It is a measure of our expectations of the Mets’ Zack Wheeler that we are disappointed when he pitches poorly – even less than two innings in an exhibition game.
Wheeler entered spring training with a checklist of issues to work on, including command, not letting things bother him, and learning how to work out of trouble.
WHEELER: Same old problems.
So, what can we take from him getting ripped by the Marlins, 13-2, Monday? Saying it is early doesn’t really cut it.
His numbers don’t mean much with the exception of one – 47 pitches. That’s way too many, as normally that many pitches should take you to, if not through, the fourth inning.
“Honestly, it’s early for everybody,’’ Wheeler told reporters. “But, I was supposed to throw to one side of the plate and it was on the other. That’s always hard to call a strike. You and I both know that if you’re not consistent, it’s harder to get strikes.’’
That’s what happened in the second inning – and defines his fatal flaw.
After a perfect, 10-pitch first, things unraveled in an excruciatingly hard-to-watch 1.2 innings, when he walked two, hit two, gave up two hits and six runs.
You can argue it would have been better if not for a controversial umpire’s call when Jordany Valdespin – of all people – was called safe at first when replays clearly showed he was out.
That is irrelevant, because if Wheeler is to reach the next level, he must learn to slam the door when he gets in of trouble. Yes, a call went against him, but good pitchers overcome such things. They happen, just as broken-bat bloop hits and fielding errors. A good pitcher doesn’t let such things get to him.
As the inning unfolded, so did his command, and 47 pitches in two innings is a wasted start. Actually, it was reminiscent of when he got into trouble last season.
Wheeler was 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA last year and threw 185.1 innings. Wheeler averages nine strikeouts per nine innings, which is ace worthy. However, his four walks per nine innings is something that must be reduced – by at least half.
Depending on whom you talk with, Wheeler’s stuff might be better than Harvey’s. Command is a different issue. Wheeler must improve his control, and doing so would enable him to work deeper into games. In 32 starts last year, Wheeler worked into the seventh only 13 times. He also threw 100 pitches 24 times and 110 pitches 13 times.
If Wheeler is to be evolve into the pitcher the Mets hope, that must change.