If you look at the numbers, Zack Wheeler is having a really bad year for the New York Mets. Over his first 14 starts, Wheeler is 5-4 with a 4.87 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, with both ratios taking bit hits after he was battered by the New York Yankees yesterday. While the numbers say that Wheeler has been pretty bad for the Mets, it doesn’t always feel like that he has been as poor as his statistics indicate.
If we take a look at Wheeler’s game log, there are plenty of outings where he has gone seven innings and given up three runs or fewer (seven in fact, or half his starts). There are also four performances that rank as abjectly terrible, including yesterday’s game and three of Wheeler’s matchups with the Washington Nationals. In those games Wheeler has combined to surrender 22 earned runs in 20.1 innings pitched, good for a 9.74 ERA, which helps explain why his overall ERA is close to five.
Even though Wheeler has delivered more good games than bad ones this year, the problem is that he hasn’t been consistent whatsoever. Entering the doubleheader yesterday, most Mets’ fans would have assumed that Wheeler would have a better chance of delivering a solid performance than Jason Vargas, but the opposite occurred. This inconsistency is a major issue for the Mets, who have been counting on Wheeler to be a stable force at the top of their rotation alongside Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
Wheeler’s struggles have made the Mets’ decision about what to do with him going forward even more complicated. The Mets have to make a choice about whether to extend Wheeler, who is their most important free agent at the end of the season, or possibly trade him if they are out of the race by the deadline. Outside of the second half of 2018, Wheeler has been inconsistent for pretty much his entire career, and that’s an issue when you are choosing whether or not to give him a potential six figure contract. The Mets already have one of those on their books with deGrom and will need to decide on Syndergaard’s future soon, so tying up money in Wheeler may not be a wise investment if he’s going to struggle as much as he has.
For now the Mets have to just hand the ball to Wheeler every fifth day and hope he can become more consistent. Wheeler has demonstrated in 2018 what his potential can be if he’s on his game, and that could be the key to a postseason run if the Mets can harness it. The Mets run into a whole new set of problems if Wheeler can’t duplicate that performance, which makes solving Wheeler the biggest key for them at the moment.