Zack Wheelers’ big turnaround

As the old baseball saying goes, “Sometimes the best deals are the deals you don’t make,” and that seems to be the case with the Mets and Zack Wheeler. As the July 31 trade deadline approached this year, rumors were flying that the suddenly effective starting pitcher could be had in a trade. Reports showed interest from many contending clubs, including the Yankees, Brewers and Phillies. Speculation was the Mets could receive a pretty good prospect in exchange for him. However the deadline came and went, and Wheeler is still a Met. Most of us are quite happy that is the case.

Wheeler started off the year cold, and then he had a terrible May with a 6.43 ERA for the month. This of course was at the time when it became apparent the Mets’ season was in the process of falling off the rails. He then began pitching much better, his ERA for the month of June was 3.26, and in July he had a 3.13 figure with a 3-0 record.

However he has really sizzled since the trade deadline expired, in August he has had two starts of seven innings each, and both were wins. His ERA for the month is 1.29, and batters are only hitting .143 against him so far this month.

So it seems that things started to click for Wheeler by June, and he has only continued to improve. He’s throwing the ball hard (Fangraphs posts his fastball velocity at 96.3 MPH) with excellent control. For August he has racked up 17 strikeouts with only two bases on balls.

It was probably not just one change that lead to his dramatic improvement, there were likely several factors. The pitching brain trust of manager Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland surely had some impact on the improvement of Wheeler by tweaking his mechanics.

Wheeler missed 2015 and 2016 due to Tommy John surgery on his elbow, then much of 2017 was lost to a different arm injury. A combination of lingering arm woes and rust may have been a factor in Wheelers’ slow start this year.

In May the Mets acquired veteran catcher Devin Mesoraco from the Reds. Most of the pitching staff, including Wheeler, seems to like working with Mesoraco. His experience and pitch calling may well have been a small factor in Wheelers’ rebound.

Finally Wheeler may have improved his focus. As is often said about athletic success, mental toughness plays a big role. All these factors combined have made Wheeler pitch like an ace, not like a back of the rotation starter.

Starting pitching is clearly the teams’ strength, perhaps for the next few years, and Wheeler could play a big role. The front office is to be commended for holding on to Wheeler, who still has a year of team control. Perhaps management should consider offering him a contract that would lock him up for several more years.

9 comments for “Zack Wheelers’ big turnaround

  1. b
    August 14, 2018 at 9:48 am

    calloway and eiland can teach pitchers

  2. Pete in Iowa
    August 14, 2018 at 9:59 am

    While watching Wheeler improve his game has been great to see, I would proceed with caution.
    After all, he has never really had a stretch like this of consistently good pitching in his entire career. What makes us think this is the real Wheeler, based upon his entire body of work?
    Just sayin’.

  3. Pete from NJ
    August 14, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    Pete you’re right about the real Wheeler. So next year when all this might become important we’ll know for sure. Makes the hot stove league interesting for the fans and the front office.

  4. August 14, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    The thing that weighs in Wheeler’s favor is that is isn’t just the results that have changed…the Inputs have changed observably and measurably. His velocity is Up. His approach is more aggressive….it’s anecdotal and it’s statistical…’s even “Stat-Cast-Able”.

    Sure…He’s Hot…he’s a bit Fortunate…. He is very different as a pitcher over his past 10-15 starts versus everything he’s done before.

    Forward, I believe it’s all about Health and good Maintenance of his Mechanics.

    • John Fox
      August 14, 2018 at 3:47 pm

      Yep you hit it on the head, Eraff. And good mechanics in the pitching motion should mean a better chance of his arm remaining sound.

    • Santa Monica Eric
      August 15, 2018 at 2:12 pm

      He’s noticeably working at much quicker, much more DeGrom like pace. Then throwing it in there at the fastest average velocity, guys can’t get ready. Plus his location and pitch selection has been excellent. He’s fun to watch now – like Jake. More fun than Noah, even, currently.

  5. August 14, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    The next test for Zack Wheeler to finish the season healthy. If Zack Wheeler continues at this pace then it will be a no brainer to extend his contract over the winter. I don’t want two jump the gun but Wheeler has been great the past few weeks. In the last few weeks, deGrom, Wheeler and Syndergaard have established a formidable foundation of a rotation. At this point forward I expect the Mets to play winning baseball and to build a winning culture.

  6. TJ
    August 14, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    I was thankful that Wheeler wasn’t dealt at the deadline. Semi- small sample, but clearly trending up and adding value.

    The Mets have had plenty of issues combined with self-inflicted would over 2017-2018, but it would be very difficult to be non-competitive with a DeGrom-Syndergaard-Wheeler top 3 going every 5th day and performing at 90% of expectations (hard to ask Jake to throw at this level every year). Yeah, the line up and pen are a mess, but you could actually have 3 of the top 15 starters on the same team. I mean, come on now.

  7. Chris F
    August 14, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    i dont care if you have 5 deGroms, this team will be fighting the Marlins for last place unless significant improvements are made on offense defense and pen.

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