Tuesday, February 19, 2019

N.Y. Mets: Time for the Real Steven Matz to Step Forward

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



New York Mets: A Healthy Steven Matz Can Help Transform the Starting Rotation into the Idealized Fearsome Foursome Fans Have Been Longing For.

Can Steven Matz endure a full season?

That is the question.

Until he demonstrates otherwise, the Mets fragile fifth year pitcher still requires handling with care.

Matz made his MLB debut in June of 2015, and started three more games before season's end, posting a nifty 4-0 record with a 2.27 ERA, while allowing 34 hits, and fanning 34 through 35.2 innings pitched.  After which, he's been riddled by arm troubles ever since.  In 2016, he managed 132.1 innings pitched through 22 starts.  However, by mid-season it was revealed he was pitching with bone spurs in his elbow.  He pressed on but was shut down by late August upon feeling shoulder tightness.  He would undergo off-season surgery as scheduled.  Steven then began the 2017 season on the disabled list with a flexor strain.  His season finally commenced on June 10, but came to an abrupt end just over two months later when an ulnar nerve issue short-circuited his season after just 13 starts.  For a second straight off-season, Matz would undergo surgery.

Under first year manager Mickey Callaway and new bullpen coach Dave Eiland, Steven returned in 2018 to post a 5-11 record with a 3.97 ERA, and 1.247 WHiP, and set several career marks in the process:
  • 33 starts
  • 154 innings pitched
  • 8.9 K/9
  • 7.8 H/9
  • .267 BABIP

On the negative side, he finished the season with a career high 3.4 W/9 average, but more noticeably failed to negotiate yet another season without experiencing injury; the culprit this time being a late July flexor pronator strain.

It's understandable that his fastball velocity is still slightly down from his rookie year, according to Fangraphs.  But a fully recovered, and healthy Steven Matz may yet correct that.  He can turn things around by first cutting down his walks, and getting his rate of ground balls back over the 50% mark.
In 2016, Matz posted a career best 3.44 ERA over 132.1 innings pitched; improving upon that mark is an achievable goal.

Above all else, the Mets need more innings from their back-end starter.  Matz averaged just 4.2 innings per start last season, and is averaging 5.1 innings through 71 career starts.  Said another way, each of his appearances inherently places a burden on the bullpen.  And that must change.  As the team's fourth starter, a healthy, reliable, and effective, Steven Matz can serve as a key weapon of sorts insofar as consistently outperforming the competition's back-end starters.

Not out of the question ...

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