Every pitcher loves the strikeout, and with good reason. Intrinsically, you’re retiring a batter without allowing the ball to be put in play. Barring a double play, it’s the least productive at bat a hitter can have. So, why not go for the strikeout every time?
Some nights, you just don’t have your best stuff; it’s a baseball inevitability, and every pitcher experiences it. If you’re a power pitcher who makes a living striking guys out, those games can be harrowing.
The New York Mets have a strikeout pitcher in Zack Wheeler. Wheeler’s potential is admittedly through the roof, but his off nights leave much to be desired.
Wheeler certainly wasn’t off his game against the Chicago Cubs (the worst team in baseball), and he proved just how effective he can be when he throws strikes. Like most strikeout artists, Wheeler occasionally tries to do too much. If he’s not on his A game, this can be disastrous. He struggles when he throws too many pitches, walks batters, and doesn’t last deep into games.
Even when he has impressive strikeout games, he oftentimes won’t make it out of the 6th inning. This puts undue pressure on an already weakened (and generally poor) bullpen.
I’ve heard Ron Darling defend Wheeler’s minimal inning performances, making the point that Wheeler is a strikeout pitcher and he needs to work to his strengths. I disagree; I believe Wheeler has good enough stuff that he doesn’t need to strike everyone out. On nights when he doesn’t have it, I’d much rather see him utilize superior control and get hitters out with his brain, not with his arm. Until he learns how to do this consistently, he’ll remain a one-dimensional pitcher.
In many respects, the strikeout is a selfish play. Obviously, you’re not going to complain when you’re ace is mowing everyone down with ease, but when he’s thrown 125 pitches, struck out nine, and walked four in five innings, he’s not doing his team any favors.
Wheeler needs to learn that he doesn’t need to do it all himself. He’s got eight mostly capable gloves behind him, and every once in a while, it’s okay to let your teammates get involved.
This isn’t meant to demean Wheeler. He is a key piece for the Mets moving forward, and he has the ability to put together a great career. It’s more a criticism of a particular mindset — one that opens the door for unnecessarily poor outings.
You can be the judge by seeing Wheeler pitch in person and getting your Mets tickets today.