The Mets are still holding on to first place in the National League East, 3.5 games up on the second-place Braves, and the only team in the division with a winning record. They’ve done this despite having more people on the injured list than in the dugout at times, and an offense that sits near the bottom of the NL in home runs, and ranks dead last in runs batted in.
But on the mound, New York has dominated. Their 3.19 staff ERA trails only the San Diego Padres. No one has had a bigger impact on those impressive pitching numbers than Stroman and Walker, two of the three Mets hurlers who have made at least 10 starts this season.
They are tied with Jacob deGrom for the team lead in wins (4), and their names can be found across the pitching leaderboards.
Both rank in the National League’s Top 20 in earned run average and innings pitched. They carry matching 1.06 WHIP ratings and between them, batters are hitting a combined .221.
Another rising Black star, Jack Flaherty, is probably the early front-runner for Cy Young honors, but no pair of pitchers have had to shoulder a bigger burden than Stroman and Walker.
The timing of their mutual ascensions couldn’t be better.
Marcus Stroman Gambles On Himself
Stroman faced doubts after opting out of the 2020 season. During his time away from the daily grind of the season, he made himself a better pitcher, adding a split changeup to his repertoire. Utilizing his splitter in tandem with his sinker, he’s been able to keep batters from squaring up and off the bases, even without the high strikeout numbers that have permeated all of baseball.
Stro has matured as well; something he spoke about before the season began.
“I’m the kind of person who is always working on myself as well,” he told Metsmerized Online. “Whether it be my self-care, whether it be my mind, whether it be my breathing, I’m always trying to improve. Not only in the field, but in life.”
That improved mental toughness showed when deGrom went down with an injury. Stroman picked up the slack and then some. In 11 starts, he’s given up more than three runs only twice.
One of baseball’s smallest pitchers in stature, he’s also been able to eat innings and protect the New York bullpen, going at least six innings nine times.
Tai-Walking On These Haters
Walker has been a much bigger surprise. He’s already won as many games this season as he had in the last three seasons combined. Injuries robbed him of some precious development time just when he appeared to be tapping into his potential.
The curve of his career was bending towards success, with an earned run average that has decreased from 4.56 in 2015 to 2.17 this year.
But, after a 2017 campaign that saw him go 9-9 in 28 starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he tore the UCL in his right elbow and, after Tommy John surgery, was only able to make four starts over the next two years.
After starting the year with the Seattle Mariners, Walker rounded into shape during the second half of last season. He was able to give the Toronto Blue Jays some solid outings and finished with a 2-1 record and 1.37 ERA in six appearances.
There wasn’t much of a market for him though, as teams were worried if he could be counted on as a rotation regular.
Before his own trip to the injured list, he was erasing all doubts.
Top-3 lowest wOBAs against a pitcher's 4-seam fastball this season (min. 50 PAs ending with a 4-seamer):
In his nine prior starts, he allowed more than three runs one time.
Over five starts in May, Walker went 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA. Opposing hitters were left flailing, batting .156 against him. His WHIP was an obscene 0.71.
Walker, like Stroman, doesn’t rely on overpowering stuff. He pitches. He changes locations and speeds and makes quick work of each lineup he faces.
History In The Making
Two unlikely heroes in Gotham have made the Mets exciting again.
If New York can regain its health, and find its offense, a division title could be forthcoming for the first time since 2015, when the Mets advanced to the World Series. Then, whoever the Mets face could have to deal with deGrom, Stroman, and Walker twice in a seven-game series.
Good luck with that. Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker are on the verge of something special, and quite possibly, historic.
He’s also an anomaly. At 5 feet 7 inches tall, he doesn’t strike an imposing form when on the mound. Since 2000, he’s one of only six pitchers under 5’10” to even make a start in Major League Baseball.
But every time he takes the ball, you can’t tell him he’s not the biggest, baddest, man in the stadium.
He has no fear; not of opposing lineups, and not of big moments. And right now, he’s entering one of the biggest moments of his career.
The Mets’ pitching staff has been hit hard by injury. Jacob deGrom just returned from the injured list, but New York is currently without fellow Black Aace Taijuan Walker, and Carlos Carrasco, and Jordan Yamamoto. The latest depressing news surrounds Noah Syndergaard, who will be shut down for another six weeks due to right elbow inflammation.
Through all of it, Stroman has taken the hill every fifth day.
Thursday afternoon he pitched six scoreless innings against the Colorado Rockies, giving up only three hits as New York scratched out a 1-0 victory in Game 1 of a doubleheader. Stro picked up his team-leading fourth victory while dropping his earned run average to 2.47.
“I feel like I’ve always taken pride in taking the ball every fifth day and putting my team in a position to win,” he said after the game. “Since we have a lot of the guys on the DL, I just feel like it puts a little more pressure on the guys who are in the rotation to carry their load while those guys are out.”
If deGrom is the unquestioned ace of the Mets’ rotation, Stroman is its glue.
