New York Mets: Zack Wheeler

Road-trip recap: Good signs for many

June, 22, 2014
Jun 22
David Wright scorched the ball all week.
This was a good road trip for the Mets.

All things considered, with the two losses in St. Louis and the disastrous finish to the second game of the series with the Marlins, the Mets did very well to get four wins in seven games.

And perhaps more significantly, they may have turned the corner in a few different ways. Here’s a look at significant ones related to their offense, their pitching and their defense.

David Wright
Wright hit in all seven games. He went 12-for-27 with two home runs and six RBIs. Just as notable was that he drove the ball with authority, hitting 11 line drives (netting 10 hits and a sacrifice fly) and that he had only nine swings and misses (three in the four games against the Marlins).
Wright did something that he had not been doing at all during his struggles—cover the outside part of the plate. Wright had six hits, including a home run against outer-half pitches during this road trip.

From May 22 to June 15, a 24-game stretch in which he hit .198, Wright totaled only six hits against pitches on the outer-half of the plate or off the outside corner.

Zack Wheeler & Jacob deGrom
Wheeler looked like the pitcher that the Mets have been waiting for this season, as everything came together perfectly in his 1-0 win over the Marlins.
Terry Collins cited Wheeler’s fastball command as being about as good as he’d seen. Wheeler threw the pitch for a strike 73 percent of the time, his second-highest fastball strike rate this season.

Every fastball Wheeler threw was at least 93.5 mph (meaning 94 mph on the radar gun). He averaged 95.5 mph for the game, a hair shy of his career best (95.7 done June, 25, 2013 against the White Sox).

Wheeler averaged 94.5 mph with his fastball over the last three innings, throwing 13 of 16 for strikes. He’d only thrown 14 of 28 fastballs for strikes that late in a game entering that Marlins start.

deGrom threw seven scoreless innings to earn his first major-league win on Saturday (the 333rd pitcher in Mets history to win a game).

The best thing for deGrom was that he was economical. He averaged 3.5 pitches per batter, a career best. He had his best first-pitch strike rate (68 percent) since his major-league debut against the Yankees (also 68 percent) five weeks ago.

deGrom did get knocked around a bit by the Cardinals in allowing six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings earlier in the week. But keep this in mind -- our video-review crew did not rate any of the balls that the Cardinals put in play as hard hit."

Double-Play Defense
The Mets have consistently rated the worst team in baseball with regard to the double-play component of the Defensive Runs Saved Statistic this season.

But they looked a little smoother on this road trip.

The Mets turned 10 ground-ball double plays in the two series, getting at least one in six of the seven games. They matched their season high by turning three in their 3-2 win in the series finale against the Cardinals.

Baseball Info Solutions has credited the Mets with a major-league high 14 Defensive Misplays and Errors on double plays this season. But they completely avoided those mistakes in this series.

It's not as bad as it looks for Wheeler

May, 29, 2014
May 29
AP Photo/Jack DempseyZack Wheeler has not made the jump to elite pitcher, but he hasn't been as bad as his numbers either.

Zack Wheeler is having a disappointing season as far as results go, with a 1-5 record and 4.63 ERA, following his 7-5, 3.42 17-start debut in 2013.

But in terms of actual pitching, you could make the case that Wheeler has pitched better (or at least about the same) as last season.

What do we mean by that? His strikeout rate is up from 7.6 per nine innings to 8.5, and his walk rate is about the same (a still-high 4.3 per nine innings). He’s allowing home runs at a rate of one every 14 innings, as opposed to the one every 10 innings last season. His ground-ball rate is up, with grounders and bunts accounting for 55 percent of his balls in play (up from 43 percent last season). His average fastball velocity has held steady at 94 mph.

The various ERA-estimating tools at sites such as peg Wheeler as someone who should have an ERA a run lower than his actual ERA.

In fact, Wheeler and Bartolo Colon are two of eight pitchers, whose ERA differs from his FIP (an abbreviation for an ERA estimator based on strikeouts, walks and homers allowed) by at least one run (Wheeler’s FIP is 3.63).

What’s gone wrong for Wheeler this season? A few things.

The defense hasn’t done its job
Most pitchers who increase their ground-ball rate will see their numbers improve. But the Mets struggles with their infield defense have been an issue for Wheeler.

The Mets turned 81 percent of his ground balls into outs last season, but only 63 percent in 2014. We have a tool that rates batted balls as hard, medium and soft. Wheeler got outs on 76 of 83 soft grounders last season (92 percent). This season, it’s only gotten outs on 44 of 61 (72 percent) with four errors contributing to the difficulties.

The Mets outfield defense leads the majors with 29 Defensive Runs Saved, but their infield is at -4 Defensive Runs Saved.

Left behind
Left-handed hitters are hitting .329 with a .915 OPS against Wheeler this season, after being at .259 and .766 in 2013.

Lefties have shredded Wheeler a few times, most notably in two starts against the Braves, in which eight of 14 have reached base, and on May 13 against the Yankees, when he allowed six hits and five walks to the 18 he faced.

Wheeler has been unable to get lefties to chase bad pitches as often as he did last season. His chase rate against them has dropped from 25 percent in 2013 to 18 percent in 2014.

RISPy business
The most commonly cited issue for Wheeler has been the difference in his results with runners in scoring position, as noted in the chart on the right.

Although the Mets defense hasn’t helped Wheeler, he could stand to help himself a little bit more as well.

Wheeler was known for escaping trouble with the strikeout. He whiffed 29 of 111 hitters with runners in scoring position last season, but only 11 of 70 in 2014.

