Opinion: How Zack Wheeler can get to the next level

Maggie Wiggin, Contributor

Zack Wheeler’s 2013 season was strong for a rookie, as he put up a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts.

Here are a few important areas where he can make improvements and take the next big step forward in his development…

One issue Wheeler struggled with last season was efficiency. He threw an average of 4.00 pitches to every batter he faced, well above the league average for starters of 3.81. This kept his average start to under six innings, which was just about league average, but fewer than you want to see from a young power arm with his potential. By being more aggressive and getting quicker outs, Wheeler can go deeper into games and help preserve the bullpen.

Zack WheelerAnother big step for Wheeler will be lowering his walk rate, which was well above league average. Paired with a below-average strikeout rate, this is a recipe for trouble and only a luck-fueled low BABIP kept him clear of it last year.

Obviously, the running theme here is that Wheeler needs to throw more strikes, climbing from a below-average rate of 61 percent last season to, ideally, something around 65 percent. A lot of factors will contribute to his ability to this, including more confidence in facing big league batters and ongoing development of his curveball.

Wheeler’s best model for making these improvements? Unsurprisingly, that would be one Matt Harvey. Though he was an exceptional player from day one, and it’s unrealistic to expect Wheeler to reach Harvey’s stratospheric ceiling, Harvey made these same adjustments in transitioning from a strong debut to a Cy Young-caliber sophomore season. His walk rate in 2012, on par with Wheeler’s, dropped by more than half and he increased the average length of his starts by almost a full inning. Like Wheeler in his rookie year, Harvey started out throwing strikes at a below-average rate, but improved strength, confidence, and stellar control of his offspeed and breaking pitches made a world of difference.

The good news is that, like Harvey in 2013, Wheeler has already shown signs of improvement this spring, getting ahead of batters and challenging them rather than pitching around them. Small sample size warnings apply, but he’s walked just 3 of the 60 batters he has faced and he’s passing the eye test with flying colors.

Will Wheeler be the next Harvey? Only in Mets fans’ wildest dreams. But if he takes the step forward he’s poised to, he will be a more-than-worthy No. 2 starter and a key piece of the team’s rotation for years to come.




51 comments
Patrick
Patrick

I like the inclusion of facts, but Maggie treats it too much as an exact science:


"He threw an average of 4.00 pitches to every batter he faced, well above the league average for starters of 3.81. This kept his average start to under six innings"  - That is not the sole reason why his average start was below six innings.  There were walks, pitch counts, errors, etc....  Also, Yu Darvish and Max Scherzer had higher P/PA than Wheeler, and they had spectacular seasons.  The most likely scenario is that his walk rate was the greatest contributer to his sub-6 inning appearance average.  Notice how I don't express this as an absolute.


"Another big step for Wheeler will be lowering his walk rate, which was well above league average. Paired with a below-average strikeout rate, this is a recipe for trouble and only a luck-fueled low BABIP kept him clear of it last year." - It is very true that it is usually a recipe for trouble, but this is a case of SSS.  You can't take one year of BABIP and say that it is absolutely luck-fueled.  You can say it is most likely going to regress to a more realistic BABIP.  This is where you should include line drive, fly ball, and groundball rates to back up your claim.  Fact is, Wheeler has some nasty stuff, I would not be the least bit surprised for him to put up an above-average BABIP for the rest of his career.


Wheeler should be fine as long as he trusts his stuff and stays healthy.  He needs to be a pitcher - not a thrower.



Evander Smart
Evander Smart

I expect a 12-7 type season from him, with a bunch of no-decisions, and an ERA of around 3.25.

He walked a guy every other inning last season (46 walks in 90 innings).  If he can get that rate down to one every 4 innings, his WHIP and ERA will drop, and he'll last longer in games, and be closer to being the next Matt Harvey.

Cutting his walks down is Job #1.  Trust your stuff!

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

Whether the Mets payroll is $98M, $89M, or $83M it's too low.  Not when you're playing in New York and charging $140 for a good seat.  Trying to defend this grossly incompetent ownership group is an exercise in futility.  No one wants to be negative, but asking people to overlook the 800 pound gorilla with the ponzi scheme tee shirt on, is asking a little bit too much. 


