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Thank You Zack Wheeler

Last week, Zack Wheeler signed a five year $118 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Unfortunately, unlike in 2015, a phone call to the General Manager would not be enough to continue his Mets career. The shame there is in many ways Wheeler always represented hope to Mets fans.

Back in 2011, we were already in the wake of the Madoff Scandal, and it became increasingly clear the Mets were not going to build upon the current core. The first player gone from that core would be Carlos Beltran. With the Beltran trade, the rebuild was officially on, and due to Sandy Alderson’s shrewdness, he was able to acquire Wheeler, who was the sixth overall pick of the 2009 draft.

With Wheeler, the Mets had real hope for the future. With him was a plan to contend once again. We could see the plan was to build a great rotation around him, Matt Harvey, and back then it was Rafael Montero as part of the group. That was the Mets future.

While Harvey burst onto the scene, Wheeler’s was more of a steady rise. His Major League debut was promising with his having a 104 ERA+ in 17 starts. He had a mediocre start to his 2014 season, and then suddenly in his last start of June something seemed to click. From June 30 to September 7, he would go 7-1 with a 2.21 ERA, 1.230 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, and an 8.6 K/9.

With that finishing kick to the season, you could see him pairing with the returning Harvey and reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom to form a dominant top of the rotation which could bring the Mets back to the World Series. As we know, the Mets did win the pennant in 2015, but Wheeler would not be a part of it.

On the eve of the 2015 season, disaster would strike as Wheeler would tear his UCL. He would miss the entirety of the 2015 season. Due to multiple setbacks in his recovery, he would also miss the entirety of the 2016 season. While he was gone, it does not mean it was an uneventful recovery.

On that fateful July night, it was Wheeler who was supposed to be the key piece in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers reuniting the Mets with CF Carlos Gomez. While Wilmer Flores was crying on the field and Gomez’s medical records were being perused, Wheeler was trying to let the Mets know he wanted to be a part of this team. He wanted to be a New York Met.

Wheeler got through to Alderson, and for his part Alderson made sure to make Wheeler a part of the Mets future. He held onto Wheeler during his struggles after a two year layoff which included his dealing with a stress reaction. Still, the Mets believed in him, and in 2018, the Mets faith in him would be rewarded.

In 2018, Wheeler would emerge as an ace level pitcher. What is odd is it wouldn’t start out that way. He would first begin the year in the minors only to come up to the majors to take Jason Vargas‘ spot in the rotation, and he woudl stay there despite some early season struggles due to Harvey’s being designated for assignment.

Much like 2014, something clicked at the end of June. Over his final 15 starts of the season, he was 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA, 0.924 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, and an 8.9 K/9. What is interesting about that finish is even with deGrom clearly being the best pitcher in baseball, Wheeler would have a better second half ERA than him.

Once again, Wheeler’s second half gave hopes for the Mets return to the postseason. This time, Wheeler would be healthy, and despite the Mets nearly playing themselves out of it in the first half, he would get his opportunity to pitch in a postseason race.

Wheeler stepped up his game. From June 22 until the end of the season, he was 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA, 1.192 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, and an 8.2 K/9. While the Mets didn’t get that second Wild Card, he was rewarded for his faith in himself and this team.

The Mets were also rewarded in their faith in him. As alluded to earlier, Wheeler emerged as an ace over the past two seasons.

Wheeler has emerged as a pitcher who gives you 30 starts a year and over 180 innings. That’s equivalent to 6.1 innings per start. His 3.37 FIP over the past two seasons is 10th best in the Majors ahead of pitchers like Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw, and Madison Bumgarner. His hard hit rate put him ahead of everyone except his teammates deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

In total, Wheeler became exactly what was promised when the Mets obtained him from Beltran in 2011. What was promised was not just the hope Wheeler had provided but also the great pitcher they believed he could be. It may have been a turbulent road to get there, but get there he did.

For that, every Mets fan should be grateful to Wheeler. We should be grateful for his giving us hope for nearly a decade, especially at those time when it seemed the most bleak. We should be grateful he became that great pitcher we all hoped he would be. Mostly, we should be grateful he wanted to be a Met, even at the very end when he came back to the Mets and asked them to re-sign him.

To that end, thank you for an eventual Mets career, Zack Wheeler. You were a class act, and you deserve nothing but the best in the future.