The high fastball was a key to this, with Wheeler able to throw it past opposing hitters regularly.

But that pitch hasn’t been there for Wheeler as often. Here’s where he’s thrown fastballs most often in trouble spots in 2013.
And here’s where he’s thrown them in 2014, to considerably worse results (particularly note the difference in where he's thrown them to lefties).
We’ll see if Wheeler gets back to using this pitch as a weapon to get outs moving forward.

Looking ahead
The good news for Wheeler is that ESPN’s primary projection system thinks he’ll fare better the rest of the way. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS gives him a 3.68 ERA over his next 21 starts, producing a final 2014 ERA of 4.00.

That’s not quite the jump Mets fans were looking for, but at least they can take comfort in knowing that the future for Wheeler still looks to be alright.

D'Arnaud, Wheeler & Co. have room to grow

October, 3, 2013
Read or listen to any interview with Sandy Alderson and he’ll bring up the idea that the Mets don’t just need to get better players, they need to find ways to make their own players better.

With that in mind, let’s look at the roster and cite the five biggest improvements that would be key to getting better performances in 2014.

D'Arnaud: Bat wrap
As John Kruk pointed out after watching Travis d'Arnaud on "Sunday Night Baseball," the Mets catcher takes a long time to get his swing going.

As the heat map on the right shows, d'Arnaud did not have success in areas of the plate in which it would be necessary for a good hitter to perform well.

D'Arnaud acknowledged this at season’s end.

"That was more me trying to hit the ball 600 feet," he said. "When I would try to do that, I would overwrap or overswing pretty much, and it would just dig me in a bigger hole."

Now it’s up to him to fix it.

Wheeler: Fastball command/third pitch
The Mets saw a couple of different versions of Zack Wheeler in his first 100 big league innings.

One distinction was between the Wheeler who commanded his fastball and the Wheeler who didn’t. Wheeler’s five best starts of the year in terms of fastball strike rate and fastball called-strike rate were a match.

The chart on the right shows the difference between how Wheeler fared in those games versus how he fared in his other 12 starts.

That’s not to say he didn’t have good games when his fastball command was erratic, but good fastball command for him was a key to success.

The other key for Wheeler will be gaining confidence in his curveball or changeup. Wheeler averaged about 10 curves and three changeups per game but threw them for strikes about half the time. His curveball strike rate ranked 11th worst among the 143 pitchers who made at least 10 starts and threw at least 100 curves.

Murphy: Defense
Daniel Murphy played a good first 500 innings in the field this season. He looked comfortable at second base, was effective turning double plays and overall rated as a major league average defender, well better than he did in previous tries at the position.

Then came a switch to first base when Ike Davis was demoted. After the results of that were not good, Murphy returned to second base and returned to his former struggling self. He started botching routine grounders he was previously fielding, as the chart on the right (which focuses on the sabermetric stat RZR) shows.

Murphy finished the season at minus-13 Defensive Runs Saved at second base, two runs worse than he did in 2012 in about 200 more innings.

Unless it improves, Murphy’s defense is going to be a hindrance to his overall value (costing him 1.5 Wins Above Replacement in 2013).

The first two months of the season showed his defense could improve. It’s something he needs to continue working on with Tim Teufel.

Young: Home cooking
When Alderson spoke Monday about the Mets needing players to hit better at Citi Field, he was talking about players like Eric Young Jr.

Young had a .201 batting average at home as a Met, compared to .293 on the road.

There’s a specific reason his home numbers weren’t as good. Young’s ratio of balls hit on the ground (including bunts) to balls hit in the air was 107-to-67 on the road but only 75-to-65 at home. And in Citi Field, Young was hitting twice as many fly balls as line drives, whereas on the road, the two were an even split.

Citi Field is a big ballpark. Young’s fly balls are conducive to easy outs. He hit .140 when he hit one there, .235 when he hit a ground ball.

Young’s role on this team is to get on base and turn singles into doubles and triples by stealing bases. The easiest way for him to do that is to hit the ball on the ground as often as possible. That’s the mindset the team will be looking for, as Terry Collins acknowledged throughout September.

Lagares: Smarter approach
Juan Lagares produced tremendous value with his defense, but his offensive game needs a lot of work.

Lagares’ chase rate (how often he swung at pitches out of the strike zone) and called-strike rate (how often he took a pitch called a strike) were both about 6 percentage points above the league average.

In other words, Lagares often took when he should have swung and swung when he should have taken.

Much of this stemmed from Lagares’ inability to handle a good slider from a right-handed pitcher. Lagares made 58 outs and had eight hits and two walks against that pitch.

Every Mets right-handed-hitting position player fared better, and most were considerably better.

Lagares needs to do with sliders what he does with fielding fly balls -- catch up to them.

The Mets' best moments of 2013

October, 1, 2013
AP Photo/Kathy WillensThe Mets were a jubilant group after a walk-off win against the Yankees.
The Mets finished 74-88 for the second straight season, but this year had more of an upbeat feel to it than 2012, with come-from-behind wins, some prospects heralded and unheralded coming to Citi Field, and plenty of exciting wins as the Mets went 49-48 in their last 97 games.

We're not looking to sugarcoat what was another rough year for Mets fans (particularly once Matt Harvey got hurt). But the good times should be remembered.

Here is a chronological look at the Mets most memorable moments of 2013.

April 24 -- 'Spin for the Win
The Mets had 10 walk-off wins in 2013 and one of the most exciting ones came when they rallied to beat the Dodgers.