The criticism aimed at the owners is richly deserved. 

Chapter 7
Chapter 7

Zack Wheeler can get to the next level by having his team score runs for him.

I was watching Mike Mussina's Yankeeography. They were talking about all these great years he had. Take a look at his era most of those years.

sell
sell

Though Wheeler's leap forward is a topic on many minds, just two days ago there was an extensive article posted at mets 360 titled, "What can Zach Wheeler do to be an ace?".

C.K. Dexter Haven
C.K. Dexter Haven

Left my house in PA to take my wife and 2 kids to a game 4 years ago at Citi.  If we don't include the BS ticket I got at the Throgs Neck, but do INCLUDE: the toll both ways, parking, toll on the GWB, program, tickets, hotdogs and soda, 2 beers (both for me), ice cream and two foam fingers, I topped out at a little under $400 for tix in left field Pepsi Porch...I'm sorry, but Sandy nor the Wilpon's get to take me for that kind of bread, but then tell me they are being "fiscally responsible" when it comes to putting this team together. You can't charge NYC prices, but then spend like you're in NC... 

Bud Britton
Bud Britton

Wow, throw strikes. Why didn't I think of that?

nym68
nym68

Maybe it's just me, but I wish Maggie ran this site. She seems to be the only person who offers up an opinion then backs it up with an easy to understand set of stats. The other guys just act like Mets insiders while offering up nothing to back up their opinions that usually come straight from the higher ups.

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

Expand his pitching repertoire and throw strikes.  Learn the hitters and how to miss their bats.  Learn how to pitch, not just throw.....and, of course, stay healthy.  I wouldn't suggest to any young pitcher to follow Harvey.  Harvey is on his own planet, the rest of the team's just along for the ride.  If anything, be the anti-Harvey, quiet, controlled, professional.

Christopher Masiello
Christopher Masiello

He should listen to Colon every chance he gets. Pound that strike zone and make them swing the bats.

Lets Go Mets!
Lets Go Mets!

Crystal Ball say.....Zack Wheeler: 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 NL Cy Young Award winner!

Mets fans....MAKE SOME NOISE!!!!

rico
rico

Expect Wheeler to regress a little, sophomore season, over-hyped still a baby as a major leaguer and maybe not as good as advertised . He can be a very good pitcher but there is a long way to go before he's money in the bank

greekgod
greekgod

Its too expensive to go to a game.....went there 10 years ago with my son and spent $50 with tickets, lunch and parking.........and it was the last time we went. Can you imagine what it cost now. WHAT? $150? No way Jose.

hashburry
hashburry

Wow, Wheeler needs to throw strikes.  Hardly been talked about since his first day in the Mets' organization.  Yesterday, he nibbled and hardly ever went inside, signs of either a lack of trust in his stuff or an inability to actually control the strike zone.  Hopefully, yesterday was an aberration, because he was terrible against a team he will likely see 4 or 5 times this year.

cmetsfan
cmetsfan

Lotta times people in threads will get on a good topic, but it isn't theee topic. Site has to figure out how to give people a good topic outlet because it's annoying when it's off topic.


As for Wheeler he needs to maybe watch Colon do his thing and figure out an approach. If all big league hitters have to do is foul off his fastball and wait on his curve than no wonder he's  inefficient because he either needs another pitch or to locate better.

Irving A. Gonzalez Ramirez
Irving A. Gonzalez Ramirez

zack wheelers problem is control. he wont improve until he starts getting ahead of hitters. going 2-1, 3-1, and 2-0 every at bat put the odds against you since most likely it will end in a walk or a hitters pitch that will end up as a hit. he's a right handed version of a young oliver perez right now in my opinion. in a few years nobody will want to see the sight of him on this blog when his fastball comes down to 89 mph

John Paul Cullinane
John Paul Cullinane

WHERE ARE THE FINANCIAL POSTS????? THESE ARE SO IMPORTANT FOR THIS TEAM AND THEY ARE JUST SWEPT UNDER THE RUG!!!

