stretch, they’d have to finally take care of the Miami Marlins in a pivotal September series. They’d have to bury a reeling Boston Red Sox team in Fenway Park, and they’d have to hold their own against the Milwaukee Brewers.
In many ways, the Mets season will hinge upon their play against the Marlins and Brewers. It may also hinge on their ability to get something, anything from Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom at the end of the year. Looking at this, you may be very well inclined to say the Mets really have no shot.
The honest answer is there isn’t much of one, but in some bizarre way, there is still a realistic (albeit arduous) path to the postseason. All we can hope for at this point is the Mets are up for this challenge. The Mets team we saw play the Yankees were, but the one who played the Cardinals weren’t. We’ll find out which team we’re getting when Taijuan Walker squares off against Wheeler.
In a series where the New York Mets and Yankees were fighting not just for bragging rights but to stay afloat in their postseason races, this was an important rubber game. Short of Roger Clemens committing assault against Mike Piazza, this turned into the most emotionally charged Subway Series game.
In the season and series finale, it was Francisco Lindor who would knock out the Yankees. First, he hit a three run homer in the second inning to give the Mets a 4-2 lead.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 13, 2021
Entering the sixth, that 4-2 lead was a narrower 5-4 lead. Lindor would hit a solo shot to increase the Mets lead to 6-4. As he rounded the bases, he made a whistling motion to let the Yankees know he was angry with their whistling during not just Taijuan Walker‘s previous start to let the batters know what was coming, but we would also hear it during the game.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 13, 2021
That Mets lead would evaporate when Giancarlo Stanton hit a two run homer off of Brad Hand in the seventh to tie the game at 6-6. Notably, when Stanton would pass short, he would make it a point to trash talk Stanton leading to the benches clearing. Also noteworthy is while the benches were clearing, Stanton went to the dugout to take off his batting helmet and gloves before coming back out of the dugout to stand in the back.
While Stanton would shrink from the trash talk, Lindor would stand tall. The Mets superstar shortstop came up in the bottom of the eighth, and he would join Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda as the only Mets hitters to have a three home run game at home. Lindor would be the only switch hitter.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 13, 2021
As if this wasn’t sweet enough, Stanton would come up in the top of the ninth with runners on second and third and two outs. He was facing Edwin Diaz who has struggled mightily in September, and he appeared on the verge of another blown save. Instead, Stanton popped out to none other than Lindor to end the game. As he and the Yankees left the field, both Lindor and Javier Baez waved them off of the field.
Don't come back now, ya hear? pic.twitter.com/wow2aDl8jZ
— Meditations in Panic City (@MedInPanicCity) September 13, 2021
People are calling this Lindor’s signature game with the Mets. That’s probably too soon to call. There are going to be 10 more years of Lindor after this season. With that is going to come All-Star appearances and hopefully multiple World Series titles. Chances are we haven’t yet seen Lindor’s signature game. Instead, we have probably seen Lindor’s first real great game in a Mets uniform.
That is more than good enough for now, and those three homers were more than enough to TKO the Yankees. As for the Mets, it’s kept them alive for at least another day. Maybe, just maybe, with Lindor playing at this incredible level, there may just be a miracle run.
After Taijuan Walker struggled allowing five runs in the second, he’d actually settle in and give the Mets six innings giving them a chance to win the game. You won’t hear Luis Rojas get credit for sticking by Walker because he’s just become a punching bag.
Keeping in Walker, who’d actually have an RBI single, helped the Mets get into a position to win the game. After a surprise James McCann two run homer, the Mets would take a lead heading into the seventh.
Seth Lugo shut the New York Yankees down in the seventh with just seven pitches. The Mets added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning carrying a 7-5 lead into the eighth.
The Mets would blow it, and for some reason, fans want to say it’s all Rojas’ fault.
It didn’t matter to them Lugo has not been good in a second inning of work this year. The hard hit balls off of him also didn’t matter. He needed to stay in the game.
It didn’t matter Trevor May has been great lately allowing just one run in his last 10 appearances. Apparently, Judge, one of the best players in all of baseball, only could’ve hit a homer off May in that spot to tie the game. (Never mind the second inning homer).
The Yankees take the lead on a wild throw! pic.twitter.com/dqZicSAQGz
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) September 12, 2021
It’s odd Rojas would order Báez to throw the ball away allowing the go-ahead run to score. That’s doubly irresponsible after Rojas apparently told May to surrender a homer to Judge.
The Mets would have their chances to reclaim the lead. In the bottom half of the inning, there were two on and two out. Pete Alonso gave one a ride which fell near the warning track for the final out of the inning.
The final backbreaker was in the ninth. With a runner on second and one out, Kevin Pillar struck out. That’s where Rojas struck again.
The pitch went to the backstop. Instead of breaking immediately Pillar hesitated. That hesitation, clearly ordered by Rojas, cost Pillar the chance to reach first safety.
You can’t help but wonder if McCann’s fly ball to end the game could’ve scored by tying run. We’ll ever know.
What we do know is one of the Mets better relievers, who has pitched extraordinarily well lately, chose a bad time to have a bad outing. Baez threw a ball away. Pillar didn’t immediately break for first.
Like it or not, this one was simply on the players for not executing. It happens. Unfortunately, it just means the Mets are a day closer to the end of the season and possibly a day closer to Rojas being the fall guy.
Game Notes: The Mets wore special alternates with no pinstripes and New York in the Tiffany font. They once again wore the First Responder caps.
