He is the only elite arm in a Philadelphia rotation that has otherwise been very poor this season.
For that reason alone, his level of importance is extremely high.
Wheeler has had his fair share of struggles throughout his career, but very rarely have any of those struggles been results-related.
He underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015.
On his road to recovery, he suffered several setbacks, and ultimately missed all of the 2015 season, 2016 season, and part of the 2017 season.
Those were presumably a few of the most frustrating years of Wheeler’s career.
He made 17 starts when he finally returned in 2017, and the results were not good.
He struggled to a 5.21 ERA and 5.03 WHIP.
But since then, Wheeler has transformed into one of the most reliable pitchers in the league.
We’ll dive into his year-by-year results later in the article, but what we will be talking about today is whether Wheeler is overrated.
3. He Keeps The Ball In The Park
One area where Wheeler excels is his ability to prevent home runs.
Wheeler has allowed just seven home runs in 96.1 innings this season.
In his 2020 campaign, he finished the year with a league-best HR/9 of 0.4.
His career HR/9 is 0.8, a number that is substantially better than league-average.
You’re not going to beat Wheeler by virtue of the long ball very often, and with power-hitting taking over the game, that’s a formula for success for any pitcher.
2. He Is Living Up To The Massive Expectations That Came Along With His Contract
Ahead of the 2020 season, Wheeler and the Phillies agreed to a five-year deal worth $118 million.
He had spent his entire MLB career with the New York Mets up until then.
While some players regress after securing a big deal, Wheeler did the opposite.
In 2020, he posted an outstanding 2.92 ERA, 3.22 FIP, and 1.17 WHIP over 11 starts.
This season, he has been even better, managing a 2.15 ERA, 2.44 FIP, and 0.93 WHIP.
Zack Wheeler has a 2.47 ERA in his first 25 starts with the #Phillies.
That’s good for 5th best in franchise history over that span of starts with the club with the 4 names ahead of him including Carlton, Schilling & Halladay.
WORTH EVERY PENNY. 💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/ehZQPnnabA
— Phils Nation (@PHLPhilNation) June 17, 2021
It’s refreshing to see a player meet expectations after such a massive contract agreement.
1. His Track Record Suggests That His Elite 2021 Season Is Not A Fluke
A discussion like this one is a good time to use FIP as a data point.
Wheeler’s career FIP of 3.54 is an indication that his success is the real deal, and that he hasn’t had to rely on factors beyond his control (like needing an exceptional defensive team behind him) in order to be effective.
Beyond FIP, Wheeler has impressive career numbers in virtually every major category.
He has a career 3.53 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 109 ERA+, and 8.8 K/9.
Zack Wheeler, Filth. pic.twitter.com/K35xZYjKwT
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 17, 2021
Wheeler has finished every year of his MLB career with an ERA below 4.00 with the exception of the aforementioned 2017 season.
While Wheeler may not be the flashiest pitcher around, his story is admirable, and so are his results.
Wheeler proves year in and year out that his success is sustainable, and the Phillies are able to feel good about their chances every time he gets the ball.
The 31-year-old will likely be named to his first-career All-Star team this year, and he deserves every bit of that honor.