...Forbes just came out with values of teams.  There were only THREE teams whose value dropped - the Astros, the Marlins, and the Mets...whose attendance has slipped in each of their first five years in Citi Field, fell 1 percent to $800 million.

sylow59
sylow59

Going from 4.00 to 3.89 pitches per batter is about 7 to 8 pitches per 9 innings.

John Paul Cullinane
John Paul Cullinane

HOLD UP...the "Incase You Missed It" post just prior to this says the Mets payroll is $98 million...that is false...it is $89 million which INCLUDES buyouts of Johan Santana ($4.9 million) and Jason Bay (2.7 million) and promotions....also they are tied for 23rd with the cubs on payroll.....wow...Metsblog really trying to sugarcoat this....This number is so extremely inflated as they are really at $83 million MAX.

sell
sell

@Ramon Saurez  If Mejia ever pitches 175 innings, we might find out.  I hope and pray that Mejia pitches onto the team by late April and proves he's got what it takes.

not4
not4

@nym68  It's not just you.  It's anyone with a brain.  I rarely come to this site anymore and when I do it is basically to see if she has written anything new.

rico
rico

@Macacawitz  I think what your saying is: "learn how to pitch in the majors" ?


he needs a lot of seasoning…and I ain't talking ACCENT(™)

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

@Lets Go Mets! First Nuke LaLoosh has to get out of the habit of hitting the guy with the chicken suit. 

stemog
stemog

@rico How do you know that? His only issue is his control. If he can avoid 4-5 walks a game, he'll have an ERA in the low to mid-3s. He wasn't anywhere near lights out last year and had a 3.42 ERA. He created most of his own problems with the walks.

BuddyAlderson
BuddyAlderson

Seriously? The back and forth I had with someone on this issue got DELETED?!? And the "News: In case you missed it…" that is below this article that had the link about Wright talking to Harvey is now gone? Wow guys, wow.

justinb
justinb

@BuddyAlderson So you want to trade the Ace of the team, at the moment he has the LEAST possible value because he is too strong willed?

justinb
justinb

@John Paul Cullinane Well unless you are going to go through every single team and adjust their payrolls for the buyouts, why don't you just stop complaining and leave the number where it sits with all the rest of the teams.  Payroll is calculated on players for the year, plus the payments made to buy a player out.  The cubs payroll includes 13 million they are sending to the Yankees. The Angels include 18 million they are also paying to the Yankees.  The Dodgers payroll includes a prorated portion of Zack Greinke's signing bonus.

"The AP's figures include salaries and prorated shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income for players on active rosters, disabled lists and the restricted list. For some players, parts of deferred money are discounted to reflect current values.

Payroll figures factor in adjustments for cash transactions in trades, signing bonuses that are the responsibility of the club agreeing to the contract, option buyouts, and termination pay for released players."


Quit complaining for 5 minutes, stop with the conspiracy theories, all they did was LINK to an article on ESPN... Baseball is 5 days away and you can do nothing more than complain about a link with a typo in it.


Thank you for confirming why I stopped reading the comments section of this blog.  The people in there do nothing but call out the writers, claim conspiracy, and show how little they actually know about baseball.

tullydew
tullydew

Metsblog is owned by SNY and take their marching orders from the Wilpons. They try to spin everything for the Wilpons.

Can't blame the writers, they like paychecks

Mr. SERCH
Mr. SERCH

@John Paul Cullinane  im sure it was just a typo...89/98...flip flop..although, come on...no need for typo's....they need to proof read twice, not just the normal half a time, as it looks

flmetsfan
flmetsfan

@Macacawitz @Lets Go Mets!It would also help if he would let his catcher call the game.  Then again, Crash Davis told Nuke not to worry about striking everyone out.  "Strikeouts are Communist!  Throw a ground ball now and then."

BuddyAlderson
BuddyAlderson

@justinb @BuddyAldersonNo, I want to trade him in a year or two when he's healthy and performing well IF some of these other pitchers are performing well. He's getting ridiculous; that story with Andy Martino interviewing him, and now with the training in NY thing. It's 100% about being in NY and the whole scene there, and if you think otherwise you're wrong. The A's traded Gio Gonzalez, and what happened to them the following year? We could get a HAUL for him from the right team and set ourselves up for YEARS to come.

hashburry
hashburry

@justinb @BuddyAlderson  Strong willed?  Or self centered?  Big difference that we will find out about this year.  And everyone is tradable for the right package.

