If anyone out there can take the National League Cy Young Award from the two-time defending champion Jacob deGrom, it could be his former teammate.
After missing 2015 and 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery, and more injuries plagued his 2017 season, Zack Wheeler became a respectable starter in a stacked Mets rotation the last two seasons.
In 2019, he racked up career-highs in innings (195.1), strikeouts (195), and K/BB (3.90), just one year after posting a career-best 3.31 ERA.
Wheeler signed a lucrative five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies in the offseason. That now has become a 4.5-year deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, but that might be good news for Wheeler.
For all you gamblers out there, Wheeler’s odds of winning the National League Cy Young Award are at 50-1. Throw 100 bucks on it, you can win five racks.
Wheeler, however, has never earned a Cy Young Award vote, nor has he been in All-Star. But he’s suddenly a legitimate Cy Young candidate.
NL Cy Young 2020: Why you should bet on Zack Wheeler to win
Part of why he’s never been an All-Star is due to slow starts to seasons – throughout his career, he owns a 4.39 ERA in the first half, while opponents own a .717 OPS against him. After the All-Star break, however, that ERA drops to 2.90, while his opponents’ OPS drops to .645.
In the last two Augusts, Wheeler has allowed 19 earned runs in 77 innings, the most in baseball. That 2.22 ERA in that split is the eighth-best in all of baseball (min. 50 innings).
In September/October, his ERA is 2.25 (14 earned runs in 56 innings), while his WHIP is an elite 0.93. The only National League pitcher with a lower ERA in September/October ball games since 2018 is Jacob deGrom.
In all, Wheeler owns a 2.23 ERA in August and September since 2018.
So why is this all relevant?
Well, keep in mind Wheeler’s +5000 odds to take down his former teammate. Of course, he’ll be going up against the likes of Max Scherzer, Jack Flaherty, Walker Buehler, and Clayton Kershaw.
But another fact of the matter is this season will be mostly played in August and September. Wheeler, and every other starting pitcher, will make at most two starts in July.
Maybe Wheeler is just an arm that gets better as the season goes on. Maybe these 60 games are just the “first half.”
But surely, there is no such thing as “dog days in August” for Wheeler. The late-season numbers are telling – Wheeler is at his best late in the summer. A little sprinkle on Wheeler taking home the National League Cy Young Award can go a long way.