36 thoughts on “Thank You Zack Wheeler”

  1. Oldbackstop says:

    He was asking for more money than the Mets thought he was a good bet for. Could they have extended him two years ago? Well, he wasn’t very good two years ago. All the attention got sucked up signing deGrom, which you applauded.

    Sure, thanks Zack, he was here a long time. I’d wish him well but he is going to the Phillies.

    PS: who the hell would go the Phillies?

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Mets could’ve afforded both, but they opted for Cano because the GM doesn’t know what he’s doing

      1. Oldbackstop says:

        You have no idea what their finances were. They dumped some bad contracts and got back a young closer who was the best in his league. He had a problem with the new ball last year….like Thor.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Wheeler will make less next year than what Cano and Diaz combined will make.

          Seriously, be objective and stop buying into every nonsense explanation they offer.

      2. Oldbackstop says:

        And, PS, Brodie wasn’t GM during the best window to sign Wheeler. He had to deal with Jake “I might take time off during the pennant race” deGrom.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          BVW was the GM last offseason, so that’s false.

          And I’d note BVW was the same person who demanded deGrom be extended or traded.

          Overall, you again prove you do nothing but troll by attacking a man who won back-to-back Cy Youngs

          1. Oldbackstop says:

            The best window to sign Wheeler was two years before FA…like they did with deGrom. Brodie was not GM.

          2. metsdaddy says:

            There was also last offseason, but he was too busy taking care of old clients and ravaging the farm systems.

      3. Blair M. Schirmer says:

        @metsdaddy — Just so. Wheeler was with the Mets all along, ergo no one knew his health better. Good teams buy out players early, before they’ve had their first big payday, including team options for a FA year or three. That buyout guarantees the player a lifetime of financial security, even luxury, and is the only time the team can split risk in a manner favorable to it. Essentially the worst that happens is you drop ten million as the Mets did with Lagares versus what he would have gotten in arbitration. The upside, though, is many tens of millions.

        The best deals in baseball are usually extensions agreed to with young players under team control. That the Mets sign very few of these is prima facie evidence they have no idea what they’re doing.

        ANALYST: “The best deals are almost always with young players you control and can extend cheaply.”
        METS: “Oh, okay. We’re going to do very few of those.”

        The Steve Cohen era cannot arrive soon enough.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          On that note, the Mets should push to extend Nimmo and Matz now before either break out.

          1. Oldbackstop says:

            Let’s extend EVERYBODY.

            Of course, the other teams are, with very few exceptional anecdotes, are doing their financial management by the rules, so us burning money unnecessarily won’t destroy our competitive stance.

            You know who was a great extension? Juan Lagares.

          2. metsdaddy says:

            Yes, the Mets should extend and keep their good players.

  2. Oldbackstop says:

    The Mets didn’t want to take a long term expensive bet on a guy who had missed a lot of time with them and was entering his 30s. We’ll know in about 4 years whether they were right. You have no idea.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      They did that with Cano and Lowrie

      1. Oldbackstop says:

        That’s a 2018 All Star and a 2017 All Star, and neither will be under contract five years from now like Wheeler will with the Phillies

        1. metsdaddy says:

          So, how many games did Lowrie play, and what was that thing that happened to the 2017 All Star in 2018?

          1. Oldbackstop says:

            These are guys who have had elite seasons recently. They have great upsides. You constantly tout spending on guys coming off mediocre or injured seasons who have never had elite seasons…Nimmo, Plawecki, Matz.

            Guys come back from injuries….look at your favorite Zack Wheeler.

          2. metsdaddy says:

            You think injury prone players in their mid 30s have upside?

          3. Oldbackstop says:

            No, we should only go after 25 year-old free agents.

          4. metsdaddy says:

            Jed Lowrie only had eight pinch hitting attempts.

  3. Oldbackstop says:

    No kidding? No Mets fan knew that. You miraculously forecast injuries for guys that have just had two full seasons? You should work for Madame Marie down in Asbury.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Again, you’re attacking me and not the GM for his failures.

      1. Oldbackstop says:

        Every baseball franchise has successes and failures in trades and free agency. Either you are just manufacturing click bait with your omniscience, or you need to get out more. Go analyze the Yankees.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          As usual, you excuse his failings and total body of work, and you choose to attack me.

