Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Yankees love Zack Wheeler because, well, what team in need of pitching wouldn't?
His stuff is among the best in the league, and he has finally learned how to be consistent.
The Yanks have soured a bit on Noah Syndergaard, whom they pursued over the winter, and moved toward Wheeler. They would love to pry him from the Mets and dump Clint Frazier -- and none of that changed after Wheeler's dud in Game 1 of Tuesday's Subway doubleheader.
Wheeler allowed nine runs (five earned) in 4.2 innings, allowing two home runs and falling victim to poor defense by his teammates. He hung a slider to Luke Voit, and saw Gio Urshela turn on an inside fastball that Wheeler felt he executed well.
"Urshela was an inside fastball at the knees and he turned on it," said Wheeler, who has developed into a cerebral craftsman. "I'm happy with that pitch. I'm not happy with the result, but I'm happy with the pitch. It was a located fastball on that black, at the knees."
Despite the overall ugly result in this game, Wheeler's body of work now is impressive enough that the Yanks won't turn away from him based on one stinker. Brian Cashman's front office relies heavily on analytics and takes a long view of player evaluation.
Expect the Yanks GM to make calls on Wheeler prior to the July 31 trade deadline, and once again this winter when Wheeler is a free agent.
Consider these facts about Wheeler's consistency -- facts of which the Yankees are surely aware:
- Over his previous 10 outings leading up to the Yankees game, he was 4-2 with a 3.95 ERA.
- He has eight starts of at least seven innings this season, tied with Justin Verlander and Hyun-Jun Ryu for most in the majors.
- He has thrown seven innings or more in 21 of 33 starts, stretching all the way back to June 6 of last year.
It was around that time, midseason 2018, when Wheeler finally became the pitcher that scouts had long ago projected him to be.
He was locating his fastball, enjoying an improved feel for his change-up and split-finger; he alternated the latter two pitches based on whether the hitter he was facing had a habit of chasing low in the strike zone. He became thoughtful about his work and able to read swings and toy with hitters.
This year, he continues to refine the change-up and polish the slider, which is still his third best pitch. He still leaves too many pitches over the plate, and therefore allows too many home runs; this has helped to inflate his ERA to 4.87, higher than it should be for the quality of his performance.
"If you're getting hurt on your mistakes, you're probably making more than just those two or three," Mickey Callaway said. "He'll keep on working. He'll keep trying to get the ball in a better spot."
To scout Wheeler is to see those mistakes, but also elite stuff and above average command. To glance at his statistical profile is to see high fastball spin rate, soft contact, and other peripherals that appeal to teams.
The Yankees know all this, which is why Wheeler will remain on their wish list over the coming weeks and months, despite his lousy afternoon in their ballpark.