How Did Wheeler Become The Mets Ace?
Back when the Mets traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler, the Mets touted the trade as the team adding another potential ace that would one day serve as one of the cornerstones of a rotation that would bring the Mets their third World Series title. Unfortunately, with Wheeler missing two years after his Tommy John surgery, it hasn’t happened that way.
In the time he was gone, he almost became expendable. Matt Harvey was the ace in 2013, and he was well on his way in 2015 to re-claiming that spot. Jacob deGrom went from 2014 Rookie of the Year to the Game 1 starter of the 2015 NLDS. Noah Syndergaard brought a repertoire that included a 100 MPH fastball and a mid 90s slider. Throw in the tantalizing talent of Steven Matz, and the Mets almost moved Wheeler in 2015 as part of the ill-fated Carlos Gomez deal. With Gomez’s hips, Wheeler remained a Met, but after he missed all of 2016 as well, he was almost an afterthought.
Now, he has gone from damaged goods to the staff ace. After shaking off some rust in the early part of the season, he really has been a dominant starting pitchers. Since May, Wheeler has made six starts going 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA, 1.431 WHIP, and a 7.7 K/9 while averaging over six inning per start. Last night, we watched Wheeler play the part of the stopper with him going seven strong and giving the Mets a chance to snap the Mets out of a funk that saw the team lose five out of its last six games.
Now, many would point to the fact Wheeler is now the staff ace because the rest of the rotation is either injured or has struggled. Syndergaard is likely gone for the year with a torn lat. Matz and Seth Lugo have yet to throw a pitch this season. Harvey and deGrom have not been the same pitchers after last year’s season ending surgeries. And frankly, anyone is better than Rafael Montero, Adam Wilk, and Tommy Milone. Still, even if everyone was pitching to their best abilities, Wheeler would stand out.
It’s easy to forget, but we did get a taste of this with Wheeler. In 2014, Wheeler had a stretch from July until September 6th where he made 12 terrific starts. In those starts, Wheeler was 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9. During that stretch, Wheeler looked like the ace the Mets thought they were getting when they traded away Beltran. It was during that stretch where you believed the three starters who would carry the Mets to the World Series were Harvey, deGrom, and Wheeler.
It seems as if Wheeler is recapturing some of what he was back in that terrific 2014 stretch. If he is, he is certainly becoming the ace the Mets believed he could be. More than anything, he is the ace the Mets need right now.