Don’t Overreact To Wheeler’s Slow Start
Two starts into the season, and Zack Wheeler looks more like the maddening pitcher he was most of his career than the pitcher who had a better second half era than Jacob deGrom. In fact, you could say this is the worst he’s ever looked. So far, he’s 0-1 with a 10.24 ERA, 1.862 WHIP, and a 7.4 BB/9.
This has led to a a number of different reactions. There is a wonder if the Mets made the right decision not extending Wheeler. It’s possible the second half was an enigma. Possibly, while we focused on deGrom, maybe it was really Wheeler who benefited from Devin Mesoraco.
The most likely answer is it is none of those things. Really, this is a slow start from a slow starter.
In Wheeler’s career, his April ERA is 4.95, which is his worst of his career. Breaking it down, Wheeler is a slow starter. His career first half ERA is 4.45, and his second half ERA is 2.92. This includes his having a 2.30 ERA in the month of August.
For a moment, take a look back at the 2014 season. In April and May, Wheeler had a 4.31 ERA, and he was getting hit hard by some of the better teams in baseball. As disappointing as his first half would prove, something seemed to click with him in July.
In July, Wheeler had a 1.67 ERA. Between July and August, he had a 2.24 ERA. Over the course of those 10 starts, he averaged 6.1 innings per start, and he limited batters to a .211/.295/.343 batting line. In all 10 of those starts, he allowed three earned or fewer, nine of those starts were two earned or fewer, and in half of those starts he allowed just one earned.
After that second half, there was much excitement about seeing Wheeler being a significant part of the 2015 Mets rotation. Unfortunately, circumstances would prove differently. It would not be until the 2018 season Wheeler would try reemerge.
Like that 2014 season, Wheeler struggled through May. In fact, while it may be easy to forget, Wheeler had a 5.40 ERA as the Mets entered June. Once again, he began to figure it out in July, and over July and August, Wheeler would have a 2.o1 ERA. Once again, his second half had people eagerly anticipating him being a part of the Opening Day rotation.
So far, the enthusiasm has been tampered down a bit. Two rough starts against a potent Nationals lineup will do that to a pitcher. It will do that all the more to a pitcher who is typically a slow starter. It’s easy to overlook that early in the season when two bad starts wildly skew a player’s stats.
In the end, baseball is a marathon, and at the end of the day, the Mets need Wheeler to be Wheeler for them to be successful. If he takes his time to warm up, so be it because in the end, we know how great he can be when he gets it going. And when he gets it going, his poor start will once again be a distant memory.