The New York Mets were up 2-1 (an actual lead!) when the San Francisco Giants came to bat in the top of the seventh. An inexplicable stretch would follow.
Kris Bryant, a player the Mets opted to not obtain at the trade deadline, reached on a Jonathan Villar error. Keep in mind, this is a roster basically bereft of third baseman, and Villar is masquerading there (poorly) right now.
After Bryant reached on the error, Alex Dickerson singled. Now, that single probably should’ve been caught, but Jeff McNeil has lingering leg problems, and Michael Conforto got a late read on the bloop.
With first and second and no outs, Luis Rojas had a decision to make. Does he stick with Taijuan Walker who had allowed just a Bryant homer entering the inning? Or, does he go to Aaron Loup to face the left-handed hitting Brandon Crawford?
Rojas went with Loup, and Walker was justifiably angry. After the way he pitched, why wouldn’t he?
Walker is every Mets fan at that moment pic.twitter.com/wImyyJS6j3
— Brett Herskowitz (@bretther) August 26, 2021
Just because Walker was at 74 pitches and was angry doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision. Here are some stats:
- Walker (pitches 76-100) .250/.321/.500
- Walker (third time through order) .279/.324/.500
- Loup 1.03 ERA
- Loup (2nd Half) 0.00 ERA
- Loup (vs. LHB) .159/.203/.159
- Loup (2nd Half) .167/.234/.167
- Loup (Runners 1st & 2nd) .100/.182/.100
Look at the numbers up and down. Loup was the right decision. As for the potential Walker was cruising arguments, so was Matt Harvey.
Yes, Loup did allow a two run RBI double, and the Mets then trailed 3-2. That doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision. After all, if Walker’s career numbers held true, something bad was likely to happen that inning.
For some, they still think Walker should’ve stayed in the game. They’re absolutely wrong. Many will blame Rojas for the loss. Those people should never be taken seriously.
Remember, the Mets hit into five double plays. Nine men were left on base. They were 2-for-8 with RISP. They wouldn’t accept the Giants trying to hand the game to them.
Case-in-point was the ninth. Brandon Belt overran a foul ball, and Jonathan Villar followed with a single. Brandon Drury reached when Dickerson pulled a Bump Bailey causing the easy fly ball to hit the ground.
Alonso was just bad in the game going 1-for-5 hitting into two double plays and stranding seven. He came up with the bases loaded in the sixth too, and the Mets only scored due to a Bryant throwing error.
All told, the Giants begged the Mets to win this game. Despite the Giants best efforts, and aside from a Dominic Smith RBI double in the sixth, the Mets offense was just plain bad.
People can make it all about Rojas all they want. However, just know, when they do that, they’re flat out wrong, and in the end, they’re just looking for a fall guy instead of just admitting this team isn’t as good as advertised.
That’s on the GM and the front office. Not Rojas.
Since some struggles coming out of the All-Star Break, Taijuan Walker has been slowly returning to his first half All-Star form. He was that and more tonight.
Walker was hitting the mid 90s again, and he was giving the vaunted Los Angeles Dodgers lineup fits. In fact, he’d no-hit them for 6.1 innings. His thanks was a no decision.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 15, 2021
This was the latest sign Conforto is getting past COVID and needing the ability to carry this team offensively. He basically was the entire Mets offense driving in the only run.
Just like how Conforto broke a no-hit bid for Buehler in the fourth, Will Smith did the same in the seventh. It was his second devastating homer in as many nights tying the score 1-1.
During the at-bat, Rojas had enough with what was an erratic at best strike zone. Despite the zone, Loup got his man like he always does. It kept that game tied.
To the extent the Mets gained momentum off of that, they squandered it. They had two on and no out. For some idiotic reason, Tomas Nido was sent up to bunt. He couldn’t get it down, and the inning unraveled from there.
Fact is, that was the Mets chance. While this was a battle of exhausted bullpens with the top guys effectively unavailable, the Dodgers bullpen did their job.
The Mets got to the 10th, and they were in a bad spot. Seth Lugo made quick work of the Dodgers in the ninth, but he’s struggled going a second inning this year. With the top guys overworked or already used, Dave Jauss tabbed Yennsy Diaz.
Diaz came close to getting through the 10th, but Bellinger would double driving home the go-ahead run. In the bottom of the inning, the Mets put up little resistance to Phil Beckford and Corey Knebel.
As a result, the Mets lost a winnable game 2-1. They wasted a Walker gem, and they lost two straight extra inning games to a team who came to Citi Field 0-12 in those games. Also, they fell 1.5 games back.
This isn’t a time for moral victories. It’s a time for victories. They Mets need them, and if they don’t get them, they we’ll continue to squander away what should’ve been a special season.
Well, on the bright side Taijuan Walker pitched reasonably well for the New York Mets. The pitcher who has really struggled in the second half had his first quality start since June 25.
That was more than enough for the Philadelphia Phillies as Zack Wheeler completely and utterly dominated the Mets in a two hit complete game shut out.
If not for Brandon Nimmo, who was 2-for-4 with a double, the Mets get no-hit. Frankly, the Mets probably deserved to be no-hit. Besides Nimmo, there was just one walk, and the Mets combined to strike out 11 times.
To add insult to injury, trade deadline acquisition Javier Báez left the game with an injury. The Mets are saying he’s day-to-day, but at this point, they’re saying it is relatively meaningless.
With the Atlanta Braves also winning today, the Mets dropped to third. For a team 1-9 over their last 10 games, there’s no telling just how much worse it’ll get.