The New York Mets miscalculated. That alone would be enough to make the Phillies’ smile, but Zack Wheeler and his 2021 campaign have left nothing on the table.
So let’s start at the beginning and see what led to Wheeler landing in Philadelphia, eventually closing out the 2021 All-Star game for the National League, and his future battle for the coveted Cy Young.
How Did the Mets Let Zack Wheeler Walk?
Then General Manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, is on the record claiming he reached out to Wheeler’s team multiple times, while the former Met claims he didn’t hear from them once after expressing a desire to remain in New York. Classic he said, she said. Let the Twitterverse be the judge.
Admittedly, you can’t wholly blame Van Wagenen for letting Wheeler walk.
Heading into the 2019 offseason, Wheeler was responsible for a cumulative WAR of 10.4 across five seasons in the Big Apple. However, as he catapulted his way to 30-years old, his 4.10 ERA was a bit less impressive. I’ll never blame a GM for not wanting to give a 30-year-old starting pitcher over $20MM per year.
In further defense of the Mets, I don’t believe anyone saw this coming, but it certainly looks terrible now. Through two seasons in Philadelphia, Wheeler’s 7.4 WAR is just a touch higher than Mets’ ace Jacob Degrom of 7.0 (I was surprised too).
That leaves the Metropolitans dreaming of what could have been and the Phillies with a bonified All-Star—speaking of:
Road to the All-Star Game
It’s not a competition, but Wheeler’s made Aaron Nola look relatively pedestrian.
Granted, Nola’s struggled more than ever in his professional career, making it more incredible that the Phillies are .500. They certainly wouldn’t be there without Wheeler’s 2.26 ERA and general dominance.
Wheeler’s 145 strikeouts rank third in the MLB, just two behind leader Gerrit Cole (147) while drawing a swinging strike on 13.2% of all pitches, and he doesn’t stop there. Can you guess who’s also pitched the most innings in the MLB this season? Yup, and he’s doing it with absolute power.
Wheeler’s average fastball velocity of 97.2 mph puts him in the 97th percentile among all pitchers in 2021, not to mention the heat the nation witnessed this past Tuesday.
The Phillies now-ace almost didn’t appear, but Dave Roberts must have been checking Twitter because he finally got his chance. One batter, three pitches, two of which hit 100 mph, and his day was over.
Zack Wheeler – A Cy Young Candidate?
Again, let’s talk about the Mets. Ironically, and I think this is irony, but no one’s ever explained it to me, DeGrom looks to be an early front-runner to yet again take home the hardware.
Through fifteen starts, DeGrom’s posted an ERA of 1.08. Unheard of and, of course, tops in the league. If that continues, it would be his third Cy Young Award in four seasons. That’s to say, Zack Wheeler’s fighting an uphill battle, but he’s not exactly running in sand.
Let’s also not forget about Wheeler’s history of success during the back half of a season.
So it’s going to be a little of everything. DeGrom struggles, Wheeler maintains and/or improves, and this could really happen.
The last Phillies pitcher to win the Cy Young was the late Roy Halladay in 2009. I was fifteen on my way to journalism camp for the summer (one of the reasons, along with grades and SAT mediocrity, that I didn’t attend Virginia Tech). The point being, it’s been a while.
Zack Wheeler’s odds are currently 18-1 to take home the award, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. If you’re looking for action, you could do worse.
Finger’s crossed in the meantime. Awards are excellent, but the playoffs are better—just a kind reminder to thank the front office of the New York Mets.
Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire