Robert Gsellman came into the 2017 season as a contender for the Mets’ Opening Day rotation, and given the way things went in spring training, he probably would have earned one of those spots regardless of the health of the Mets’ other pitchers. Through his first two starts of the year and one inning of relief, however, Gsellman has a 9.28 ERA, which is obviously very bad, and a mediocre 4.34 FIP.
Those numbers are far from ideal, and it’s probably far too soon to panic. Gsellman has 13 strikeouts in 10.2 innings pitched, a rate of 10.97 per nine innings and 26.0 percent of batters faced—both of which are really good. Among the 126 pitchers who have thrown at least ten innings this year, Gsellman’s K/9 ranks 17th in baseball, and his K% ranks 30th. And his 9.3 percent swinging strike rate, while not out-of-this-world good, suggests the strikeouts haven’t been a total fluke.
Walks, home runs, and hard contact have been a different story altogether. At 4.22 walks per nine or 10.0 percent of batters faced, Gsellman’s had a hard time limiting free passes. He really set himself up for a disastrous first inning against the Marlins on Thursday night—the game that wound up lasting sixteen innings—when he issued a one-out, bases-empty walk to A.J. Ellis. He wound up scoring on Marcell Ozuna’s grand slam later in that inning along with Giancarlo Stanton, who Gsellman had also walked.
Gsellman has allowed two home runs in those 10.2 innings, a rate of 1.69 per nine innings. Both were hit by Ozuna, who had tagged him for a solo home run in his first start of the year on Saturday, April 8 at Citi Field. Perhaps the solution is as simple as not facing him, but Gsellman has allowed a .367 batting average on balls in play this year. That suggests he might be giving up harder-than-ideal contact in general.
As far as his stuff goes, Gsellman looks much like he did last year. His four-seam fastball has averaged 94.39 miles per hour according to Brooks after averaging 94.65 last year. His two-seam fastball, changeup, and curve are slightly slower than last year, but he’s already throwing his slider at 89.2 miles per hour, half-a-mile-per-hour faster than he threw it in 2016. And his pitch mix has been nearly identical, with slightly more changeups and fewer sliders.
Maybe the book is out on Gsellman, but we’re probably looking at a pair of bad starts that will end up far in the rear-view mirror by the time the season is over. Pitchers can’t just get by with velocity and strikeouts, but with both of those things looking fine so far this year, it’s hard to get too down about what Gsellman will do moving forward.