On Friday night in Milwaukee, Zack Wheeler made his fourth career start for the Mets.
While it wasn’t a thing of beauty, Wheeler did collect his second win on the year nonetheless. Wheeler pitched the minimum five innings to qualify for the win. In those five innings, Wheeler gave up seven hits and three walks while striking out three batters. It’s amazing he gave up only three runs (one earned) in the outing.
The thing is, Wheeler battled hard all night and got some key outs when he had to. Especially in the 5th inning.
With the bases loaded and one out, and the tying run at the plate, Wheeler first got Jonathan Lucroy to pop up to shallow center. He then got Juan Francisco to look at a called third strike to end the inning. The Mets would tack on more runs and Wheeler would get his second win.
Wheeler and the Mets were also clearly the beneficiary of some shoddy Milwaukee defense, as the Brewers were a fundamental mess (playing some of the sloppiest baseball I can remember) on the night, which led to the easy 12-5 Mets victory.
Wheeler wasn’t the story on this night, though.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis (4-5 with five RBI’s and three runs scored) had his best game as a professional and Ike Davis (3-5 with two RBI’s and two runs scored) had an inspiring first game back from the minors.
However, the talk of Wheeler’s development is the story with the Mets and their fans these days, with some even suggesting he is a bust.
Through four starts, Wheeler is 2-2 with an uneven 4.29 ERA and unhealthy 1.62 WHIP. To some, that’s not enough. We were sold a bag a goods on Wheeler and those current numbers do not line up with what we were sold.
Wheeler is having a tough time staying consistent, confident and poised on the mound.
It is becoming readily apparent that Wheeler was not ready for his call up. Wheeler is still having a real difficult time with his command. But as Andy Martino points out in his column, it actually maybe better that Wheeler works out all the kinks now in the big leagues. This way when next season comes along, Wheeler may be ready to fully contribute while working over his issues this year.
Wheeler was not going to do what Matt Harvey has been able to do thus far. That was an unfair expectation that many critics unnecessarily put on Wheeler. Wheeler’s maturation and development has to be viewed differently than that of Harvey. They are two completely different animals.
Obviously, some—if not the vast majority—pitchers need time to grow and mature into a complete pitcher. Wheeler is definitely be one of those pitchers.
There will most certainly be an adjustment period for Wheeler, and like it or not, Wheeler will likely continue to struggle this year. That’s okay, as long as he doesn’t struggle when the Mets are position to challenge for a playoff spot, we can live with Wheeler’s struggles right now.
It should be understood that the early hole Wheeler finds himself in can happen to young phenoms—even ones gifted as much as Wheeler. Look at the early struggles of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Cliff Lee, etc. The list goes on and on.
Buckle up; it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Mets’ fans must remain patient, as it appears Wheeler will need a little time to develop into the ace we are drumming him up to be.