Wheeler noted how his new pitching coach, Dave Eiland emphasized the strategy of pitching inside, which became super effective for Zack and the rest of the staff. “We want to control the inside part of the plate and with the guys we have, throwing as hard as we do, it’s kind of intimidating,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler also cited working on his arm action in spring training as what helped improve his command last season. “It really helped me develop my changeup and throw all of my pitches more effectively,” said Wheeler, who became reliant on his changeup during his blossoming year, while adding a splitter to the mix, as well.
The soon to be 29-year-old pitcher also gave credit to his new found mentality of not playing with the constant fear of getting injured. He missed all of the 2015 and 2016 seasons after having Tommy John surgery. In addition to these two lost seasons, Wheeler did not pitch past July of his 2017 season due to a stress reaction in his pitching arm.
Once he adopted this strategy, he was able to go out and throw his best stuff, accepting the fact that he can’t control what happens in the process. This newly found philosophy ultimately helped Wheeler “let loose” and focus more on just going out and pitching, which ultimately led to a stellar season for him.
In his first full season in the big leagues since 2014, Wheeler was one of the Mets most dominant starters, posting a 12-7 record to go along with an impressive 3.31 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 1.124 WHIP and 8.8 k/9 rate in 29 starts. Coleman also noted Zack’s low hard hit rate of 26.9%, as a main factor in his breakout campaign, as well. This statistic is a major improvement from the pitcher’s previous number in 2017 of 35.5%.
If the Mets expect to have a successful year in 2019, a lot of it rides on their starting rotation and Wheeler following up his great performance last season. He has made the necessary adjustments and will continue to improve as long as he has gotten past the injury bug, which plagued him for most of his career up until 2018.