clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The good Taijuan shows up, leads Mariners to victory

New, 66 comments

On the back of a dominant Taijaun Walker, the Mariners cruise to a 2-1 victory.

Sigma Sreedharan via Twitter

The general theme of my workday is millions of tiny adjustments. I work for a publishing house and endeavoring to make an author’s ideas tangible is often a long and frustrating process. Writing itself is a back-and-forth between what you want to say and the limitation of the words you have to say it. Once the manuscript is in our hands, it usually takes our editorial team at least three passes to get the content just right. The production schedule is in a constant state of flux, juggling the needs of design, marketing, printing, and distribution. Publishing, like many things in life, requires constant adjustments to reach a state of perfection.

Baseball is no different. Both pitchers and batters must be constantly evaluating their performances in the pursuit of success. One of the most frustrating things to witness early this season has been the lack of adjustments from Taijuan Walker. Entering the game today, he had made nine starts—his ERA was the worst among all starters in baseball and his FIP was fifth worst. After a promising Spring Training, his command had mysteriously vanished and his secondary pitches were alarmingly mediocre. Only a strong start in Texas and memories of Toronto late last year stood between holding on to a glimmer of hope and completely giving up.

Tonight, Taijuan Walker pitched like we’ve only dreamed about. And it wasn’t just for an inning or two either. He spun eight strong innings, giving up just two hits, no walks, and struck out eight. All eight strike outs were of the swinging variety and he was able to generate 18 whiffs tonight, five of them off his changeup. He was working aggressively and quickly, generating first pitch strikes to 64% of the batters he faced. Perhaps his most impressive feat tonight: no batter he faced was able to work a three-ball count.

Here’s a look at Taijuan’s pitch mix, to give you an idea of how he was able to accomplish this:

Pitch Type

Count

Avg Velo

Strikes

Swings

Whiffs

BIP (No Out)

Four-seam

66

95.9

52 (78.8%)

35 (53.0%)

12 (18.2%)

8 (1)

Sinker

11

96.0

8 (72.7%)

6 (54.5%)

0 (0.0%)

6 (0)

Changeup

19

90.2

14 (73.7%)

11 (57.9%)

5 (16.3%)

3 (1)

Curveball

6

76.2

2 (33.3%)

1 (16.7%)

1 (16.7%)

0 (0)

And his strike zone map:

Taijuan zone map

As you can see, he was pounding the zone and almost 75% of his pitches were strikes. He was utilizing the high fastball to great effect tonight and was able to locate his off-speed pitches down in the zone. That was a very successful recipe for him, keeping the opposing batters off balance all night long.

Taijuan was also throwing his curveball a bit different tonight as well:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">His CB sat at 77-78 FRI versus 73-74 in past starts. Walker said he likes the sharpness of it. Started throwing it 4 days ago</p>&mdash; Anthony Dion (@anthonydion03) <a href="https://twitter.com/anthonydion03/status/604515432788164608">May 30, 2015</a></blockquote>

<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

The fact that he was confident and comfortable enough with this new grip is very encouraging. He has always been extremely coachable which has been one of the reasons why he’s moved so fast through the organization. Now, the Mariners have to hope that this wasn’t just a flash in the pan but that these adjustments that Taijuan made tonight will lead to sustained success.

On the offensive side of things, the Mariners were hamstrung by Trevor Bauer and their own folly. The Mariners were able to get two base hits off of him in the first inning but both Austin Jackson and Kyle Seager were cut down trying to steal second. Bauer lost his command in the fourth and walked two batters to load the bases with two outs, but the Mariners couldn’t capitalize. He then struck out four Mariners in a row before Nelson Cruz broke up that streak with a single in the sixth. The next batter, Seth Smith, worked a 2-1 count before crushing a ball to deep right-center field.

Smith homer

That was all the offense the Mariners needed tonight.

Fernando Rodney came on in the ninth and started the inning off with this nasty strike out of Michael Bourn:

Rodney Bourn K

Rodney walked Jason Kipnis with two out bringing the tying run to the plate in Ryan Raburn. On a 3-1 count, he launched a deep fly ball to right-center field. Nelson Cruz raced back and was millimeters away from making the catch:

Cruz catch

Kipnis came around to score on Raburn’s triple and the Mariners’ lead was cut in half. Rodney was able to settle down and got Michael Brantley to pop out to short right field to finish the game. Arrow.

The Mariners continue their four-game series tomorrow night at 7:10 pm. Shaun Marcum will take the hill for the Indians while the Mariners counter with Roenis Elias.

Go M’s.