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2023 Phillies in review: Taijuan Walker

Is this going to be a “one and done” for last year’s major pitching addition?

Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v. Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Three Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Is Taijuan Walker worth his contract? Probably not.

Is Taijuan Walker worth having on the team? Of course he is.

Is Taijuan Walker still going to be on the team by the time spring training rolls around? That’s an interesting question.

2023 stats: 31 GS, 172 23 IP, 155 H, 87 R (84 ER), 18.8 K%, 9.7 BB%, 44.6 GB%, 4.38 ERA (4.53 FIP), 2.5 fWAR

The good

Listen, every team would love to have a pitcher that gives them 30+ starts during the season and doesn’t blow up every game. While it seemed like Walker was always falling behind in games, going back through his game log, there weren’t many starts that one might consider to be “bad.”

He got blown up in Los Angeles in May, was not very good in San Francisco a few starts later, struggled in Atlanta in mid September....and was pretty much just average the rest of the season. There is lots of value in that. In fact, teams are paying good money for that this offseason (or not really). Having a pitcher on the team that they know will give them 28-32 starts over average to above average work, with the occasional clunker knowingly a possibility, is a kind of security teams value. Giving it up so easily is not something to be discarded so quickly.

The bad

Unfortunately for Walker, being average isn’t something the Phillies were interested in come playoff time.

Trying to put together their playoff pitching plan did not include Walker, much to his chagrin once the playoffs were over. It wasn’t really discussed at length why Walker was not chosen to start over Cristopher Sanchez, but anyone who had watched the team during the season could make a solid guess as to why.

In the first inning of his starts, Walker possessed a 7.04 ERA. It looks bad (and it is), but actually, among those pitchers that qualified as being that bad in the initial inning, Walker was the best!

So hey, he has that going for him!

The future

Now, whenever there has been a whisper of the team making a move for a starter, Walker’s name has been mentioned as an option to either be traded or simply let go in order to accommodate the one coming in. There is a bit of course correction coming, so that might not be the wisest thing to do.

The first inning horrors Walker had in 2023 will likely drop. His 7.04 ERA in the first inning was almost 2 12 runs higher than any other first inning ERA he’s had in a season in which he’s made 25 or more starts. If he can get those first inning issues under control, maybe his numbers look a little better once the season is complete.

There’s also something to be said about the innings he provides. The season is long and innings are needed from pitchers who are able to keep their teams in games. Walker showed last year that he is capable of doing so and as I previously said, there is value in that. Forgetting that the team may have overpaid a bit for those innings, he’s here and doing so. The other option to give those innings to may not be someone the team wishes to put on a major league mound. They didn’t exactly have the most depth last year, so when Walker was able to be penciled in every fifth day, that was one less start given to a minor league arm or someone else who might be waiver wire fodder.

Was he overpaid? When you see that Frankie Montas got $16 million coming off of major shoulder surgery, probably not.

Is he going to start a game in the playoffs? Not unless he fixes his first inning issues. If he does, the team just might have something a little better than they realize.