2022 Resolution: Learn how to finish strong
Last season, it was the tale of two Walkers. In the first half of the season, Walker looked like one of the best pitchers in the National League. He compiled a 2.66 ERA and only allowed 6 home runs in 94 ⅔ innings. Holding batters to a .205/.275/.298 batting line, Walker dominated batters, and the result was an appearance in the MLB All-Star Game. His fastball, in particular, was effective during that stretch, and it resulted in Walker’s strikeout rate being at one of the highest levels of his career.
Unfortunately, that did not last long. In the second half of the season, Walker fell apart down the stretch, his collapse epitomizing the Mets’ season as they quickly disappeared from postseason contention. During this stretch to close out the season, Walker compiled 64 ⅔ innings pitched and a 7.13 ERA. Batters held a .254/.321/.540 batting line against him.
Taijuan Walker's up-and-down season is not going to fly this time around, with the expectations for the Mets high.
Although part of Walker’s struggles could be related to fatigue (he threw the most innings in his entire career during 2021), the main issue is that his fastball, which was his signature weapon in the first half of the year, became a major liability for him. He left it out over the plate way too frequently, a sign that he was missing the location on his fastball more often during the second half of the year. The fact that he allowed 20 home runs over the second half of the season is evident that something was broken about his fastball.
The Mets have Walker for at least one more season. He is expected to be a contributing member of the team’s rotation. Although his first-half performance is probably not sustainable over the course of the entire year, Walker cannot afford to have another inconsistent season like he had in 2021. The Mets need him to fortify the back of the rotation, given that the team still has a hole or two in their rotation, following Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman’s departures.