Stroman’s allowed more than two earned runs in only two starts so far, and his 58.1 innings pitched are 13 more than anyone else on the roster.
“We’ve had some absences in our starting rotation, and this guy’s given us length,” said Mets manager Luis Rojas. “For me, what he’s done repeatedly, is that he’s helped our bullpen stay fresh…I think you have to give a lot of credit to him because he’s worked really hard, since last year when he didn’t pitch. He’s worked really hard to get into this position.”
The work is paying off for Stroman and the Mets, who continue to cling to first place in the National League East even with one of the worst offenses in baseball. Until the Mets’ offense can find some consistency and its pitching staff is once again whole, Marcus Stroman can be counted on to hold it down.
If you doubt him, just ask him. He’ll tell you.
“I don’t beg cause cause I’m not a begonia;
I dress warm so that I won’t catch pneumonia;
My rhymes are stronger than ammonia;
I’m a diamond, you’re a cubic zirconia.”
— MC Smooth B, Hip Hip Junkies
Marcus Stroman has always known he was a star. The rest of baseball is finally coming to that realization as well.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: haters are Marcus Stroman’s motivators.
At 5 feet, 8 inches tall, Stroman is probably the shortest pitcher in the MLB, and he’s fueled by the doubters that believe height is synonymous with talent.
The proof is in his wardrobe. Yes, his wardrobe.
For years the Mets’ pitcher lived by the saying “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart,” or “HDMH.” Initially, Stroman was told that he would be too short to be a starting pitcher at Duke. He proved the doubters wrong. Not only did Stroman play three seasons at Duke, but he also currently holds the sixth-lowest career ERA in Duke history.
After Stroman became the starting pitcher at Duke, the haters changed their tune. He wasn’t too short to pitch at Duke, but he would definitely be too short to get drafted in the first round of the MLB draft.
He proved the doubters wrong again. In 2012, Stroman was the 22nd pick in the MLB draft. However, getting drafted was one thing. With his height, there couldn’t possibly be any way for him to become a starting pitcher.
As it stands today, Stroman has started 148 games since launching his MLB career in 2014. He has a winning record of 54-51. And this season he returned home to the Mets and is sporting a career-low 2.70 ERA as part of a pitching staff that has given up the least earned runs in baseball as of Tuesday (108).
The slogan had inspired him through college and all the way to the MLB. Nowadays, he also wears the acronym on his clothes.
His apparel brand, HDMH, was born of an idea to inspire and encourage others, while also reminding them to block out the outside noise.
According to the HDMH mission statement, the clothing company came to be after Stroman had been motivated by all the talk and opinions from others. He wanted to start a movement to remind others that outside opinions are irrelevant. Now, thanks to Stroman’s clothing site, anyone can wear his mantra with pride.
The Heart Doesn’t Measure Height brand currently has 30,900 followers across its Twitter and Instagram accounts. Stroman also promotes the brand on his personal social media accounts, which have a combined follower count of over 1 million people.
The brand offers clothing options for men, women, children and adults. The overall vibe of the inventory offered is casual and athletic.
The site offers a wide variety of athletic wear including HDMH baseball jerseys, jumpsuits and socks. For baseball players of all ages, the site also sells HDMH gloves, backpacks and hats.
HDMH’s social media presence has grown along with the hashtag #HDMH. What started as a simple trend to motivate Stroman, has now become a community of people of all ages who are determined to block out the outside noise.
Usually, a team that loses a pitcher like Jacob DeGrom for any period of time would be scrambling to figure out a way to fill that void.
The New York Mets are being justifiably cautious with their ace, who was placed on the 10-day injured list earlier this week. But the team has continued to roll with DeGrom watching, extending their winning streak to seven games with a two-game series sweep of the Baltimore Orioles.
The last two wins came in large part to the efforts of rising New York stars Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker. In sweeping the short series with the O’s, Stroman and Walker combined for back-to-back outstanding outings.
My dawg @tai_walker was filthy again. Even keel and balanced. On to the next with the squad! @Mets
In Tuesday’s 3-2 victory, Stroman gave up one run in 6.1 innings, earning a no-decision. It was his fourth start with at least six innings pitched while allowing one run or less.
Wednesday night, Walker earned his third win of the season after holding Baltimore to one run by scattering four hits over seven innings. For the third time in seven starts, he allowed one run or less.
On the strength of those showings, the Mets are the only team in the National League with three starters in the top 10 in earned run average.
The #Mets currently have three starting pitchers with ERAs under 3.00 in Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman & Taijuan Walker.
The last time the club had a trio of starters with ERAs under 3.00 (min. 40 IP) by the end of May was in 2016:
Tai Weezy has followed Stroman’s lead, needing just one more win to tie last season’s total. Opposing hitters are batting .170 against Walker and his 2.20 earned run average is a career-best. At 6’4”, and 235 pounds, Walker is more of a flame thrower than his teammate, striking out 39 in 41 innings.