In the early going, New York Mets pitchers Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz are having much different seasons. If Matz can keep this up, Wheeler doesn’t have to be the ace we saw in late 2018.
Through two starts, Zack Wheeler hasn’t had the kind of year New York Mets fans hoped he would. He’s now 0-1 with a 10.24 ERA with only 9.2 innings pitched. His most recent outing on Sunday against the Washington Nationals was especially bad and included 7 walks against the division-foes.
After a terrific finish to 2018, many hoped Wheeler would carry some momentum with him into 2019. Unfortunately, things haven’t clicked thus far.
Meanwhile, the Mets have gotten from Steven Matz what thought they might from Wheeler. In as many starts, Matz has yet to factor into any decision. However, he currently owns a 0.87 ERA and 11 strikeouts through 10.1 frames.
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On the surface statistics, Matz had a fine year in 2018 when you remember he’s the fourth starter. A deeper dive into things like how many home runs he surrendered or just how wild he was at times shows the luck that factored into his acceptable ERA just below 4.00. This year has been different from Matz. Although he’s no Jacob deGrom, he is pitching really well.
Coming into this year, there was a hope the Mets could win because of their starting rotation. It’s a familiar story. For about five years, this has been the deal.
Last year, though, deGrom, Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard all closed out the year healthy and strong. With Jason Vargas also ending the year like he belonged in the big leagues, the starting five was supposed to be a major strength moving forward. This is still the case except Wheeler has yet to receive enough starts to balance those bad numbers out.
In order for the Mets to find their way into the postseason, it was going to require at least three of the starters to pitch their hearts out. If Wheeler cannot do this, maybe Matz can. In fact, I would actually prefer it to go down this way.
From a strictly Mets mindset, Matz needs the better season. Wheeler needs to succeed for personal reasons. He’s a free agent after this season so a down year could hurt his status among the baseball nomads next winter. Matz is still years away from free agency. A stellar year from him and the Mets can better plan out how they will move forward with this rotation.
What’s more, I like the idea of one of the lefties pitching well. Not to jump too far ahead, but that could make a difference in a playoff series to have Matz split up Syndergaard and deGrom as the third starter in a five-game series or even the number two.
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We must continue to remind ourselves that the baseball season is a long one and two starts hardly define a pitcher’s year. Still, the promising beginning to Matz’s 2019 season could be just what this team needs. If he and Wheeler meet somewhere in the middle from what each accomplished last year, the rotation could benefit even greater than if there’s a fourth starter they cannot rely on.