The New York Mets won the games pitched by Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey over the weekend, but their performances illustrated the gap between the two, and still the need for improvement of each.
Let’s look first at Wheeler, who is here to stay. He’s taken his lumps and will take some more. Wheeler’s problem remains command of all his pitches, beginning with the fastball that is the lead domino. Again, Wheeler had a high pitch count that didn’t translate getting deep into the game. He didn’t get out of the fifth Saturday.
When that happens, coupled with Jeremy Hefner’s mugging the previous night, it means a strain on the bullpen and the need for Harvey to work deep into his game Sunday.
Harvey is head-and-shoulders above Wheeler now, and the Mets did it right with Harvey in that they stopped him at seven innings. If they went six that leaves the bullpen working three, which will accomplish what the Mets want on cutting Harvey’s innings, but it increases that of the bullpen.
Harvey struck out ten, and here’s a case where being overpowering works against him. Strikeouts hike up the pitch count, and he could extend his mound time if he pitched more to contact. But, I could be too picky here, in that contact also increases the possibility of hits, and runs, and maybe losing.
Perhaps I am and others are expecting too much from Harvey based on the early returns. Damn, the guy is really good and I admit I am violating my own rule of just letting him pitch and enjoy what I am seeing.
However, what he’s already provided just fuels expectations, like no other Mets’ pitcher since Dwight Gooden.
Harvey’s early demeanor shows he can take it, but Wheeler remains not a concern, but a question. The feeling is the light will go on with him, too, but when?
Confidence can be fragile and you don’t want to see Wheeler labor as he has been. One hundred plus pitches should get Wheeler through seven innings, not just past the fourth.
However, the Mets chose to push the envelope with him, and times won’t always be easy. Barring something totally unforeseen, Wheeler isn’t going to see the minors again this year, or next.
It’s sink-or-swim, and so far he’s treading water.
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