David Wright tied the game and kept Matt Harvey's unbeaten record intact with a two-out hit in the ninth inning. Jordany Valdespin won it with a 10th inning grand slam.

Stat to Remember: This was the sixth walk-off grand slam in Mets history, the first since Kevin McReynolds hit one against the Expos in 1991.

May 3 -- Wright goes deeper than ever before
The Mets scored a dramatic 7-5 win over the Braves. Trailing by a run in the ninth inning, Wright took invincible Braves closer Craig Kimbrel deep.

The 464-foot homer marked the longest one in Wright's career. They would pull ahead in the 10th inning on a pair of 0-2 RBI hits, one by Ruben Tejada, the other by Daniel Murphy.

Stat to Remember: The Mets won seven games in which they were trailing entering the ninth inning, their most such wins in a season since they had seven in 1998.

May 7 -- Almost Perfect
Matt Harvey pitched a lot of great games in 2013 (an early-season win over Stephen Strasburg just missed our cut). His best was his nine scoreless innings against the White Sox, a game in which the only baserunner he allowed was an infield single by Alex Rios in the 7th.

Harvey would get a no-decision (a theme throughout 2013) in a game the Mets would win on a walk-off hit in the 10th inning by Mike Baxter.

Stat to Remember: Harvey is the only pitcher in Mets history to throw nine scoreless innings, allow one hit or fewer, strike out at least 12 and walk none.

May 26-29 -- Sweeping the Yankees
There were minimal expectations for the Mets heading into their four-game series with the Yankees. But the Mets pitching dominated, allowing only one run in three of the four games, winning all four.

Murphy won the opener with an eighth-inning hit, then started an improbable two-run rally in the ninth inning with a leadoff double in a 2-1 walk-off win against Mariano Rivera the next day.

The Mets bats had one really good day, knocking out David Phelps in the first inning of a 9-4 romp. Dillon Gee closed the series with an unlikely 12-strikeout gem that turned his season in the right direction.

Stat to Remember: This was the first time in Mets history that they swept the Yankees in a season series.

June 16 -- A "Nieu" beginning
Terry Collins would point to this game, not Harvey/Wheeler day (the next on our list) as the one that got the Mets headed out of their early-season doldrums.

Trailing 3-0 in the ninth inning, the Mets were the recipients of an implosion from Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, who first gave up a leadoff homer to Marlon Byrd, then allowed a three-run walk-off shot to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who entered that at-bat 3-for-31 for the season.

Stat To Remember: This marked the second time in the last 30 seasons that the Mets won a game on a walk-off homer that game with them down by at least two runs. The only other instance in that span was Bobby Bonilla's game-winning homer against Rob Dibble and the Reds on August 30, 1992.

June 18 -- Harvey/Wheeler Day
This marked the brightest-looking day for the Mets future when Harvey and Zack Wheeler beat the Braves in a doubleheader sweep.

Harvey struck out 13 and took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning of the opener. Wheeler wowed in his debut with six scoreless (albeit a little wild) innings in the nightcap.

Those wins started the 49-48 season-ending run.

Stat to Remember: This marked the Mets first doubleheader sweep of the Braves in Atlanta since 1987.

July 8 -- Leaving their hearts in San Francisco
The Mets played a bunch of long games in 2013, though none ended later than the 3:41 a.m. conclusion to the 4-3 win in 16 innings against the Giants.

The game might have actually gone longer had Brandon Crawford cleanly fielded Anthony Recker’s grounder with runners on the corners and two outs in the 16th, which produced the winning run. The teams combined to go 2-for-24 with runners in scoring position.

Stat to Remember: The Mets played 57 extra innings in 2013, three shy of the club record of 60 set in 1979 and 1985.

July 16 -- Star of Stars
Harvey proved he belonged on the game's biggest stage when he started the All-Star Game for the National League at Citi Field. After allowing a leadoff double to Mike Trout and hitting Robinson Cano, Harvey retired the heart of the American League lineup (Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis and Jose Bautista), then pitched a 1-2-3 second inning, highlighted by a 10-pitch strikeout of Adam Jones.

Stat to Remember: Harvey became the second Met to throw at least two scoreless innings as an All-Star Game starter. The other was Tom Seaver in 1970.

August 6 -- Young's Mookie-like dash
In the eighth inning of a tie game against the Rockies, Eric Young Jr. brought back memories of Mookie Wilson scoring from second on an infield single by Juan Lagares. That would give the Mets a win and a nice moment for Young, who was traded from the Rockies to the Mets earlier in the season.

Stat To Remember: The Mets led the majors in Fangraphs' advanced baserunning metric (UBR) due largely to plays like the one that won this game.

September 20 -- Wright Passes Piazza
Wright homered in his first at-bat against Cole Hamels after missing seven weeks with a hamstring injury and passed Mike Piazza into second place on the club's career home run list. The Mets would go on to sweep the Phillies in Philadelphia, those wins making the difference as they finished in third place in the NL East, one game ahead of the Phillies.

Stat to Remember: Wright finished with a .307 batting average, a .390 on-base percentage and a .514 slugging percentage. Wright has four .300/.390/.500 seasons in his career. The only other Met with more than one is Mike Piazza, who has two.

Wheeler could make two more starts

September, 18, 2013
NEW YORK -- It's been widely expected that Mets rookie Zack Wheeler will be shut down prior to the end of the season, but that may not happen after all.

Mets manager Terry Collins said Wednesday that Wheeler will start at least one more time this season. "Maybe two more times," Collins added, unprompted.