          1. Oldbackstop says:

            Do you read before responding? It is like bitching about Conforto because he isn’t batting. 700.

          2. metsdaddy says:

            As is the normal course, you don’t understand anything, so you troll

  4. Oldbackstop says:

    Brodie won 8 more games on about the same payroll. He traded some bad contracts in Bruce and Sawrzak. He got back the best reliever in baseball in 2018, and he has years of control. He landed one of most exciting bats the Mets have had in awhile in JD Davis.

    I think the Mets will again improve on their win total in 2020. For a team that stays with a certain payroll range, improvement in record is how the GM should be judged.

    And Brodie is plus 8.

    1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

      It needs to be said: The entirety of the Mets improvement in the standings was attributable to two things: A full season from ROY Pete Alonso, and a full, 5 win season from Jeff McNeil, in spite of the FO’s attempt to play him at a position he had never played before. That’s 8 wins.

      As for the rest, all the players van Wagenen brought on board contributed 0.0 bWAR in 2019. All together, they literally did not add a single win. Diaz was sub-replacement level. So was Keon Broxton. So was Aaron Altherr, and Wilmer Font, and Jeurys Familia, and the Syracuse gang who got cups of coffee in the majors. All together they balanced out the very modest contributions of Ramos and JD et al, ending in a round and unfortunate zero, all told.

      Then there’s this–adding together all of the salary committed (not including the deGrom extension since it has no particular relation to 2019 and doesn’t belong under the heading of new acquisitions) and including the value of the minor leaguers dealt away the way MLB teams compute their average value, to get those zero wins van Wagenen spent a quarter of a billion dollars in talent and future salary commitments. Even the horrific Phillies’ moves of a decade ago where Ruben Amaro Jr. just killed the team for about five years and after which he was laughed out of GM’ing, were better than this.

      Van Wagenen easily, easily won “Worst GM in the Majors” in 2019 and based on his offseason to date, won’t be giving the trophy back any time soon. Some guys just unaccountably wander into a profession, are in hopelessly over their heads, and do as much damage as they can before someone puts a stop to it. That’s van Wagenen. He’s not just incompetent, he’s obviously, hopelessly incompetent.

      1. metsdaddy says:

        Calling him hopelessly incompetent is being kind.

    2. metsdaddy says:

      I’ll fix it for you:

      Brodie traded ONE bad contract in Bruce. He took back the THIRD worst contract in baseball, who has already prevented the Mets from re-signing Wheeler.

      He added a positionless player for three good prospects, each of whom were above league average hitters.

      The reason the Mets showed improvement was the addition of Alonso along with full seasons of McNeil and a healthy Conforto. There was also progress from Rosario. With the best performing players driving this team to 86 wins, Sandy Alderson should be receiving a lion’s share of the credit.

  5. Oldbackstop says:

    “”and including the value of the minor leaguers dealt away the way MLB teams compute their average value,””

    Blair, exactly what formula are you using here? Because I would love to know Blake Taylor’s number.

    1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

      @Oldbackstop Hey, buddy–I have a few proprietary numbers from several teams that friends I had from places like the old BaseballThinkFactory send me when we email about this and that and that I think about when commenting, but not to give anything away (I don’t really know any more than anyone with an internet connection) let me refer to something just as good (the information publicly available these days is amazing) “An Update to Prospect Evaluation” from Craig Edwards, at
      https://blogs.fangraphs.com/an-update-to-prospect-valuation/

      “Over the years, a good deal of effort has been put into determining the value of prospects. Victor Wang, Scott McKinney (updated here), Kevin Creagh and Steve DiMiceli together, and Jeff Zimmerman have all published work on the subject, roughly in that order.

      The reasoning behind such efforts is fairly obvious: teams trade prospects for proven players all the time. Finding an objective way to evaluate those trades is useful to better understanding how the sport operates. Indeed, FanGraphs has benefited from those prospect-valuation studies on multiple occasions.”

      —-Overall, every method including Edwards’ will take evaluations of a minor leaguer and compare him to every other player in his tier, calculating how much value he’ll deliver on the field during the 6 typical years of team control over and above his expected salary, and come up with an average dollar amount the player will be worth. Edwards goes into detail on the specifics of his method in the article, but every analyst follows a similar path.

