Taijuan Walker’s Dominant Start, By the Numbers

SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 25: Taijuan Walker #44 of the Seattle Mariners delivers a pitch during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Safeco Field on April 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Taijuan Walker unleashed a venomous arsenal in a dominating effort against the Houston Astros at Safeco Field last night. The young fireballer tied a career high by fanning 11 hitters while only allowing 1 run in 7 innings of work. Walker punctuated what has been a sensational first month of the season.  He is now the proud owner of the second best April ERA in team history for a pitcher with at least 4 starts.

Floyd Bannister 1.21 (1980)
Taijuan Walker 1.44 (2016)
Randy Johnson 1.53 (1992)
Erik Hanson 1.53 (1993)

His frigid 1.44 ERA is also 4th best in the American League.

Walker’s exceptional results have formed through a blend of exquisite pitcher skills. First of all, Walker has been stingy with free passes. His 1.08 walks per 9 innings is 2nd best in the American League behind White Sox ace Chris Sale.  He has only walked three batters in four starts. For comparison, there have already been 204 occurrences this season of pitchers in MLB walking 3 or more in a single game.

Secondly, he is striking out hitters at a delicious rate. His 9.00 strikeouts per 9 innings is currently 14th in the AL. His current innings and K rate pace would comfortably propel him over the coveted 200 strikeout mark for the season.

Additionally, Walker features the 9th best ground ball rate in the AL. So far this season he has equaled famous ground-baller and defending Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel at his most impressive skill.

Taijuan Walker is the only pitcher in the American League who is in the top-15 in strikeouts per 9, walks per 9 and ground ball rate.  The rare skill-set has produced unique results such as last night.

Walker became just the 4th pitcher in M’s history (23 age or younger) to toss a game of 7 or more innings while striking out 10 or more and only allowing a run or fewer.

Felix Hernandez (4 times)
Freddy Garcia (3)
Taijuan Walker (2)
Mark Langston (2)

Excellent company.

He also has already produced his 3rd game of 10 or more strikeouts while walking 1 or fewer.

Randy Johnson (25)
Felix Hernandez (21)
Erik Hanson (7)
Mark Langston (5)
Mike Moore (5)
Hisashi Iwakuma (3)
Freddy Garcia (3)
Taijuan Walker (3)

After Walker’s performance last night Mariners manager Scott Servais exclaimed. “Awesome, awesome outing. He’s finding his stride. He’s coming into his own, the type of pitcher he can be.”

The differences between Walker’s first four starts last year and this year are striking.

2015 4 GS 19.2 IP 25 hits 15 ER 11 BB 19 SO 6.86 ERA
2016 4 GS 25.0 IP 21 hits 4 ER 3 BB 25 SO 1.44 ERA

The tough start for Walker a year ago helped mask the overall gains he made. He posted an ERA of 3.62 while fanning 118 and walking 17 in his last 20 starts spanning the final four months of the season.  It appears that he has continued to make strides.

“We’re watching somebody take the next step.” Servais said.

Now M’s fans can dream about where those steps can lead for Walker.

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