In Zack Wheeler's last start for the Mets before this season, Asdrubal Cabrera started at second base for the Washington Nationals and Bobby Abreu pinch-hit for the Mets. As baseball moved on (and on), Wheeler lost all of the 2015 season to Tommy John and flexor pronator tendon surgery, made a strong plea (if less public than Wilmer Flores's) to remain a Met, then lost all of 2016 to countless frustrating rehabilitation setbacks. All of this has made Wheeler's first two starts of 2017—including his first win since September 19, 2014 last night—something to appreciate for Wheeler, the Mets, and their fans.
After a rough first start against the Marlins at Citi Field, Wheeler at times flashed dominant stuff on the way to that victory against the Phillies last night. The (very) small sample of these two starts leaves Wheeler with a record of 1–1 and an unsightly 7.45 ERA—thanks in no small part to one grooved Hansel Robles fastball after Wheeler’s departure from a 5–0 game in the sixth inning last night.
However, Wheeler's underlying stats—including a 3.27 FIP and a 4.0 K/BB ratio—and the ease with which his mid-90s fastball has returned both portend well going forward in 2017. Perhaps most impressive has been Wheeler's command—never a strong point before. Coming into the season averaging 3.9 BB/9 for his career, Wheeler has pitched halved that to 1.9 BB/9 over these two outings.
Of course, this small sample size could represent approximately 8% of Wheeler's entire sample this year if the Mets hold to their initial innings cap for Wheeler of the low 100s. These limits can tend to be a bit fluid (as an underreported story from 2015 may recall). And this estimate was based on Wheeler starting the season in extended spring training and/or the bullpen as one of seven healthy Mets starters. Hopefully the Mets find a creative way to massage Wheeler’s usage enough to maximize both their 2017 success and the (still only) 27-year-old pitcher’s future.