Robert Gsellman was the right-handed version of Steven Matz for the 2020 New York Mets. Another sinkerball pitcher who failed to find any ability to keep the ball down in the strike zone. Unfortunately, it was the second consecutive season where Gsellman’s season ended due to an injury.
Gsellman dealt with some health issues that forced him to wait until August 8 to make his first appearance of the season. It was only a one-inning relief outing, and it turned out to be his only scoreless outing of the season. Due to the lack of depth in the starting pitching department, the Mets thrust him into the starting rotation.
Starting Pitcher Gsellman
It was not the first time Gsellman was forced to make important starts. In 2016, Gsellman came up as a rookie to join a beleaguered rotation and push the Mets to a wild card spot. The starts were his first since 2017, where he struggled mightily, and the nervousness showed in the first two outings.
Gsellman gave up four runs in just 3.2 combined innings during his first two starts. His biggest issue was struggling to keep his pitch count down as he needed 80 pitches to get through those two starts. After getting 11 days of rest, Gsellman came back to hold the New York Yankees to one run over four innings pitched. This outing only needed 57 pitches and used a season-high four strikeouts to battle through four hits.
Gsellman ran out of luck in his second consecutive outing against the Yankees. He was knocked out in the second innings after giving up four hits, walks, and runs on 52 pitches. Things only got worse when he was sent back to the bullpen and allowed six runs and two home runs in a mop-up role. To add injury to insult, Gsellman fractured his rib during a pitch and was in visible pain as he walked off the field.
Like Matz, Gsellman had an issue figuring out how to keep his sinker low in the zone. Gsellman discussed using a one-seam fastball to get more sink instead of run, but it did not work out for him. The inability to put hitters away with his slider also led him to failure. Over the last two seasons, batters hit .130 and .208 against it, but this year it jumped all the way to .375. Instead of having whiff rates in the mid-30s, it dropped below his sinker at 14.3%.
The ugliest stat from Gsellman’s season was the hard-hit rate of 49.1%. When virtually half the balls hit have an exit velocity of 95 mph or better, it is impossible to put together a consistent success. Gsellman also had his groundball to fly ball rate drop for the fifth consecutive season, which is a major concern. Combining increased fly ball rates and high exit velocities create the .672 slugging percentage against him.
Gsellman is still under Mets control through the 2022 season. The Mets forced a failed starter back into the role due to Brodie Van Wagenen’s inability to find quality pitching depth to get the team through the season successfully. Due to the 9.64 ERA, Gsellman is on the outside looking in of a bullpen role. Gsellman can turn himself back into a useful reliever if he can regain his slider success and better his sinker’s location. At the moment, he finds himself on the outside, looking in at a bullpen spot.
2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)
Sinker: 40 (45), Only pitch batters hit below .300 against, and he threw it 45 of the time.
Slider: 25 (60), This is a pitch I believe Gsellman will refine. It was too good over the 2018-19 seasons to simply castaway.
4-Seam Fastball: 20 (30), The pitch hitters teed off on the most for a .857 slugging.
Changeup: 50 (50), All 20 were thrown to left-handed batters and swung and missed at 28.6% of the time.
Curve: 35 (35), Only threw 19 but had an above-average spin rate. Be on the lookout for Gsellman using this more in 2021.
Cutter: 30 (N/A), These were the final two pitches Gsellman threw in 2020. I believe they were hanging sliders due to their lack of movement.
Command: 25 (40), The command of his slider is what let him down the most. If nothing improves but the slider, it will make a major difference for Gsellman in 2021.
Overall: 20 (45), At least Gsellman cannot get worse.