Wheeler has pitched 168 2/3 innings this year -- 100 in 17 starts with the Mets, after 68 2/3 in 13 starts with Triple-A Las Vegas. He is 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in the big leagues after his no-decision Tuesday night, giving up four runs in five innings against the Giants, with a career-high six walks.

Wheeler's next start will likely be Monday in Cincinnati. That would leave open the possibility of Wheeler starting against the Brewers in the Mets' final series of the season at Citi Field.

Wheeler: No extra pressure without Harvey

August, 26, 2013
NEW YORK -- Their careers will forever be intertwined, the two young arms the Mets are hoping will help them return to their days of contention.

Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are the two hard-throwing right-handers the Mets hope will anchor a dynamic rotation in the near future that has them in the race year after year. Harvey has already shown he can be an ace, while Wheeler has become more promising by the day.

[+] EnlargeZack Wheeler
AP Photo/Paul J. BereswillZack Wheeler got the loss on Monday.
Monday, the Mets' dynamic duo suffered a big blow as it was revealed that Harvey has a partial UCL tear in his right arm that could require surgery, potentially sidelining him through 2014.

With Harvey gone likely all of this year, and with next year a question mark, Wheeler is the one young stud left this season, and potentially next. It may seem like big shoes to fill, but Wheeler isn't feeling any pressure of having to step up with Harvey sidelined.

"No, not necessarily. I'm going to go out there and pitch the same way I've been pitching," Wheeler said. "Like I said it's unfortunate that it happened and I'm going to go out there and do the best I can, control what I can control."

Just hours after Harvey's injury was announced, Wheeler responded with an excellent outing in the Mets' 2-1 loss to the Phillies on Monday night at Citi Field. Wheeler gave up just two runs over 6 2/3 innings while striking out seven, but suffered the loss as Cliff Lee dominated the Mets.

"It's horrible. No pitcher ever wants to go through that and no pitcher ever wants to hear about that, especially to a good guy like Matt, he's having a tremendous year," Wheeler said about Harvey. "He started the All-Star Game. He's doing very well. It's terrible news."

Mets manager Terry Collins explained that there won't be any pressure on Wheeler with Harvey gone to be the No. 1 starter in the Mets' rotation because Wheeler isn't programmed that way. The manager said that while that status as the ace drives Harvey, Wheeler just takes the ball.

Facing a weak Phillies lineup on Monday, Wheeler cruised but suffered the loss because he couldn't close out the fourth. Ahead 1-0 with two outs, he allowed a single and walk before yielding a two-run triple to Cody Asche that put the Phillies ahead by the final margin.

In the seventh inning, with two outs and a runner on second and Wheeler sitting at 105 pitches, Collins pulled his youngster from the game.

"We said before the game 105 was the limit," Collins said. "After what happened today, we're sticking to it."

Wheeler, who fell to 6-3, wanted to stay in, but he understood the move.

"It's definitely going to be a while before any of us get back up there in pitch count," Wheeler said. "It's not their fault but it's human when your best pitcher goes down, his UCL, but it's part of the game and I understand it."

The series in Metrics (Mets vs Braves)

August, 21, 2013
Notes from a split of the two-game series with the Atlanta Braves:

Wheeler turning in a good direction
Elias noted that Zack Wheeler became the second Mets rookie to beat the Braves three times in a season, joining Tom Seaver, who beat them four times in 1967.

Wheeler induced 14 swings-and-misses, matching his career high done twice previously (both against the Braves).

For those curious after seeing our article assessing Wheeler's pitching in report-card form, the Inside Edge grading system gave Wheeler a B. It liked his first-pitch strike rate (64 percent), but didn't like his offspeed strike rate (54 percent).

The Mets are now 9-3 in Wheeler's 12 starts. That matches the most wins in starts by the Mets for a pitcher within that pitcher's first 12 career appearances, tying Jason Isringhausen and Octavio Dotel.

Lagares' wonderful arm
Juan Lagares recorded his 11th outfield assist in Wednesday’s loss. The Mets outfield record is 19, by Rusty Staub in 1974. The most by a centerfielder is within Lagares' reach, 13 shared by Del Unser (1975) and Carlos Beltran (2006).

Satin's streak still alive
Josh Satin extended his streak of starts reaching base to 29. That's the second-longest streak of starts to start a season in Mets history, trailing only John Olerud's 57 straight to start 1999.

Nicely done for Niese
Jonathon Niese allowed one run in seven innings, striking out nine in Wednesday's no-decision. He's the first Mets lefty to strike out at least nine hitters in consecutive appearances since Johan Santana did so in 2008. Only three Mets lefties have had a streak of three straight such appearances -- Jon Matlack (twice), Sid Fernandez (three times) and Oliver Perez (once, in 2007).

Extra, Extra
The Mets have now played 17 extra-inning games and still have an outside shot at the franchise record of 25, set in 1978, when they lost 17 extra-inning games.

They now have 10 extra-inning losses, their most in a season since 2001 (when they went 10-10 in extended games). They haven't had more than 10 extra-inning defeats in a season since they had 11 in 1987.

Ike fixing his flaws
Ike Davis was 2-for-4 with a home run in Tuesday’s win, upping his batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage since his recall to .282/.448/.455 in 40 games since his recall.

Davis' most conscious change has been in his plate approach. He's gone from missing on one-third of his swings to missing only 18 percent of the time.

Davis' timing against offspeed pitches has been abundantly better.

When he was sent to the minors, Davis was 8-for-82 in at-bats that ended in an offspeed pitch (curveball, slider, or changeup). He's 16-for-54 against them since his recall, cutting his miss rate from 45 percent to 30 percent in the process.

