Well, I guess we’ve solved the Zack Wheeler pitch count problem for 2015.
Depth is a blessing, to be sure, but it is by no means optimal to learn your team will go forward stripped of — give or take a Niese — your No. 3 starter in the season when you envisioned the whole gang taking a splendid leap forward. When we learned Zack would be joining Josh Edgin en route to the Tommy John Surgery Emporium, Rehabilitation Center & Car Wash, we were unquestionably diminished. How much, as the crafters of cautious statements like to say, remains to be seen.
These aren’t interchangeable parts to be shifted around upon availability by Pitching Coach For Life Dan Warthen. Wheeler’s his own package of assets and liabilities, different from Dillon Gee, different from Noah Syndergaard, different from whoever eventually moves into the rotation in his stead. To pretend we won’t be missing something just because Wheeler’s Wheeler (and not, for example, Harvey) is to forget it takes a village to get through a season. I’m somehow reminded of the dimmest argument against the Hall of Fame cases of ballplayers like Gil Hodges and Davey Concepcion, the one that wonders what the heck we need with another Boy of Summer or Big Red Machinist in Cooperstown? As if we can be sure that whatever delicate chemistry produced a legendary team wasn’t dependent upon all of its major components. As if we know we will get this summer from “whoever” what we got from Wheeler last summer.
Which, in case you were wondering, was eleven starts from June 30 to August 27 pitched to an ERA of 2.17. Ten of those eleven starts lasted six or more innings. As the Mets were attempting to mature as a whole, Zack Wheeler was coming of age. Now the maturation process involuntarily pauses.
The legendary Mets pitching staff upon which we have based our springtime dreams won’t materialize in 2015. Its substitute unit may perform just fine, but it won’t be the same without Wheeler, just as the 2014 group was a relative strength but nowhere near as strong as it would’ve been had Matt Harvey been healthy. Matt seems to have been put back together in one formidable piece — a reassuring reminder that TJS mostly works — but, boy, do you hate to miss out on what could be and worry about it turning into what could have been.
And you really feel bad for Zack Wheeler, his right elbow and his postponed present.