Zack Wheeler looks to be in prime form with two weeks until the regular season.
In a televised game again the Detroit Tigers in Clearwater, Wheeler was dominant as he picked up his first win of Spring Training. Behind the strong pitching and a two run 4th inning, including an Odubel Herrera solo home run, the Phillies won the game 2-0.
In five innings, Wheeler gave up just four hits while striking out four, including the side in the 5th. It didn’t start off so hot, with Wheeler throwing 21 pitches in the first inning. The next four, he only threw 39 pitches.
Talk about efficiency.
Not only was he efficient pitch-wise, but he also controlled the pace of the game. He’s a fast worker when he is on, and Wheeler was certainly on today.
He exhibited control of all of his pitches, while keeping the hitters off balance. He showed he was able to make adjustments after a sluggish first inning. I have seen a lot of Wheeler, dating back to his time with the Mets. I don’t ever remember him looking as confident as he has looked the last two seasons.
A confident Zack Wheeler is bad news for the NL East.
Wheeler is kind of an anomaly for a power pitcher. He doesn’t post the typical strikeout numbers that you see from a guy with his velocity, but that’s okay. Wheeler’s at his best when he’s throwing his fastball on the edges of the plate. Those perfectly placed fastballs typically induce weak contact and some broken lumber.
Honestly, there is nothing as sweet as the sound when he breaks an opposing hitter’s bat.
His fastball command is so impressive for a pitcher with the stuff Wheeler processes. In his start against Detroit, he was able to throw strikes on either side of the plate, breaking a couple of bats along the way. His fastball has always had the life, but ever since the second half of 2019 with the Mets, Wheeler has shown more consistent command on it. Part of the reason that the Phillies gave him the contract they did was because they saw that.
Pair that command with a fastball that has averaged nearly 96 mph for his career, and you have a top-of-the-rotation arm.
Possibly one that can win the 2021 Cy Young.
Wheeler was 12th in the voting for last year’s award after a strong first season with the Phillies. In 11 starts, Wheeler went 4-2 with a 2.92 ERA over 71 innings. He may have not had the gaudy numbers (ie 6.7 K/9, 4 Ws) to win, and that made it harder in the shortened season. Not to mention the fact that the Phillies missed the playoffs last year, which doesn’t help when awarding the Cy Young.
However, with another strong full season, Wheeler looks to be in position to at least crack the top-10 in voting. I think there is a good chance he takes the award home himself (Not a bad idea for a futures bet, just saying).
The Phillies seem destined to improve, as the additions look like enough to be able to at least compete for a spot. Wheeler is going to be a big part of this team’s success this year, arguably bigger than Aaron Nola. A dominant Wheeler has the potential to carry a team to the postseason.
Wheeler, along with Nola, will look to bring October baseball back to Philadelphia for the first time since 2011.
Maybe, he can brings us the first Cy Young since Doc Halladay won in 2010.