The heat map below and the chart on the right shows how Davis has fixed the holes in his swing and covered more plate.

Stat grade for Wheeler so far: B-minus

August, 20, 2013

Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesZack Wheeler has had his share of good moments and bad moments since his first start in Atlanta.

One of the companies that does video-tracking for teams, Inside Edge, evaluates pitchers using stats to generate a report card grade, based on more than 20 factors.

Their grading system doesn’t consider whether the pitcher won or lost the game, but how the pitcher fared at doing the things necessary for a pitcher to have major-league success.

Their system works for games and for analyzing a pitcher’s seasonal performance. We used it to put tonight’s starter, Zack Wheeler under the microscope.

What Wheeler rates best at
Wheeler had two areas in which he rated an A or A-.

Pct of 0-1 counts that get to 0-2 instead of 1-1(A):
This was Wheeler’s only ‘A’ grade. The typical major-league pitcher gets to 0-2 and 1-1 about the same amount, presuming that the 0-1 pitch is not hit put in play. Wheeler’s split is 56/44 in favor of 0-2 counts.

The best example of this was in his no-hit bid against the Marlins, when of his first dozen 0-1 count, 10 were positive results (outs or strikes) and only two were negative (both balls).

What’s getting him there is that opposing hitters have been eager to chase against Wheeler when he gets that first-pitch strike. It’s a very small sample, but it has been an early tendency for him. The problem, as you’ll see in a moment, is getting there.

Pct of runners who score (A-):
The average major-leaguer allows 22 percent of those to reach base against him to score. Wheeler’s rate through 11 starts is 19 percent. A three percent gap may not seem like a significant difference, but it is.

Another way of putting it is that Wheeler has been an escape artist. Opponents are hitting only .192 against him with men on base, and are 9-for-53 with one extra base hit with runners in scoring position (.170).

Wheeler’s success at getting strikeouts in these situations has been very high. He’s struck out 27 percent of those he’s faced with men on base, 16 percent of those he’s faced with no one on.

What Wheeler rates worst at
Wheeler had six categories in which he rated a D+ or worse. Half of those were related to the issue discussed most commonly during his starts this season, working ahead in the count.

Wheeler is throwing only 49 percent first-pitch strikes (the average rate is 60 percent). He also rates considerably below average in throwing strikes within his first two pitches, and first three pitches. Not surprisingly, he’s also running up more three-ball counts than most pitchers do.

Hand-in-hand with that is a D grade for the strike rate of his offspeed stuff, (53 percent versus a league-average of 62 percent).

The good news is that turned around for Wheeler in that 12-strikeout gem against the Padres, in which he threw his highest rate of offspeed pitches (45 percent) and had his highest success rate with them (35 of 51 for strikes, including eight strikeouts).

Wheeler’s other D grade (actually a D+) was for how often he got a 1-2-3 inning. We counted 18 innings in which Wheeler faced three batters and didn’t allow a hit or walk.

The average pitcher is getting 24 such innings in the number of frames that Wheeler has pitched.

Overall Grade
When the 20-plus factors were averaged together, the grade for Wheeler’s first 11 starts came out to a B-minus.

In other words, there are enough positive indicators to warrant a respectable grade. Remember, it’s only 11 starts. The Mets have liked what they’ve seen so far.

And let’s also note, the results (something beyond Wheeler’s control) have been Grade-A. The Mets are 8-3 when he pitches.

How would you grade Wheeler so far? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The series in Metrics (Mets vs. D-backs)

August, 12, 2013
Notes and nuggets from another road series win for the Mets, as they took two of three games from the Arizona Diamondbacks:

Wilmer Flores became the first player in Mets history to have at least one RBI in five of his first six major-league games.

He also became the second player this season to have a pair of three-RBI games within his first five career games, joining Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig.

Flores is one of eight players to have a streak of five straight games with an RBI within the first six games of his career. Only one of the other seven players is active -- Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra.

Flores is the 383rd player in Mets history to hit a home run.

Zack Wheeler had the first walk-free outing of his career in earning his fifth win of the season on Saturday.

Niese did a nice job in three-ball counts, retiring four of the five hitters who got to a three-ball count against him. In his previous three starts, he’d gone to three balls on 11 hitters that he was not intentionally walking. Ten of those did end up walking.

The Mets' infield also did a nice job behind Wheeler, turning nine of the 11 ground balls he yielded into outs. Opponents are 8-for-66 (and have not reached via error) when hitting a ground ball against Wheeler this season.

Ike can do no wrong
Ike Davis was 3-for-5 with five walks in the series. He’s now 15-for-40 with 20 walks in his last 17 games.

Amazingly, Davis’ .583 on-base percentage is not the best in the majors in that span. He trails Jayson Werth and Mike Trout, each of whom are at .589.

Niese good enough
Jonathon Niese won the series finale despite allowing four runs in six innings.

If there were any concerns about Niese’s velocity, he held those off for now. His fastball averaged 89.8 mph, matching what it averaged this season, and peaked at 92 mph.

Niese had a good curveball, one that netted six outs without yielding a baserunner.

The walk-off
Paul Goldschmidt became the second Diamondbacks player to hit a walk-off homer against the Mets. The other was Steve Finley, who did so 10 years ago to the day against John Franco.

Useless stat of the series
Carlos Torres became the second pitcher in Mets history to pitch less than an inning, allow at least four baserunners, and not allow a run to score (either have his own guys score, or allow inherited runners to score). The other was Dennis Cook in 1998.

