This post was supposed to be about Andrew Heaney. The 23-year-old first round pick from 2012 made his major league debut against Zack Wheeler and the New York Mets on Thursday night. Heaney was pretty good, but Wheeler was awesome.
It was almost one year ago to the day -- 366 days to be exact -- when Zack Wheeler burst onto the scene on what New York deemed "Super Tuesday" as both Wheeler and Matt Harvey pitched on the same day in a doubleheader. Since then, Harvey got injured and Wheeler, at least by traditional statistics, has been very average. His performance on Thursday illustrated what the advanced metrics have been telling us. He pitched a complete-game shutout, the first of his career, and was the catalyst to a 1-0 Mets victory.
Entering Thursday's game, Wheeler carried a burdensome 2-7 record and 4.38 ERA. But we knew he was better than that. His walk rate was a little high at 3.92 BB/9, but his strikeout rate of 9.12 K/9 and his HR/FB rate of 8.6%, translated into a FIP of 3.33. To show how quickly small sample sizes can change after one start, Wheeler's ERA dropped to 3.93 and his FIP to 3.15 after Thursday's start.
Wheeler threw 111 pitches through nine innings, a low number for a pitcher who had been struggling to stay below 100 pitches over five innings. He struck out eight and walked only one. For 17 of the 28 batters faced -- that is right, 28 and only one over the minimum -- he threw a first pitch strike. He allowed three hits, but produced three double plays out of the nine ground balls he induced.
Wheeler relied mostly on his four-seam fastball, mixing in his curveball and two-seam as well as a slider and change. He threw his four-seam for a strike a whopping 72.7% of the time, getting 12.7% whiffs, and only one hit on the eight four-seams put in play. He became most efficient in the ninth inning, throwing 11 strikes out of 14 pitches, keeping him in the game through 111 pitches to finish what he started.
As for Heaney, while his debut was overshadowed, the youngster from Oklahoma pitched well. In six innings, he gave up one run on four hits, striking out three and walking only one. A David Wright home run was the difference in the score. Like Wheeler, Heaney relied on a four-seam fastball. His slider has been most heralded, and he threw it sixteen times over 91 pitches, landing it outside of the strike zone half of the time, and getting swings the other half. He got four swings-and-misses using his slider.
This post was supposed to be about Andrew Heaney's first start, but Zack Wheeler stole the show, only one year and one day since he made his own major league debut.
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Jeffrey Bellone is an editor and featured writer at Beyond The Box Score. He can also be found writing for the saber-slanted site Inside the 'Zona, and about the Mets at Amazin' Avenue and Mets Merized Online. He writes about New York sports at Over the Whitestone. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter @JeffreyBellone.