An offseason shoulder injury kept Zack Wheeler from making his first career Opening Day start in 2022. Even once the 31-year-old was ready to pitch, his early returns weren't great, as he posted an 8.53 ERA through his first three starts of the campaign.
But despite a rough start to his third season in red pinstripes, the Philadelphia Phillies ace has been on quite the run over his last six starts, going 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA -- putting the league on notice that his NL Cy Young runner-up campaign in 2021 wasn't a fluke.
After striking out 10 batters in a win over the defending World Series Champion Atlanta Braves Monday night, Wheeler is now 3-3 with a 3.38 ERA, 2.84 expected ERA and 2.29 FIP across 45 1/3 innings.
Even though Wheeler dug himself an early hole in 2022, he's now tied for the top fWAR (FanGraphs' version of WAR) among all NL starting pitchers with Carlos Rodón of the San Francisco Giants at 1.5. The only two pitchers with a higher mark in baseball currently are Kevin Gausman of the Toronto Blue Jays (2.4) and Tarik Skubal of the Detroit Tigers (1.7). This comes after Wheeler posted a career-high 7.3 fWAR a season ago, second in baseball only to NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes.
Since leaving the division-rival New York Mets to sign a five-year/$118 million deal with the Phillies before the 2020 season, Wheeler's 10.7 fWAR is second among all starting pitchers, with only Burnes' 10.8 topping him. Over that same period, Wheeler leads all starting pitchers in innings pitched (329 2/3) and is fourth in ERA (2.89). While there were some critics of his deal at the time it was signed, the Phillies bet that Wheeler's best years were ahead of him, and have been rewarded with one of the most team-friendly contracts in baseball.
We may be a couple weeks away from really talking about All-Star Game candidates, but as of now, Wheeler would have to be one of the favorites to represent the senior circuit for the second straight year, something that would have been hard to imagine just a month ago.
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