It’s time for everyone’s favorite weekly column, another edition of Patience or Panic! This week we look at some playoff-hopeful teams in the San Diego Padres and the New York Mets. Each has a key player that has been up and down lately so we’re going to dive in and see what we can find!
With that being said, our first name is:
Trent Grisham, OF, Padres
Before the year started everyone thought the Padres were going to be a World Series contender due to their additions of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and others over the offseason. And while they have been in the playoff picture the entire year and currently hold one of the NL Wild Card spots, being seven games out of the division lead on August 10th isn’t exactly what a lot of us imagined from this team (although none of us imagined the Giants would stick around this long either and yet here we are).
Granted they’ve had multiple injuries to superstar Fernando Tatís Jr. and multiple disappointing stretches from Snell to slog through over the course of the year.
And while Grisham has been struggling lately (.209./.338/.313 over the last four weeks) he’s dealt with injury trouble of his own, starting just 77 of a possible 114. So this could simply be a matter of poor health derailing his game. However if the Padres want to make a deep playoff push and contend with the likes of their in-state rivals the Dodgers then Grisham will have to look more like the .800+ OPS player they know he is capable of being rather than what he’s looked like over the last four weeks (.651 OPS).
Luckily there is good news on that front. Due to the arrival of Adam Frazier from Pittsburgh and Tommy Pham having a stranglehold on the leadoff position in the lineup, Grisham has been knocked down a few spots. He is still starting and his defense is largely to thank for that, but regardless he has been knocked down to the bottom third of the lineup.
That has actually proved to be fruitful for the 24-year-old. Ever since the calendar has turned to August, Grisham has mostly hit seventh in the batting order, where he has a .320/.469/.560 slash line over eight games from that spot. He has hit eighth once when he went 2-4 with a home run against Arizona on August 6th.
But I digress.
That’s not all though, over the last week (in which all of his starts have come from the seven hole or lower) Grisham is hitting .471/.591/.882 and providing major production for the bottom of the Padres lineup. Just for fun and in case you need a little more evidence for the verdict to follow, since August 1st Grisham has made soft contact just 7.1% of the time while also hitting the ball on the ground just 7.7% of the time. That’s probably not sustainable but it is pretty damn good.
Oh and coincidentally the Padres have also won five of seven games since August 1st, including three in a row.
Taijuan Walker, SP, Mets
In a complete shock to the entire world, the Mets are Mets-ing as we enter the home stretch of the season. After holding the top of the NL East for much of the season, they have gone into a free fall over the last couple of weeks, eight of their last ten and four straight including a sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies to lose the division lead and fall to third place behind Philadelphia and the Atlanta Braves.
Now the Mets aren’t all to blame for their issues, Jacob Degrom (who was at one point the favorite to win the NL MVP) has been on the shelf for a long time and might not be back until September now, and Francisco Lindor has also been sidelined with an injury. But it still isn’t looking good.
Walker, who at one point held a sparkling ERA in the low twos, hasn’t helped their situation. Over his last 5 starts Walker has lasted just 21 innings and holds an ERA of 9.86. If the Mets want to right the ship Walker is going to have to be a big part of that.
So what’s the issue?
Well first things first, Walker has significantly upped his fastball usage, going from just a 27% usage rate in July to now a 41% rate. This has come at the expense of the sinker, which he has basically abandoned. Unfortunately for Walker (and the Mets) after a strong two first months with the pitch, it has been not very good since June when opponents slugged .486 against the pitch, the lowest slugging percentage Walker has gotten on it since then. A fastball spin rate that ranks in just the 14th percentile could be to blame for that.
Further to the point of pitch usage, in order to try and make up for abandoning his sinker Walker has upped the rate of not only his fastball, but also his slider (21% in June, 27% now) and split-finger changeup (8.6% in June, 12.6% now). But the bad news is that those pitches haven’t been very good for the Mets righty, although the slider has only allowed a .083 batting average against it so far in August so there could be something there.
The steady constant though is that Walker’s fastball has been hit for a high batting average or slugging percentage or both in every month since June, yet that is the pitch he is leaning on and has had the biggest jump in usage on. Bringing back the sinker is probably not the solution here, but possibly mixing the breaking stuff more could help. The curveball has been good, holding opponents to just a 3-21 clip with just one XBH.
The control also has to get better, Walker has been walking opponents at a very high clip, and has hit the strike zone with just 41% of his pitches over his last five starts, causing opposing hitters to swing at just 50% of the pitches they see from him.
Graphic by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)