The series in Metrics: Mets vs Braves

July, 25, 2013
The Mets chase for .500 continued with a split against the Atlanta Braves. Here's a look at some of the most interesting and noteworthy numbers from that series.

Stat of the Series: Leadoff HR, then shut down
Tuesday's game opened with an Andrelton Simmons homer, but the Braves did not score again. It marked only the third time in Mets history that they allowed a home run to the first batter of the game in the top of the first inning, and then didn't allow another run.

The last time it happened was August 19, 1998, a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rockies. The home run was hit by a future Met, Darryl Hamilton.

The only other instance was on September 2, 1963, in the second game of a doubleheader with the Cincinnati Reds. The home run was hit by Pete Rose, the only run in a 1-0 Reds win.

The Braves had won Kris Medlen's previous seven starts against the Mets. Medlen's loss leaves Clayton Kershaw as having the longest streak of team wins against the Mets in his starts. His run currently stands at seven straight.

Torres continues to produce
Carlos Torres got his first win as a starter since September 3, 2009 by beating the Braves and tied his career high with six strikeouts.

Torres is the 324th pitcher to win a game in Mets history and the 145th Met whose primary position was pitcher to get an RBI.

If you combine Torres' minor-league numbers with his major league numbers, he's now allowed five earned runs in 43 innings in his last six starts.

David Wright's disputed triple
David Wright's sixth-inning triple on Thursday was his sixth of the season (his most in a season) and 25th of his career, tying him with Ed Kranepool for ninth-most in Mets history.

Wright's next triple will tie him with Doug Flynn for eighth and the next one after that will tie him with Lance Johnson for seventh-most.

The club record is still pretty safe -- 99 by Jose Reyes.

Wheel's Up
Zack Wheeler became the second pitcher in Mets history to have at least four wins and no more than one loss in his first seven career appearances, joining Octavio Dotel.

Wheeler continued to show the ability to get out of jams, holding the Braves to 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.

He matched his career-best by getting 14 swings-and-misses, with both of those games coming against the Braves.

Dillon Gee was not rewarded for his seven scoreless innings after the Mets lost to the Braves 2-1 in the series opener.

It was tied for the second-longest scoreless start of his career, trailing only a 7 2/3 inning effort against the Nationals on May 19, 2011.

Gee has a 2.39 ERA since May 30. Entering Thursday, that rated 10th-best in the majors in that span, and nearly identical to the pitcher right in front of him (the previously-mentioned Kershaw).

Another win for Hudson
The Braves lost Tim Hudson, likely for the season, after he got spiked by Eric Young Jr. at first base.

Hudson pitched a terrific game to that point. The win was his 17th against the Mets. That's tied for 14th-most against them of any pitcher (the same number as Sandy Koufax, Ferguson Jenkins, Tom Glavine and Rick Wise). Hudson's total is the most of any pitcher who made his major-league debut in the last 25 seasons.
NEW YORK -- Zack Wheeler will take his regular turn in the Mets' rotation Thursday, and Jenrry Mejia will start one of the Mets' two games on Friday in Washington, D.C. against the Nationals.

Wheeler developed a blister on one of the fingers on his pitching hand during his last start, manager Terry Collins revealed Tuesday. But Wheeler threw a bullpen session before Tuesday's game, and he is ready to go in Thursday's series finale against the Braves.

"It’s cleaned up today, looks great, so we’re not gonna skip him," Collins said.

Wheeler lasted just 4 2/3 innings on Saturday against the Phillies, needing 106 pitches just to get that far. Collins said Wheeler didn't have the blister at the start of the game, but developed it along the way.

As for Mejia, he will be called up from Double-A Binghamton and "most likely" will start the first game of Friday's doubleheader, with Matt Harvey starting the other game.

Mejia started for the B-Mets this past Saturday and pitched six innings, giving up one run on three hits, with eight strikeouts and two walks.

The 23-year-old former top prospect, who had Tommy John surgery in May 2011, hasn't pitched in a major league game this season. Last year he made five appearances (three starts) for the Mets in September, going 1-2 with a 5.63 ERA.

On the disabled list since spring training with elbow tendon inflammation, Mejia has been working his way back towards the big leagues. In two starts with Binghamton, he is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA.

When asked why Mejia was the choice to be called up and start Friday, Collins initially said, "Because [GM] Sandy [Alderson] said he is the choice," eliciting laughter from reporters in the room.

Collins eventually expanded on his answer. "He’s throwing great -- he struck out eight the other night," Collins said. "[40-man] roster guy. Ready to pitch. [But] it’s a long way from Binghamton to D.C."

Wheeler's outing ends early, again

July, 20, 2013
NEW YORK --Zack Wheeler is receiving an education about conservation.

Through the first six starts of his major league career, it's become common for Wheeler to battle hitters to 3-2 counts, ultimately running his pitch count near 100 in the middle innings. His starts tend to be short, like Saturday's outing against the Phillies, leaving Wheeler yearning to pitch deeper in games.

[+] EnlargeZack Wheeler
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY SportsZack Wheeler couldn't stick around long enough to earn a win Saturday.
"Been a few times now where I've had to come out of the game early because I'm throwing 20 pitches an inning, falling behind guys, stuff like that. It's not going to work," Wheeler said after lasting just 4 2/3 innings Saturday. "That's part of my game I'm going to have to fix pretty fast."

Wheeler labored through his portion of the Mets' 5-4 win over the Phillies on Saturday. He was pulled with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning, and has lasted six innings or less in five of his six starts. He hasn't survived the fifth inning in two starts.