John Paul Cullinane
John Paul Cullinane

@SuperDuper @John Paul CullinaneWant to take a family of 4 to a NY Mets game?  Tickets, parking, and a soda/hot dog for 4.....you're looking at $200...god forbid you buy a program or a popcorn/cracker jacks for your kids or you, yourself, upgrade from soda to beer.

John Paul Cullinane
John Paul Cullinane

@justinb Even if you want to just go by what's on the site there are two things here...1.) Metsblog put a number $10 million higher that what the link has...that is 11% higher...that is HUGE...and 2.) The point is those teams you're talking about buyouts besides the Cubs destroy us in salaries.  Cubs and Mets fans have a right to be angry and to withold spending money on crap products.  We have 3 playoffs in 25 years and they have 4...pathetic when you think of the markets.  

That is a $10 million typo...so it is VERY significant.

BuddyAlderson
BuddyAlderson

@John Paul Cullinane Agreed. I'm thinking 2016/2017 depending on how things are going. Ideally, you're always trading away star pitchers with new up-and-coming star pitchers waiting (a la the Rays). I'm just getting soooo tired of reading these articles about his attitude when the guy has really done nothing but pitch well on a shitty team for a portion of a year. Verlander comes across way more humble.

John Paul Cullinane
John Paul Cullinane

@BuddyAlderson @justinbI see your point which most fans will bash.  In two years he may be more mature and is caught up in the NY spotlight.  Also, you gotta factor in when is the best time to trade him in regard to value.  If he is performing well, he's still with Boras, and it's getting closer to his FA eligibility, then you trade him.  Nobody should be untouchable if a trade makes your overall team better...but this is a discussion for 2 years from now at least.

John Paul Cullinane
John Paul Cullinane

@SuperDuper @John Paul CullinaneNo, they got rid of that and now just ask you to drop your pants and bend over...I refuse...but these pie-in-the-sky Mets fans that think I'm negative are happy to do it, thus enabling the Wilpons...


...These Met apologists NEED me and other fans with some "baseBALLS" to stand up and say it's wrong otherwise nothing will change.

John Paul Cullinane
John Paul Cullinane

@justinb @John Paul CullinaneYou don't HAVE TO SPEND to win...however 3 of the 4 teams in the NLCS and ALCS were in the top 5 in payroll...the 4th team was the Cardinals at $117 million - $30 million higher than us.  So, money definitely helps...especially for 1 year deals when trying to bridge the gap...2014 was supposed to be "the year" but they punted - there is no other way to put it.

justinb
justinb

@John Paul Cullinane @justinbOH MY GOD!  We would have the almighty savior Drew?  We can't get Drew for 10 million, otherwise we would have already.  Read up... his last asking price was 2 years 14 mil a year.  


Since when does money account to wins?  Please tell me how that worked for the Angels and Phillies last year.  Or why don't you show me all the big spending the Rays are doing.

John Paul Cullinane
John Paul Cullinane

@justinb @John Paul Cullinane I don't get on Metsblog about typos with the way they write because it is a blog, but the financial numbers are extremely touchy because, with a $98 million payroll, they would have at least Drew.  Are you OK with a 72-76 win season?

justinb
justinb

@John Paul Cullinane  Before you judge other people's typos, you should get yours under control.  98 is 9 higher than 89, not 10.  That is a 10% increase, not 11%.  You're point two first sentence is grammatically terrible (and BTW... EVERY team has buyouts included in their payroll... that's part of the business these days, the examples I pulled are just the padded numbers that are listed in the article.  I just wanted to make sure everyone knew it wasn't just Mets numbers that had extra buyouts in them).  It's spelled withhold not withold that's why that little red squiggly line is on your screen.

Typo's happen... so why don't we just give people a break.  They aren't sugar coating anything.  They mistyped, probably "fat fingered" the post while typing on their phone just to put more material out there for people like you to read and criticize.