Last night New York Mets starter Zack Wheeler threw, without question, the best game of his young career, tossing a three hit complete game shutout of the Miami Marlins.
Wheeler is a vital cog in the Mets plans going forward as an organization, but prior to last night’s gem seemed to be consistently mediocre, or worse. Before yesterday Wheeler had made 14 starts this season for Mets, never pitching into the eighth inning, and pitching into the seventh inning only four times. Much of that can be contributed to his tendency to rack up high pitch totals early in games, making it impossible for him to push through the late innings of his starts. His breaking of that trend is what impressed me most about last night’s performance.
In his first career complete game the 24 year old right hander threw only 111 pitches, a very manageable total over the course of nine innings and a total that he has surpassed on three occasions this year (in one of those outings he last only 4.1 innings).
His economy of pitches last night during his best performance as a pro, to me, signifies that he is ready to turn a corner. I am not suggesting that he is never going to have a bad outing again, or that he is about to take a meteoric rise to join the ranks of Clayton Kershaw, whose no hitter last night undoubtedly stole some of Wheeler’s thunder, as an elite pitcher in the National League; but rather a more modest progression: realizing that he doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective, that he can trust his ability, throw strikes, and he will get batters out. At his stage of development as a professional that’s a big corner to turn.
This Mets season is essentially over in terms of what they can achieve as a team. They are not playoff bound as a group, it’s June and we already know that, but what the franchise, and the fans, can enjoy watching from here on out is the development of the young players that are supposed to be carrying this team back towards important October baseball in the not-so-distant future. Wheeler is as important to that becoming a reality as anyone.
He’s one of the few reasons I will continue to watch this team play day in and day out.
Here’s hoping that yesterday was the first of many gems Wheeler throws in orange and blue.