After a spectacular debut, the last two starts by “phenom” Zack Wheeler have been less than phenomenal. There may be reasons for that, but the point stands: Big excitement, lots of anticipation, huge letdown.
I missed Little Timmy’s birthday for this?
Should we stop getting excited about every start? Maybe bring it down two notches?
Or as my college-age son said to me, “I think we got spoiled by Harvey.” (He actually texted that to me, as it’s so much simpler than actually talking.)
As an old guy — I saw today that the co-creator and owner of The Daily Stache, Matthew Falkenbury, graduated from the same college as I did, but 27 freaking years later! — I recall that the majority of great pitchers endure rocky beginnings.
So I looked up six guys from the top of my head, bang bang bang till I emptied my revolver, one after the other. Here’s some stats from early in their careers:
Greg Maddux: 5.61 4.3 5.8 10.5 1.64 21
John Smoltz 5.48 4.6 5.2 10.4 1.67 21
Curt Schilling 3.81 4.6 8.4 9.4 1.60 24
Ron Darling 3.81 4.6 6.0 7.8 1.38 23
Tom Glavine 4.56 2.9 3.9 9.3 1.35 22
Randy Johnson 4.82 5.4 7.3 8.2 1.51 25
Zack Wheeler 5.06 5.6 7.3 7.9 1.50 23
Obviously, Wheeler has started just 3 games, so his averages are meaningless. It was just fun to look them up for context.
What does all this mean?
Almost nothing. Other than it would be a mistake to rush to judgment. Don’t think too hard about any of it yet. Just a small reminder that for a lot of guys, it takes some time to work out the kinks.
That said: I could have easily found a bunch of crummy guys who never succeeded at the MLB level who put up similar first-year numbers.
The good ones got better, or as the current popular cliche goes, “They made adjustments.” Whatever. The lesser guys never caught on.
I keep coming back to the eye test: I look at Wheeler and see the tools, the fastball and the sharp break on the curve. I believe in this guy, but it’s going to take some time. I’m glad he’s learning, finally, at the ML level. Where it all goes, nobody knows.
By the way, Glavine’s 3.9 K/9 ratio back in 1988, wow, that sure looked unsustainable. I would not have purchased stock in that guy, knowing what I know now about ML success and the ability to strike guys out. Glavine only reached 6.0 five times in his 22 year career. Kind of amazing that he won 305 games. I can’t imagine there are too many guys who won 150 with a career K/9 at Tom’s 5.3 level.
Anyway, back to Wheeler: I think I’m still going to be excited for his next start, but mostly that’s because I can’t help it.