Zack Wheeler’s strikeouts rising with better pitch usage

Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
4 of 4

Phillies right-handed starting pitcher Zack Wheeler’s slider has been great, but his curveball has been even better, despite a much lower usage rate.


Wheeler is not throwing his curveball much this season — just 88 times through 11 starts — but yet it is nearly unhittable when he does throw it. He is excelling in three notable categories, shown below, with his Major League rank among pitchers who have thrown at least 50 curveballs this season in parentheses.

  • Put Away %: 38.5% (1st)
  • Strikeout %: 55.6% (T-2nd)
  • Whiff %: 51.3% (5th)

Wheeler throws his curve only eight times per game on average, so it is clear that he’s picking his spots extremely well; it’s the definition of a “put-away pitch.” He leads all pitchers in curveball putaway percentage, he has an exceptional strikeout rate with the pitch, and he’s generating swings and misses more than half the time he throws the deuce.

It is no surprise that opponents are hitting .125 (3-for-24) with 15 strikeouts and zero extra-base hits against Wheeler’s curveball, and the expected stats against his curve further prove how dominant that pitch has been.

  • xBA: .111 (4th)
  • xSLG: .171 (T-5th)
  • xwOBA: .159 (5th)

Translation: Wheeler’s curve is elite. It is extremely tough to hit now and the predictive trends show it is not getting easier any time soon.

All-Star voting opened up on Thursday. If there is any season in which Wheeler deserves his first career nod to the Midsummer Classic, it surely should be 2021.

Good luck, hitters.

*All stats updated through games played on Monday, May 31

3 ways Phillies could benefit from upcoming schedule. light. More