M's top prospect Taijuan Walker hasn't been quite his dominant self recently and went just 75 pitches over four innings in the Generals 7-6 win last night. Walker gave up four hits, one run, two walks, and three strikeouts with four groundballs against four flies. He also had a wild pitch.
On the season, Walker is at 98 innings pitched, which is about the same as the 96.2 innings he pitched last season for Clinton, but he hasn't been quite as sharp in total this year. Here's a comparison of numbers between last season and this:
Last season: 2.89 ERA, 69 hits allowed, 4 HR, 39 BB, 113 K, 1.54 Groundout/Airout ratio, .202 average against.
This season: 4.04 ERA, 89 hits allowed, 6 HR, 42 BB, 94 K, 1.07 GO/AO, .245 average against.
The numbers are down across the board, but there's always more than meets the eye. Number one is the most obvious one, and that's the fact that Taijuan was 18 in low-A last season and is 19 in AA this season. He skipped over the pitcher's Hell known as High Desert and is among the youngest players in AA this season. When you look closer at the numbers, it's even more impressive to see how he's survived a whole season at AA so far.
The most important part of the numbers being that in June, Walker posted a 9.14 ERA with 15.4% walks per plate appearance and a .379 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play, for those unfamiliar, which shows that he got very unlucky on contact) against. Then you look at July and see that Walker posted a 3.41 ERA, 8.6% walks, 20.7% strikeouts, 51% groundballs and a .250 BABIP against. While Walker hasn't been as good at any point this season as he was in April (30.2% K, 7% BB) he was as good in July as he was in May.
When Walker said that he just lost his curve in June and then found it in July, we can trust him.
The Generals have 26 games and the playoffs left, meaning that Walker could make between 4 and 6 more starts on the season and push himself up to perhaps 120 innings on the season which sounds about right. As much as I'd love to shut him down and keep him from being injured, a worry I have with all pitchers, I'd say that he definitely does not appear tired. He just appears to be a teenager in an advanced league.