What To Expect From Zack Wheeler In 2014

Zack Wheeler pitched well for the Mets in 2013, but not as well as you may think.

Wheeler's MLB debut on June 18th was as exciting a day a Mets fan had last year. After watching Matt Harvey dominate the Braves in the day time for a Mets win, it was Zack Wheeler's turn to show his talent in the 2nd game of the double-header. He was shaky at first, but overall, he was impressive. He did walk 5 batters, but he struck out 7 in 6 scoreless innings, earning him his first Majors League "W". He followed with some more so-so starts against the White Sox and Brewers, but after that, he really got on a good roll. It included games like his mastering of his former organization, the San Francisco Giants, and his 12 strike-out performance against the Padres. At the end of the day, I came away happy with what Wheeler did in his rookie season, but there are some concerns I have.

To take a step back for a second, Wheeler started 17 games, throwing 100 innings last year. He had 7-5 record with a 3.42 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. He was worth 0.6 fWAR and 1.1 bWAR.

The first thing I want to point out is his ERA. A 3.42 ERA isn't what it used to be. It was only good enough for a 104 ERA+, meaning he was 4% above league average in terms of preventing runs, after you consider the surroundings he pitched in. ERA isn't a perfect stat anyway, so take a look at his ERA guessers like FIP and xFIP. He posted a 4.17 FIP and 4.21 xFIP. Not bad, but definitely nothing to go crazy about.

Another of my worries was his walk rate. Wheeler walked 4.1 hitters per 9 innings, to striking out 7.6 per 9. His 19.5% K rate again shows he misses bats at a good rate, but walking hitters at a 10.7% clip is very high. Looking at Baseball Reference, I found that over the last 10 years, there have been 32 seasons that a pitcher has had a 7.6 K/9 or lower and a 4.1 BB/9 or higher. The best ERA was a 3.21, with the worst at 6.05. However, all but 6 of those seasons had the pitcher throwing to an ERA over 4. 18 of them were over 4.50.

Probably my biggest concern was his struggles against left-handed hitters. They hit .259/.371/.395 off of him and Wheeler had just a 1.23 K/BB against them. His lack of a change up really hurts him here. Last year, he threw his not very effective change up just 3.3% of the time. Not to say this can't improve, but it's certainly a worry. Remember, Matt Harvey didn't have all that great of a change up his rookie year, and he came back last year with it very improved. I hate to bring up Harvey with Wheeler, but in this case, it's in a good way.

No, Zack Wheeler isn't bad. He's not "soft" and he won't have issues "handling" New York. Just temper your expectations for this year. Could he be an All-Star this year? He has the talent to. It's just unfair to expect him to step up right away and be a star caliber pitcher. I expect improvements with Wheeler, but all I ask for is him to be a 3 or 4 starter, giving the Mets around 180 solid, but not great innings. If he can do that, 2014 will be a success for him.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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