"He did a good job," catcher Anthony Recker said. "It's a little bit frustrating because I know if he could pound the zone a little more -- which he knows too and I'm sure he's a little frustrated about it, too -- he could have had a really good day dominating them with his fastball."

Wheeler tossed 106 pitches over 4 2/3 innings -- he couldn't get his fastball over the plate the way he wanted. On the season, Wheeler is averaging 101 pitches per outing, but averaging less than six innings.

"I just got to get more comfortable with my mechanics," Wheeler said. "Just figure out something and stick with that."

The good news is, Wheeler only surrendered two runs Saturday. But the Phillies managed to put runners on base in every inning. Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a solo home run, and Philadelphia left a pair or runners on in both the second and third innings.

In the fifth, with the Mets ahead 3-1, Wheeler loaded the bases with no outs, allowed another run on a sacrifice fly, and then induced Domonic Brown to fly out when Brown swung on a 3-0 pitch. Facing Darin Ruf with two outs, in what manager Terry Collins said was going to be Wheeler's last batter no matter what, Wheeler walked Ruf to load the bases. Wheeler left having yielded seven hits and two walks.

The Mets escaped the jam as Gonzalez Germen struck out Delmon Young.

"That was definitely tough. I wanted to get through that inning not just for the win but to get out of that jam so we didn't have to use the bullpen earlier than we had to," Wheeler said. "My pitch count was high and I guess Terry thought it was the right time to take me out and it worked out for us. Germen came in and got a big out and it worked out well."

Collins said the Mets must reinforce that with Wheeler's ability to miss bats, throwing pitches over the plate will result in longer outings.

"We'll take it. Wish he could have got through the fifth inning, I did the best I could to let him get out of it," Collins said. "We've got 11 more, 12 more (starts). We'll certainly run him out there every five days and hopefully he gets better."

2nd-half stat storylines: Zack Wheeler

July, 20, 2013

AP Photo/Eric RisbergZack Wheeler will try to build on his first half.

Five statistical storylines to keep an eye on in the second half for Zack Wheeler:

Innings Limit
Given that Wheeler has not pitched more than 150 innings in a season in his career, his innings ceiling figures to be around 180.

He’s currently at 96 2/3 combining his major and minor league numbers. If you figure he has 14 starts remaining, he’d hit 180 if he averages six innings per start.

Given that Wheeler has pitched 28 innings in five starts in the majors, and that he’s only pitched seven innings or more in three of 23 starts this season, there seems to be a good chance that he would hit his ceiling at the very end of the season. Only one shortened outing (say five runs in three innings) would likely assure that.

The ups and downs
Very few pitchers have the kind of early success that Matt Harvey had from his first day in the major leagues. That Wheeler has had some good moments and bad ones isn’t surprising at all.

The last three pitchers prior to Harvey who made at least 10 starts in a season in which they were age 23 or younger on June 30 were Paul Wilson, Mike Pelfrey and Jonathon Niese. They had a combined 4.89 ERA, with Niese’s 4.20 being the best of the three. Keep that in mind when judging Wheeler the rest of the season.

In terms of statistical targets, for those who value wins, a double-digit win total isn’t impossible. If Wheeler got to 10 wins, he’d be the first Met of his age or younger to win 10 since Dwight Gooden in 1988.

Bring the heat
Terry Collins has said he wants to see Wheeler’s fastball as often as possible to help set up the surprise element for his other pitches.

Wheeler has averaged 94.9 mph on his heater in his five starts, which rates eighth-best among those who have made that many starts this season. It’s worth noting he was most effective against the Giants, averaging 93.6 mph with that pitch, his lowest average velocity of the season.

First-Pitch Strikes
One of the most encouraging things about Wheeler’s start against the Giants was that he threw a first-pitch strike to 19 of the 27 Giants hitters, finding a higher success rate than he had been getting. Particularly noticeable was how he was repeatedly able to dot the outside corner.

Wheeler had thrown only 45 percent first-pitch strikes in his first four starts. He had been able to survive from a statistical perspective, when falling behind 1-0, but historically pitchers tend to fare considerably better when up 0-1. A higher success rate should improve Wheeler’s performance overall.

Not just how he starts, but how he finishes
One constant for Wheeler is that he hasn’t been able to finish off hitters when he has a two-strike count.

Wheeler has allowed 10 of 31 hitters to reach base after he was ahead 1-2 in the count (an average pitcher this season would allow seven) and 15 of 35 hitters to reach base after getting to 2-2 in the count (an average pitcher would allow 10). He’s walked three batters against whom he had an 0-2 advantage. The only Met with more such walks is Jeremy Hefner (who has been with the team the full season) with four.

In the minor leagues, Wheeler could get away with such lapses. In the majors, it’s unlikely he will.

Second half: Five reasons to watch

July, 17, 2013
Harvey & Wheeler & WrightUSA TODAY SportsMatt Harvey. Zack Wheeler. David Wright. Those are three reasons to watch the Mets right there.
Here are five reasons for optimism as the Mets get set to start the second half of the season.

1. They look like a different team: Since the June 18 doubleheader in Atlanta, the Mets are 16-10, have outscored the opposition 127-98 and have gone 7-3 and 6-3 on consecutive road trips.

Within that span, they are tied for the fifth-best record in the majors and have the best mark in the NL East. They’re not postseason contenders just yet (for the record, they’re nine and a half games out of the second wild card and 11 games from the division lead), but they no longer look comparable to the Miami Marlins or Houston Astros.

2. The starting pitching: The future is now, or at least a lot closer to now for what the Mets pitching staff is probably going to look like for the long term.

