In 2021, Phillies fans witnessed a stellar season of pitching from Zack Wheeler. Quite frankly, it was the best individual pitching season from a Phillies pitcher since the immaculate 2018 Aaron Nola campaign.
What made Wheeler’s 2021 season so good? Just taking a quick peek at the statistics, he led the majors in innings pitched, batters faced, shutouts and complete games while also leading the national league in strikeouts with 247. Wheeler was so successful because he favored the inside part of the plate especially against righties which led to a ton of strikeouts while also incorporating a ton of other fantastic pitching antics to get a strikeout or put a ball in play.
You may be asking: Why is he talking about Wheeler’s 2021 season so much when this is a recap of Wheeler’s 2022 season? Well, because they are very similar and it goes on to show how undervalued Wheeler was by the mass media this past season and how much his season went under the radar.
Let’s now fully transition into the nitty-gritty of Wheeler’s 2022 season by starting out with the good.
2022 stats: 26 GS, 153.0 IP, 48 ER, 13 HR, 26.9 K%, 5.6 BB%, 2.82 ERA 2.89 (FIP), 5.1 bWAR
When Wheeler is on, he is on. In the early parts of the 2022 season more specifically in May, he was awarded the National League player of the month. He finished the month with an ERA of 1.65, a WHIP of 1.010 and he only allowed six earned runs in 32.2 innings of work and he struck out 40 helpless batters.
To focus more on the statistics based on months, if we look at the months of September and October, it gets even crazier. In September and October combined, Wheeler started in 3 games. His ERA was 0.60. Insanity. Keep in mind, he only pitched in 15 innings but in those innings, he was absolutely unhittable. He only allowed nine hits, one homerun and one walk.
Wheeler only pitched a few games later in the season due to a right forearm injury in late August which sidelined him until Sept. 21st. The Phillies coaching staff was being very careful with Wheeler since the postseason was coming up and it was imperative to have a healthy Zack Wheeler in their rotation.
That plan worked out just the way they wanted it to. In the 2022 postseason, Wheeler did his job. In the six games that he started in the playoffs, he had a combined ERA of 2.78, had 33 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 0.729. He was the most stellar in the San Diego series. In 13 innings, he only allowed four hits and 2 earned runs.
If it was not for Bryce Harper’s historic postseason run, then I firmly believe that Wheeler had a very good shot at winning the National League Championship Series MVP.
I will be honest with you, I am not sure what to write here. Wheeler had such a good 2022 season but it is a report card so everything, bad or good, must be reported on. There were a couple negative happenings during Wheeler’s 2022 season so, I guess we can discuss those.
In August, it was tough for Wheeler. I will cut him some slack because his forearm tendonitis was most likely bothering him in his four starts in August. It is pretty easy to see the dip in success just by looking at the numbers. In 24 innings, he allowed 24 hits, he gave up 12 earned runs and he walked eight. Those numbers are unrecognizable when talking about Zack Wheeler.
It was not just in August that we saw a light decrease in velocity in Wheeler’s fastball. Over time, every pitcher deals with velocity loss when they begin to get older in age. But with a player like Wheeler who is in his early 30’s and is known for an electric high 90’s and sometimes even triple-digit fastball, it is ok to be concerned about a drop in velocity. It’s not a big drop like Syndergaard but, it definitely raised some eyebrows.
But other than his month of August and a slight drop in velocity, Wheeler had a season full of positives instead of negatives.
Wheeler is still under contract with the Phillies for a couple more seasons. He is not going to be a free agent until after the 2024 season so until then we are going to be entertained by Wheeler. Wheeler, even if his velocity continues to drop, he will still have his disgusting sinker, his finessing slider and of course his exceptional command.
As long as Wheeler can stay healthy and give the Phillies something remotely close to what he has given the organization already, then the Phillies will be seeing a lot of Zack Wheeler jerseys in the stands.
Final Grade: A-
If the second ace did not have a tough month of August and if he did not miss time due to injury, then Wheeler could have seen an A on his report card.