Zack Wheeler Is Next Level, Crazy Good Right Now

Jun 10, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) pitches during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After yet another masterful performance against the Braves on Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, this much is clear — Zack Wheeler is on a different level right now.

Wheeler, who tossed eight scoreless innings of four-hit, no-walk baseball against a usually potent Braves lineup, now sports a 2.29 ERA and 0.90 WHIP over 13 starts. Really, though, it’s not just about his pristine numbers, it’s the way he’s doing it.

There’s this almost tangible confidence radiating from the mound during his starts. It’s like he’s out there saying “F*** it. Here it is, try to hit it. Just kidding, you can’t” to opposing hitters.

Whatever the case, the man is making the opposition look flat-out stupid.

His relentlessly aggressive approach was on full display against Atlanta, as Wheeler repeatedly pounded the strike zone with a fearless mentality. An astonishing 79 of his 105 pitches (75.2%) were strikes (Phils reliever Jose Alvarado threw 15 balls in the 10th inning alone), with his four-seamer topping out at 99.7 mph and sinker maxing out a tick higher at 99.8 mph.

Along the way, Wheeler recorded his 13th career double-digit strikeout game, which in and of itself isn’t particularly notable. What is notable, however, is that four of those 10+ strikeout efforts have come in his last five starts.

Widen the sample to his last seven starts and it’s evident Wheeler is in the midst of one of the best runs of any Phillies starting pitcher over the last decade. There’s really no other better way to say it than that his numbers are stupid good:

51.2 IP, 32 H, 8 ER, 6 BB, 71 K, 1.39 ERA, 0.74 WHIP

Without hyperbole, it is a stretch that mirrors a prime Cliff Lee/Roy Halladay run.

Wheeler leads all pitchers in bWAR (3.9) and is tied with New York’s Jacob deGrom for the lead in fWAR. He exists among the game’s top 10 pitchers in innings pitched, strikeout-to-walk ratio, WAR, WHIP, and a slew of other traditional and analytical categories. He also leads all National League pitchers with 112 strikeouts. He game-wide rankings this morning:

  • IP. 90.1 (1st)
  • K: 112 (4th)
  • WHIP: 0.90 (10th)
  • BAA: .194 (13th)
  • K/BB: 6.22 (6th)

As good as his collective numbers have been through 13 starts, what he’s done at home this season has been nothing short of remarkable.

Through eight games in South Philly, Wheeler has allowed just 11 earned runs over 58 1/3 innings to go along with a 72/7 K/BB ratio while limiting opposing hitters to a .165 batting average.

He has also pitched to a minuscule 1.70 ERA and 0.69 WHIP, which is, obviously, nice.

Now that 300+ words of swooning over his efforts have concluded, words written on a day the Phillies stole a series win with their second comeback walk-off win in less than 24 hours, the future comes into focus and the next six weeks become interesting for the future of this organization.

Can this current iteration of the Phillies stay afloat, let alone make a move, during a challenging run featuring two with the Yankees, a tough west coast trip, and a load of important division games? If they do, Wheeler figures to be a big part of the surge, continuing his dominance and pitching the Phillies back into contention.

If they remain stagnant or slide…well, we can save that conversation for another day, I guess.

Right now, the second-place Phillies have some life as they inch back closer to the .500 mark ahead of a short weekend set with the Yankees, a series the team surely hopes brings more fans back to the full capacity stands.

 

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