Soon to turn 27 years old, Zack Wheeler makes throwing a baseball at 95 mph seem effortless. His loose, easy delivery includes an arsenal of fastballs, sinkers, sliders and curves. You can understand why he has always been a highly prized prospect by watching this quick video where pitching coach Dan Warthen breaks down his delivery:
“Wheels” has a career ERA over 3.50, despite batters only averaging .237 against him. He is rarely able to pitch past 5 innings. It’s not only because he is coming off a 2-year recovery from Tommy John surgery. Though the NY Mets are being careful with his workload. But Zack has always been dogged by high pitch counts, even before the surgery.
Zack Wheeler and Pitch Counts
Pitching to a career 1.3 WHIP, he has averaged almost 18 pitches per inning in his MLB career. His strikeouts per 9 innings (SO/9) is 8.6. Respectable, but not outstanding. Part of the problem is the almost 4 walks per 9 innings (BB/9) that he gives up. Batters are also able to foul off his sinker, increasing his pitch count further.
Despite a reputation as one of the flame throwers on the NY Mets starting staff, where Wheeler has had the most success is with his 88 mph slider. It generates a lot of swings and misses. Then add in the 78 mph curve, which batters have hit only .180 against. He only throws the slider about 15% of the time, the curve only 13%. Here you can see what effective swing-and-miss pitches they are:
Hopefully he can cut down on the number of pitches per inning and go deeper into the ballgame. The Mets don’t have a firm innings limit on him. But at some point late in the season he’ll likely be shut down. Zack Wheeler is being paid $800K this season. He’ll be arbitration eligible next season and a free agent in 2020.
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