      As for Blake Taylor and Corona, neither was listed on MLB Pipeline’s top 30 when they were on the Mets, meaning they’re generally considered to be so unlikely to be worth as much as a win some day in the majors that at best they’re barely considered to be among the top 1000 minor leaguers, if that. They might be valued at a couple of million each, at most.

      I like both players because they do some things well (unlike, say, the 28 yo A ball catcher who also won’t make his team’s top 30) and especially Corona isn’t old for the leagues he played in. Taylor also just moved to the pen for the first time in 2019, and he was very good there. His line is that of a very different pitcher then he was previously. I’m a little surprised the Mets would give away a live arm (plus Corona) for someone like Marisnick, but I guess Marisnick isn’t completely fungible. He has a steadier track record than Billy Hamilton, who you can get for about the $$$ Marisnick will get in arb but won’t have to deal away talent for, but Marisnick also doesn’t have Ham’s peak season (peak being relative with backup CFers).

      Fwiw I try not to be reflexively critical of van Wagenen. Obviously the JD Davis trade worked out well for the Mets. The Broxton deal was promising at the time it was made (even though the habit of giving up interesting minor league talent for backup OFers is starting to make me nervous). I thought the Ramos deal was solid even though I preferred Grandal. It’s not BVW’s fault that Grandal had a peak season and Ramos was just okay–for $10m, 2 wins behind the plate shouldn’t be harshly criticized, even if Ramos’ defense probably would have been better with more rest.

      1. Oldbackstop says:

        That was interesting, thanks Blair.

        I guess from my time coaching youngsters, up to 18, and following their careers after that, I’m sensitive to how much young men change between 17 and 19 and 21 and 23 and 25. Some grow, others don’t. Some become lazy. Some become a$$holes. Some become obsessed gym rats and workout guys and become baseball scholars and jump beyond all expectations.

        I won’t bother giving examples so someone can nitpick. We all could do that, and so could every farm director.

        In addition there is the element of time. An 18 year old “star” might be five years in the system before he shows an inning of value to the major leagues. That is five years of professional sports where shtt happens…like knees blowout and TJs develop.

        That is why I applaud when the Mets get young actual MLB players… guys like Diaz and JD, who are on the field, not in AA somewhere. And still inexpensive.

        Anyway, so when I see that it is interesting to project where prospects project to value. But who is ranking the prospects?

        1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

          @Oldbackstop – great point, about the changes guys go through. All the talent in the world usually won’t mean much if a kid won’t do the work, and what makes you stand out at 18 doesn’t always get you far at 21.

          I’d also agree there’s nothing like getting MLB-ready talent to rocket you up the standings, and you don’t get that for free.

          As for who’s ranking the prospects, I stick to the guys with good track records. The analysts who year after year get it right significantly more often than they get it wrong. What was funny to me a few years back were two studies. The first showed that picking stocks at random did better than the typical Wall Street broker / analyst. The second showed that the Marcel the Monkey system of projecting current major leaguers–where you just weight the previous three seasons on a 3-2-1 scale in order to predict how they’d do the next year–did as well as most mainstream analysts.

          So, yeah, just because someone says so doesn’t mean they’re any good at predicting, or that they’re better than the simplest systems. The guys like Craig Edwards, though, who put out their projections year after year, improve their models and systems, admit their mistakes, keep refining, and who are generally accurate, they’re reliable. To me, they’re worth reading. Cheers,

          1. Oldbackstop says:

            Hi Blair,

            All good points. I think the analysts are indeed right more than they are wrong….but is it 51-49? 🙂 Even if it is 80-20….yikes.

            You know, there was an interesting post on this on the Bill James Site in the communities http://www.billjamesonline.com

            Its 3 bucks a month, maybe the best entertainment money I ever spent.

          2. Blair M. Schirmer says:

            @Oldbackstop – thanks for the tip. Maybe I’ll stop being cheap long enough to give it a whirl.

            Yeah, it’s so unpredictable that if it’s your job, all you can do is nudge the odds a little more in your favor than the next guy, get a half step ahead of the analysts on the Marlins, or guess which high school kid might go for the bonus instead of college. It’s why we’re down to spin rates, trying to find the next morsel that will make our predictions a smidge more accurate for a few months before the other guys catch up!

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