Coming into the season, the New York Mets were expecting a breakout year from Zack Wheeler as a replacement for Matt Harvey. Wheeler has failed to deliver. He hasn’t been able to string together positive starts and as a result he has a record of 2-7 with an ERA of 4.38, nearly a full point higher than he had last season.
Sure it’s true that lack of offense or poor bullpen performance may have cost him a win or two, it is not a stretch to say that Wheeler has struggled to get it going this year.
The big issue has been command. Wheeler has allowed 77 hits in 78 innings as well as 34 walks and 5 home runs. All that adds up to a somewhat unsightly ERA and an opposing batting average against of above .260.
Of course the season is far from lost but Mets fans certainly must be disappointed with the performance of such a highly touted young arm.
In order to turn his season around Wheeler has to do better at working deep into games. Because he is a strikeout pitcher, Wheeler usually gets himself into trouble with high pitch counts. Wheeler is yet to finish 7 innings this season and working deep into games would give him a much better chance at earning some wins in close games. He is averaging just over 5 innings per start this season.
Wheeler also must learn to stop his own personal slides. Several times this season he has had consecutive disappointing outings, including his last two where he allowed 8 runs in 8.2 total innings. He has shown that he is not always able to shake off one bad start, which ends up becoming two or three bad outings in a row.
Similarly, Wheeler needs to get winning streaks going. Sure the team does not always get him the help he needs but if he can get on a run, similar to what Bartolo Colon has done lately, he’s certainly capable of compiling two or three wins in a row. That more than anything is what he needs right now. Confidence in himself and some offensive support to get some wins on the board.
Wheeler needs to get it together quickly. He was expected to be an ace of the staff this season and with the Mets miraculously still alive in the NL East the team needs consisted pitching across the board.
There are a lot of hopes riding on Wheeler for the future of this team. A projected 1A starter behind Matt Harvey, Wheeler needs to make adjustments and get himself on the right path heading into the heat of summer and beyond.