If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s some sage advice for a franchise who oftentimes ends up making a good situation bad, and a bad situation worse.
The Mets have always been an organization that loves to get their grubby little hands into everything. Sometimes their meanderings are harmless, but every now and then they do something that really tries my patience as a Met fan. Last night was one of those times. Let me expand.
Going into last night’s game, I was as excited as the next Met fan in anticipation of seeing Zack Wheeler‘s second start. After holding a solid Atlanta Braves to six scoreless innings in his debut, I couldn’t wait to see him overpower one of the worst offenses in the game – the Chicago White Sox. This was going to be epic… Well, as epic a game as one will see in a 90 loss season…
A 97 mph strike with the first pitch… Awesome… Lets do this thing…
Uh oh… What the hell did Gary Cohen just say? “The Mets have told Wheeler they would like to see him utilize more offspeed pitches and changeups. More sliders and curves.” Ron Darling sighed.
“I didn’t throw a lot of strikes. And when I did, they were bad strikes,” said Wheeler, who threw 109 pitches.
Why? Why would you ask your top prospect to throw fewer of his two plus-pitches, both fastballs? Aren’t those the pitches that got Wheeler to the majors in the first place? Aren’t those the pitches that had scouts drooling for years?
Who made this god-awful decision? Who was the genius behind this operation?
During his first start against Atlanta, Wheeler’s fastball was his most effective pitch. Twelve of his fourteen swinging strikes were on the fastball and it led to seven strikeouts. Last night… Wheeler only struck out only one batter and it didn’t happen until the fifth inning. He wasn’t missing nearly as many bats as before. We saw a different pitcher last night. What should have been a dominating performance against one of the worst teams in the game, ended up being one of those “shake-it-off, kid” starts. It wasn’t what any of us wanted to see.
“Everybody goes over some bumps. I’ve been struggling with my command lately. And you really can’t do that up here, so I have a lot of work to do,” Wheeler said afterward.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen blamed it on Wheeler tipping his pitches and showing the batters a different arm angle between his fastball and breaking stuff. “I thought it was pretty obvious that he had different arm angles for different pitches.”
So what? Wheeler’s been tipping his pitches his entire freaking minor league career… Now you’re going to use that as a crutch? This is not something new, coach…
Mariano Rivera is going to the Hall of Fame while tipping his pitches… His plus-plus-pitch, that cutter, he could just as well shine a beacon or shout it out to the hitter, “Hey Miguel, here come’s my cutter”. They still couldn’t hit it.
If your stuff is great, it doesn’t matter if the hitter knows it’s coming or guesses right. You’ll still be successful, the pitcher still has the advantage. Throw your best stuff…
Wheeler’s four-seamer and two-seamer are supposed to be his kill pitches. His “stuff”. Why would you limit him from using those pitches more? He’s got a great curve you can throw in there as well, but I’m not impressed with his slider or changeup. Let him develop those during his bullpens and side sessions.
Another thing… I love how some Met fans are already bailing on Wheeler after just two starts. Are you serious, people? Are you freaking kidding me?
First of all, if you’re willing to bail on one of the game’s top prospects after just two performances, you really need to see a shrink, or better yet, you need a keeper.
The comparisons to Matt Harvey have got to stop. As I said all along, they are two completely different specimens. Harvey was a polished college arm who went from his first minor league pitch to his first major league pitch in less than two years. Wheeler was a high school pitcher who has been trying to tame his wildness since the day he signed with the San Francisco Giants. The only similarities the two of them share is the name on the front of their jerseys. So lets cut the crap.
Anyway, we’ll do this again on Sunday when Wheeler will face the Washington Nationals. The kid will be pitching in front of a home crowd for the first time, and I’m hoping the Mets decide to just let him loose and stop playing games with his mental approach. Let him do what he wants. Let’s see what we have. Keep your grubby little hands off of him.