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NY Mets: Will Taijuan Walker fold in the second half?

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ATLANTA, GA - MAY 17: Taijuan Walker #99 of the New York Mets prepares to pitch in the first inning of an MLB game against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on May 17, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 17: Taijuan Walker #99 of the New York Mets prepares to pitch in the first inning of an MLB game against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on May 17, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
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New York Mets pitcher Taijuan Walker hasn’t been the same All-Star he was in the first half. Will he fold in the second half?

He has pitched poorly in the last two outings against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays let him walk in free agency, and the Mets signed him to a two-year deal worth $20 Million dollars.  In the first half of the season, this deal looked like a bargain. He posted a 2.50 ERA and earned an All-Star selection after Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom backed out due to injury.

On the other hand, he has now given up 11 runs in 4.1 IP in his two starts in the second half. Against the Pirates, he couldn’t even record more than out. He had no command and he allowed four hits and four walks. The Pirates batted around and ended up scoring six runs, five of which were earned it was a complete meltdown for Walker.

Against the Blue Jays, he was noticeably in pain after a swing in the third inning against the Blue Jays on Saturday night. He stayed in the game but again appeared to be in pain when he gave up a single to Blue Jays outfielder George Springer in the fourth inning. He stayed in but gave up three home runs in the game and was ineffective. This is just one of many troubling trends for Walker in the second half because he only gave up six home runs in the first half of the season.

Taijuan Walker has regressed: Can he get back to the guy that impressed for the Mets?

Taijuan Walker’s  ERA has gone up almost a full run from 2.50 to 3.43 in his last two starts for the Mets. He has walked two batters per inning, opposed to walking one every three innings. He has just one strikeout in his last two starts. In the first half, he was averaging a little more than a strikeout per inning. The most concerning thing is that he only has one strikeout, and he’s getting beat on all of his pitches. The Blue Jays hit home runs on his fastball sinker and slider. There were several signs that regression could be possible in the second half, but this was much worse than expected.

His career ERA  is 3.72. He has had several injury issues and has never pitched more than 169 innings in a season.  His best season was in 2017 when he pitched 157 innings with an ERA of 3.49. His first half of the season had him on pace for a career season. Now the question is can he recapture it and get back on track?

Taijuan Walker will improve and help the Mets in the second half.

Baseball is a game of adjustments, and he will have to make a few. I think he will find a middle ground from his first half to his career numbers. Walker has shown he still has what it takes to be an effective pitcher from the Mets. Two bad starts shouldn’t make Met fans fully panic. He hasn’t lost velocity on his fastball.  To return to form he has to get his command back, get ahead of hitters, and finish off batters with two strikes like he was in the first half. He needs his breaking pitches to more be effective to forcing ground-outs which is how he gets the majority of his outs.

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I think he will make these necessary changes, and he will finish the season with an ERA in the range of 3.2-3.5. The Mets need him to deliver with all of the uncertainty surrounding Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Mets manager Luis Rojas said Walker felt a pinch in his left shoulder on the swing in the third inning. against the Blue Jays. If he’s okay his first attempt to get back on track could be against the Braves Thursday afternoon at Citi Field.

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