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2015 Mariner Advent Calendar of Joy - Day Seven

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Perhaps, just perhaps, the Mariners are developing another great pitcher.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

LL Advent Calendar

Day Seven - Taijuan Walker Felix's the Twins

  • The box score
  • The LL Recap
    holy shit did you guys see what Taijuan did tonight??? He was amazing. Tai spun his first complete game in the majors, dazzling with all four of his pitches, as he tied a career-high 11 strikeouts while allowing just one base hit (a solo shot) and one walk. Minnesota certainly isn't the biggest offensive juggernaut, but they've been swinging the bat pretty well lately (wRC+ of 106 in July). Tai needed just 101 pitches to work his way through nine innings of brilliant baseball.
  • The player quote
    "It probably is my best outing," he said. "But I just have to move on now and get ready for the next one."

The Mariners have taught me over the years to dismiss the idea of prospects. I won't bother listing the Smoaks and Ackleys and Monteros and Andersons and Nageottes and oh crap I need to stop this. The Mariners have been very bad at using their farm system to develop top level talent. It has gotten to the point where I just expect failure. We love Kyle Seager for so many reasons but primarily it's that he is the giant, glaring exception to the misery machine that has been the Mariners player development since Felix.

Taijuan Walker drove me nuts in the 1st two months of 2015. It's one thing to preach regressing to the mean, and that's a good thing to preach. But when your baseball team is bad and was supposed to be good and the youngest and arguably highest ceiling player spends two months running a 7.33 ERA that temptation to just give in to the "Mariners" narrative is so strong. I couldn't find it but back in May I essentially said Walker had no business pitching in the major leagues.

Well Tai, who definitely name searches himself on Twitter regularly and favorites "the haters" for motivation shut me up, quickly and definitively. After a mediocre 5 2/3 in Toronto on May 24th Walker's next 11 starts ran: 

69.2 IP, 61 H, 31 R, 71 K, 7 BB, 11 HR.

The only blemish was dingers, and that's something that will remain a point of emphasis for Walker in 2016. But Walker continued to strike people out and simply refused to walk anyone, ever. Set stage for July 31st:

The Brooks report for the game is a thing of beauty. The fastball averaged 95.9 MPH. He threw 21 curveballs, a pitch that may be the key to Walker reaching his potential. Of the 49 times the Twins swung at one of Walker's pitches a whopping 39% of them missed. When a team can't make contact, and when the pitcher won't stop throwing strikes, you get utter dominance.

The only blemish on Walker's day was a 4th inning changeup to the terror factory that is Miguel Sano, and given his struggles with gopher balls the ensuing home run was an appropriate way for Walker to lose the shutout and no-hitter. Other than that the Twins were utterly overpowered by Walker's stuff, in a way that no other Mariner pitcher (even Felix) was capable of in 2015.

This list has primarily served as a way to remember the happy moments in an otherwise dreary and forgettable season. But no memory of 2015 is as filled with potential happiness for 2016. Taijuan Walker may actually be really great, he may be the one that breaks through and becomes the Kyle Seager of pitchers. Few things could provide the Mariners a greater boost for this coming season.

Don't read this article Taijuan. Let the haters feed you. Also, thanks for this game, it was great.