August 23, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets pitcher Collin McHugh (36) talks to teammate Justin Turner (2) as they sit in the dugout during the seventh inning after McHugh threw seven shutout innings in his major league debut against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Collin McHugh Deserves First Chance Over Zack Wheeler If Mets Come Calling

Monday’s scheduled game between the Las Vegas 51′s and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox was postponed due to – cold!  That’s right – so much for April showers bringing May flowers.  The two teams will play a doubleheader Tuesday to complete their four game series.  In splitting the first two games, the 51′s defeated Colorado in Saturday’s opening game, while the Sky Sox won Sunday’s contest.

Collin McHugh, 25, pitched Sunday.  Prior to taking the hill, he hadn’t allowed an earned run since his first start of the season.  He then pitched scoreless baseball over his next two starts.  Through eighteen innings, that translated to a 0.50 earned run average.  Over that time, he limited opposing batters to fifteen hits, issued four walks, and fanned fifteen.  McHugh’s fourth start of the season against the Sky Sox was by far his worst outing.  In 5.1 innings of work on Sunday, he walked no one while striking out three, but allowed four earned runs and surrendered an absurd thirteen hits.  Relatively speaking, his ERA ballooned to a 1.93 mark.  This was the second straight game in which McHugh allowed more hits than innings pitched.  In fact,  he has now allowed twenty hits in his last eleven innings pitched.  His last such spike came in 2011 while pitching for St. Lucie.  In fairness to McHugh, I always say twice is a coincidence, but three times is a trend.  I’m sure we’ll find his next start or two more telling.

Although he only received his first taste of the major leagues last season by making four starts and four relief appearances, McHugh will turn 26 years old this June – he isn’t exactly a kid.  Despite a 7.59 ERA last season during his short stay in Flushing, there is some polish to him.  This past Sunday’s game was only his seventeenth overall start at the AAA level.  Between 2011 and 2012, he totaled thirty appearances at Binghamton.  Otherwise, Collin McHugh has seventy-eight class-A games worth of experience.  To date, he has 549 minor league innings pitched, which carries a ton of weight with me.  Far too often I feel pitchers get rushed through the system based on (real, yet raw) ability and strict statistical adherence, but lack a basic understanding of their craft and in-game management.  On August 23, 2012, Citi Field witnessed some of McHugh’s polish first hand.  His major league debut came against the Colorado Rockies, and he pitched seven solid innings, allowed no runs, and surrendered just four hits.  He issued one walk, and struck out nine.  He faced twenty-three batters, and threw exactly 100 pitches, of which sixty-three went for strikes.  Unfortunately, he took a no-decision as the Mets ultimately dropped a 1-0 game with Bobby  Parnell on the mound.

After his 2011 participation at St. Lucie, McHugh has demonstrated effective consistency since touching down in Binghamton and pitching through AAA.  McHugh’s second trip to Flushing may not be too far off, as there is a dilemma brewing on the big club.  Shaun Marcum‘s lingering status, Jeremy Hefner‘s recent mound performance, and Aaron Laffey getting DFA’d are conspiring to possibly hasten Sandy Alderson’s decision to call up starting pitchers.  In the event the Mets do, I believe Collin McHugh deserves to receive the first call.

Sandy Alderson’s decision to keep Zack Wheeler in the minors, so as to squeeze another year of service from him is now an inconsequential matter.  Moving forward, decisions regarding Zack Wheeler will be based primarily on his performance.  Unfortunately for Terry Collins, Wheeler’s first four starts for Las Vegas indicate he is not yet ready for a promotion.  Highlighting his problems are control issues.  That has been a consistent criticism.  Wheeler walked six batters in his last outing.  He currently owns a 4.91 earned run average, and an unsightly 1.745 WHiP.  In 18.1 innings, he has allowed twenty hits and walked twelve.  On a more positive note, he has twenty-one strikeouts.  His pitching numbers through four starts are not being skewed by one lousy start.  He has struggled to varying degrees in three of four appearances.  It should be noted, however, that Wheeler was dealing with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand during his first two starts.  That issue likely contributed to his poor performance.

Wheeler will turn twenty-three years old at the end of May.  It has already been speculated the club will wait until June or so to promote him.  A few more outings like he’s had can change his ultimate delivery date.  At the moment, he only has ten AAA starts under his belt.  He really made a nice name for himself in AA.  Wheeler has 341 minor league innings pitched, which these days is a very acceptable amount.

I am not trying to detract from Zack Wheeler’s high regard.  I stand with my fellow fans with hopes that we’ll eventually have a high-end pitcher on our hands.  I simply ask, what’s the rush?  As it pertains to the 2013 regular season, I feel there should be a certain portion of the season left open for experimentation and exploration since the team is still a work in progress.  So for right now, I feel Collin McHugh should get the next plane ticket to LaGuardia Airport when Flushing calls, which could come sooner rather than later.


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  • Michael Black

    We have seen him already and didnt impress. Make a statement and promote Montero.

    • MikeLecolant.BTB

      No debating your first point. Promoting Montero would be bold indeed. Even though I said leave a portion of the season open for such a move, I would hold off. He certainly has been dynamite so far.

  • marc114

    McHugh deserves another chance. Wheeler is definitely not ready and Montero hasn’t pitched above AA yet. Patience friends

    • MikeLecolant.BTB

      Agreed. Sticking with the plan is key. Wheeler needs more work.

    • marc114

      His last two starts have been more on the impressive side. I would say he’s on target for late June. Personally my gut tells me they should trade Wheeler and D’Arnaud for different dudes as theyir careers will be filled more with excuses over successes.

    • MikeLecolant.BTB

      Funny you say that…, I have considered trading John Buck, being that d’Arnaud is on the way, and Kevin Plawecki is doing so well. Pitching wise, I wouldn’t trade Wheeler because I want a one-two punch on the hill. However, the Mets have assembled a fine cache of young right-handed pitching prospects they can deal.

  • Joe_JP

    I too wish to give him another shot especially since we have less invested in him, so taking a chance too soon would be less problematic than for Wheeler. BTW, worth noting he is great on Twitter and his personal blog. Intelligent sounding guy.

    • MikeLecolant.BTB

      Very well put. Thanks for tipping us off about his blog. I’ll be checking it out.

  • Joe Kurioo

    Not really a big fan of Mchugh I think he is a 3rd starter on a AAA team at best but at this time anyone is better than hefner.

    • MikeLecolant.BTB

      Easy on Hefner, I’m still holding out hope for him. LOL. He was put in a bind. I’m just hoping for the best. He needs to recapture some of his early minor league form.

  • Anthony Mastantuoni

    If you are talking a spot start or two, then I would go with McHugh. If you are talking about a “permanent” starter (or as permanent as anyone can be), then Wheeler is the one gets called up – as long as the blister problem is not an issue.

    • MikeLecolant.BTB

      We’re on the same page. Wheeler is clearly the long term option. McHugh simply gets first shot at a call up to help this season. He would still have to prove his worth over the long run.

  • MetsOnDeck

    I’m not positive on this, but I thought I remembered Gary, Ron, or Keith pointing out that McHugh was tipping his pitches last season. Not saying that I think if he fixed the issue he’s an ace or anything, but maybe he will be marginally better. I agree that promoting McHugh might be a good call for right now. Wheeler is the long term solution, but I would enjoy it if he could cut down on the walks before being promoted. The worst thing would be promoting him and seeing him really struggle. Nothing like crushing a future star’s confidence.

    • MikeLecolant.BTB

      With all his minor league innings, and turning a year older, there should be a certain degree of mental toughness about him. But I’m with you.

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