Why Taijuan Walker Has Had A Nightmare 2nd Half For Mets

Find out why Taijuan Walker has gone from first-time All-Star to major disappointment in the second-half of the season.
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It has certainly been a tale of two halves, regarding starting pitcher Taijuan Walker's first season as a Met.

After making the first All-Star appearance of his career with a stellar first-half, Walker has had a nightmare second act to his 2021 campaign.

So how did Walker go from steal of the offseason to dud in the second-half? 

"Too many balls over the plate, gave up too many home runs," said Walker. "Basically what it is."

"Not sure right now," said Walker of the root to his second-half struggles. "But I mean, it's something to look at in the offseason to correct for next year."

It's no secret that Walker has been bitten by the long ball since the All-Star break. In his last 57 innings, the right-hander has surrendered 20 home runs, despite only allowing six homers in the first-half.

Walker has also seen the largest jump in ERA in the second-half of a season in Mets history at +3.17. Walker was 7-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 16 starts leading up to the break, but has gone 0-8 across 12 starts with a 7.74 ERA ever since, resulting in a ballooned 4.57 ERA on the season.

Walker's drop off could have been anticipated, as he has reached his highest innings mark (151.2) since 2017 (157.1), after undergoing 2018 Tommy John surgery. But the Mets weren't expecting him to be this bad. 

According to manager Luis Rojas, Walker's fastball has also been a big reason for his recent struggles.

"I gotta attribute it to some inconsistency to the fastball carry at the top of the zone," said Rojas of Walker's poor second-half.

"That's where the biggest difference has been in the first-half to the second-half," said Rojas. "The velo' was there again. But the carry is different and even the command....so yeah, a lot of things come into play."

And in Walker's latest dud, this issue was on full display as he allowed six-runs, including two homers to the Red Sox, lasting only two innings. The Mets ultimately lost their seventh contest in the last eight games, falling by a score of 12-5 to get swept in Boston.

When asked if he believes that fatigue has come into play in Walker's dreadful stretch, Rojas feels this could be main factor in the wall his pitcher has hit, but he is unsure based off what he has seen.

"It could be, but it's been hard for us to really believe that when we see the stuff playing the same way," said Rojas. "And there's been differences but that happens to every pitcher at this time of year when they have their ups-and-downs. So I don't want to single out Walker because of the innings....But we are seeing things that it could be that."

Walker is still under contract with the Mets for the next two-years, after signing a three-year, $23 million deal with a third-year player option of $6 million in 2023.

After Walker came back to pitch his first full season since 2017, the Mets are hoping he won't hit a wall in the second-half next year and will be closer to his All-Star form, which we saw earlier in his 2021 campaign.