Matt Harvey looks like an ace in the early stages of being a Curt Schilling/Justin Verlander type. Zack Wheeler is going to have his ups and downs, but the ups looked pretty good in Atlanta and San Francisco.

Jeremy Hefner has the best ERA in the majors over the past six weeks and looks as though he could be a valuable piece at the back end of the rotation.

Jonathon Niese's injury turned out not to be season-ending, and maybe he comes back the way he was pitching in the few starts before the injury. Dillon Gee seems to have recently regained the form that led some to call him one of the best No. 4-5 pitchers in the game.

And as far as the future goes, you had to like what you saw in the brief glimpse of Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero in the Futures Game.

3. The new leadoff hitter: He might not be Mookie Wilson, Lenny Dykstra or Jose Reyes, but Eric Young Jr. has given the Mets a dimension they didn’t have the last season and a half.

Young has a .380 on-base percentage, 17 runs scored, nine extra-base hits and eight steals in his first 24 games with the Mets. He’s shown a willingness (along with Josh Satin) to work a long at-bat, and he’s basically a guarantee to go first to third on a hit to right field.

The swap of Collin McHugh for Young isn’t quite a steal of Robert Person-for-John Olerud proportions just yet, but maybe this will be looked back on in a couple years as being a particularly noteworthy acquisition of the Sandy Alderson regime.

4. The captain: We noted it in our first-half report card and it bears repeating. If there was any concern that David Wright was going to try too hard to live up to his $100 million contract this season, you can wipe that away.

As Matt Meyers pointed out, Wright is having what could be his best season as a Met.

And he’s done so not just in performance, but with little things, like taking Wheeler out to dinner the night before his first start, then getting Wheeler to laugh on the mound after he walked the first two big league hitters he faced (we expect something similar when Travis d'Arnaud is finally healthy). And calling a players-only meeting when the season was sinking not long ago.

Wright has talked the talk and walked the walk. He’s hitting .327 with a .419 on-base percentage, 10 doubles and four homers in his last 24 games. Now the Mets need to put some better hitters around him.

5. They’re always interesting: The Mets may not always be fun to watch, but they’re interesting to watch, even beyond the “that’s so Mets” one-liner so popular on Twitter.

They were the first team to play four games of at least 15 innings before the All-Star break. They’re in almost every game (10 of the past 11 losses have been by two runs or fewer). And they have some young talent with a lot of potential to be great.

What’s not to like?

The series in Metrics (Mets vs. Giants)

July, 10, 2013
The Mets have not lost in their past seven road series, and as you may have heard on their telecast via the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time they did that was in 1999.

Here’s a look at some of the other statistical highlights from the Mets' first sweep in San Francisco since 1994.

Wheeler dealing
Zack Wheeler's win in the series finale was the biggest story of the series.

Wheeler had a couple of noticeable improvements in this game. He threw 63 percent strikes, his highest rate yet. His strike rate with his fastball was also his best yet, 68 percent.

One start after throwing only eight of 24 first-pitch strikes, Wheeler was 19-for-27.

Wheeler is one of five Mets pitchers to win at least three of the first five appearances of his career. The others are listed on the right.

Monday’s marathon
The Mets beat the Giants in 16 innings on Monday.

Elias noted that they became the first team in major league history to play four games of at least 15 innings before the All-Star break.

It is the fifth time they played at least 15 innings against the Giants, but the first of those five games that they won.

It was their longest game against the Giants since August 19, 1968, a 17-inning 1-0 loss, and their longest game ever in San Francisco.

The Mets struck out 19 times, marking the second time they’ve whiffed 19 times in a win. The other was September 15, 1969, when they beat the Cardinals 4-3 despite 19 strikeouts by Steve Carlton.

Brandon Belt went 0-for-8 with five strikeouts in the series opener, the first hitter to go hitless in at least eight at bats and strike out at least five times in a game against the Mets.

Belt was only the third player to strike out five times in a game against the Mets, joining Delino Deshields (1991 Expos) and Corey Patterson (2002 Cubs). He was the first player to go 0-for-8 against the Mets since Al Oliver (1983 Expos).

Byrd is the word
Marlon Byrd's grand slam on Tuesday was the 150th regular season slam in team history, the first by the Mets against the Giants since Robin Ventura hit one against Livan Hernandez in 1999.

The Mets' 16 grand slams against the Giants are their second-most against any team (they have 17 against the Cubs).

Byrd’s homer on Wednesday was his 11th on the road this season, two shy of the NL lead shared by Pedro Alvarez and Carlos Gonzalez. His .965 OPS in road games ranks fourth in the NL.

Young the catalyst
Eric Young Jr. was just 3-for-13 in this series, but he also drew four walks and scored four runs.

The Mets are 13-8 in the 21 games Young has played. Most notably, he’s completely changed the complexion of the team’s No. 1 slot in the lineup.

Prior to Young’s acquisition, players atop the lineup for the Mets had a .261 on-base percentage. Young’s on-base percentage with the Mets is .368.

Marcum done
Shaun Marcum's Mets career ends with a 1-10 record (.091 winning percentage) and a 5.29 ERA. He’ll replace Anthony Young as the pitcher with the worst record in Mets history, minimum 10 decisions. Young was 5-35 from 1991 to 1993.



Bartolo Colon
11 3.85 125 161
BAD. Murphy .299
HRL. Duda 23
RBIL. Duda 69
RD. Murphy 70
OPSL. Duda .841
ERAZ. Wheeler 3.48
SOZ. Wheeler 148