The 2021 season was an odd one for Taijuan Walker.
The New York Mets righty earned an All-Star selection, but that statement alone doesn’t tell the whole story.
While he was certainly deserving of being named an All-Star at the time of the Midsummer Classic, he hit some really rocky waters in the second half of the season.
The 29-year-old couldn’t seem to catch a break over the final few months of the campaign.
Let’s break down his season by looking at it in two parts.
Walker’s 1st Half
Walker made 17 outings (16 starts) before the 2021 All-Star break.
The results were outstanding.
First of all, the Mets went 14-3 over his first 17 outings of the season.
A stat of that nature obviously isn’t the best one to use to evaluate a pitcher’s performance, but it says a lot about how often Walker gave the Mets a chance to win.
Second of all, his individual statistics were very impressive.
He posted a 2.66 ERA, 3.06 FIP, and .573 opponent OPS over his first 17 outings.
Taijuan Walker, Painted 95mph Two Seamer. 🖌️🎨 pic.twitter.com/QgRJvrlk6m
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 3, 2021
Things looked to be trending in a great direction for him.
Then, the All-Star break hit, and everything changed.
Walker’s 2nd Half
After the All-Star break, Walker didn’t look like the same guy.
It was apparent right away that something was off, as he allowed five runs or more in each of his first three starts after the Midsummer Classic.
During the second half, Walker did have a few solid outings, but there weren’t enough of them to outweigh the number of iffy ones he had.
He ended up registering a 7.13 ERA over his final 13 outings.
He pitched to a 6.79 FIP and .861 opponent OPS during that same span.
Taijuan Walker's final line today: 5 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 7 K. He finishes the month having allowed 20 earned runs in 20 July innings.
Walker produced a 1.84 ERA in April and May, but a 5.36 mark in June and July.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) July 29, 2021
After an elite first half, he ended the season with an ERA of 4.47, FIP of 4.57, and ERA+ of 90.
How often do you see a played post a WAR of less than 1.0 and make an All-Star team in the same season?
That’s what happened to Walker in 2021.
His poor second half tanked a lot of his value statistics, and he finished the year with an underwhelming bWAR of 0.5.
It was definitely a strange year for the former first-round pick.
It’s tough to figure out exactly what happened to Walker.
He spoke about his struggles near the end of the 2021 regular season.
“Not sure right now,” Walker said regarding the cause of his second-half struggles. “But I mean, it’s something to look at in the offseason to correct for next year.”
It’s possible that the All-Star Game threw off his rhythm.
Pitchers are creatures of habit, and the All-Star break sort of does throw a wrench into the flow of the season every time it comes around.
In Walker’s case, this past season’s All-Star Game was a totally new experience for him, as he was selected to it for the first time in his career.
He actually made an appearance it the game, too, which was obviously a first for him.
But it was just a one-inning showing, which is far from normal for a starting pitcher.
When all was said and done, Walker had eight days of rest between his final start before the All-Star break and his first start after it (with a one-inning All-Star Game outing sandwiched between).
It’s very possible that he was thrown off by that odd stretch.
Regardless, the hope is that he’ll pitch like his best self in 2022.
If he does, it’ll be a huge boost for New York.