Mets starting pitcher Robert Gsellman walked a career-high five batters, allowed five hits and gave up four runs in just four innings Tuesday night during a loss to the Cubs.
"Tonight I had too many walks, which is frustrating, and that just can't happen up here," Gsellman said after the game. "I always have confidence when I take the mound. It's just a matter of if I can repeat my mechanics. Today, it was pretty bad. I've just got to watch video, and keep working on it."
In his three starts before last night, Gsellman lost three times, and had a 2.87 ERA and 1.57 WHIP, while striking out just six batters in 15 2/3 innings.
"It's very surprising, only because he got a real taste of what you have to do up here for success," manager Terry Collins said after the game. "He's got the great movement on his fastball. You saw some good secondary pitches."
"I still think this kid's a great competitor," Collins continued. "I still think he's got a tremendous future ahead of him. We've just got to get it turned around to where when he goes into the winter, when he gets ready for Spring Training, he's still got the same confidence that he left with last year."
It's now at a point that anyone watching him on the mound, including Gsellman himself, has to be wondering if his eight starts in 2016 were simply a fluke (considering he didn't have a sensational minor-league career and wasn't a top prospect). Or, is he still ultra-talented, but simply going through a natural hurdle in his second year, when opposing hitters, teams and scouts begin to make adjustments to any young pitcher.
I don't have the answer, because it can also be a chicken-and-the-egg scenario. In other words, are guys hitting Gsellman because he is undisciplined in his delivery and simply not effective? Or, were batters first to adjust, resulting in Gsellman altering his mechanics, which has made him more hittable and less effective?
The fact is, last season and in early-2017, he was getting more swings and misses, not walking guys, pitching ahead in the count, keeping the ball down and getting a ton of groundball outs.
He was the perfect down-in-the-zone pitcher and a terrific counter punch to what opposing teams would get when facing Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. However, while he's had moments of success this season, he's been all over the road, sometimes pitching well, sometimes up in the zone, sometimes in command, sometimes running scared.
Gsellman (65) delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frankly, the story of Gsellman's season has been a bit of a grind and probably not at all what he had been expecting when arriving to Spring Training this past winter. He began the season with a decent start, then struggled and struggled. He was moved to the bullpen, then back to the rotation, then injured, he struggled in the minors, then got promoted and was finally back in the rotation.
He made two strong starts, but then struggled again and was sent to the minor leagues. Upon his return to the Mets, he had a foolish and public tiff with GM Sandy Alderson, has again bounced between good and bad, and is now back singing for his supper. In many ways, I'm sure he'd love to erase 2017 and zoom back to life one year ago.
So, what is Gsellman and how does he factor in to 2018? From what I can tell, despite his struggles and back-and-forth with Alderson, the Mets still believe in Gsellman's potential. However, I'm not convinced they know how they prefer to use him next season.
Teams asked about trading for him this past offseason, but were essentially told he was unavailable, because he was needed as insurance. I doubt he'll be requested in trade this winter, so the Mets will have him in camp. He has pitched well as a starter, but it's hard to stop imagining how his hard sinker would play as a late-inning bullpen weapon. He's been more effective in relief, but he's also only worked in seven innings and against 31 batters.