In What World Is Zack Wheeler Not The Starting Pitcher For The NL?
By Connor Thomas
Tonight is the 2021 MLB All-Star Game, and the Phillies have two representatives in Colorado tonight: JT Realmuto and Zack Wheeler. Realmuto was already named the starting catcher for the National League this past weekend when leading vote getter at the position Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants was placed on the IL with a thumb injury, and it seemed Wheeler had a good chance to be tabbed as the starting pitcher as well. Jacob deGrom, who has been absolutely transcendent on the mound for the New York Mets this year, elected to skip the All-Star Game in favor of rest. That opened the door for Wheeler – who is 2nd in the NL in strikeouts, and 4th in ERA, and 2nd in the entire NL, position players included, in WAR – to start in place of the man who leads the league in pretty much every statistical category. As a middling team, it seemed the Phillies had a silver lining for the first half of the MLB Season, possibly owning the starting battery for the NL in the All-Star Game. And then yesterday the announcement came down that it would be Max Scherzer starting for the National League instead of Wheeler, Yu Darvish, Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, or really any other starting pitcher on the NL roster.
In fact, just 4 days ago, Scherzer was not even an All-Star, being one of the pitchers that fell just short of earning a spot on the NL’s staff. If it weren’t for deGrom taking the week off, Scherzer would most likely not even be in Colorado later today for the All-Star Game.
These NL studs are headed to the All-Star Game. pic.twitter.com/0kqitEwumo
— MLB (@MLB) July 10, 2021
Wait, so how in the world does a guy go from not making the team to jumping nearly a dozen other more deserving pitchers to earn the nod as starter? Statistically, Scherzer is 5th in the NL in strikeouts, 10th in ERA, and is not even in the top 10 pitchers in the NL in WAR. Wheeler very obviously dwarfs Scherzer’s stats this year. On paper, and even with the eye test, Wheeler was clearly the next best option to toe the rubber first for the home team in tonight’s game. What could possibly be the reason for giving the ball to Mad Max instead? Well, NL Manager Dave Roberts had an interesting explanation:
NL Manager Dave Roberts says one of the reasons Max Scherzer is starting is because there was no All Star Game last year after #Nats won the World Series in 2019, preventing the Nats from being truly celebrated at the ASG
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 12, 2021
Oh, so now we’re celebrating World Series Champions from 2 seasons ago by handing them starts that they completely don’t deserve? This is a patently ridiculous reason to snub Wheeler, and honestly makes no sense even if this was a year following a championship for Scherzer and the Nationals. In none of the past decade of All-Star games has the starting pitcher for the NL even been in the World Series the year before. The All-Star game has never been an event for celebrating the team that won the World Series the previous year, much less 2 seasons gone by. Essentially Dave Roberts and the MLB are stealing Zack Wheeler’s earned right to start for the National League and giving it to Max Scherzer as some sort of consolation prize or lifetime achievement award. There is absolutely no defending the merit of the decision, and unfortunately, it’s at the expense of a man who has been absolutely dominant on the mound in Philadelphia all year long and deserved the recognition more than anyone else.