The photo above reflects everything that comes to mind when I watch Steven Matz pitch. Total befuddlement on his part, and wanting to shout at the TV, “Throw the damn ball, will ya”?
It’s been a long ten years since the New York Mets drafted Steven Matz in the second round of the 2009 Amateur College draft from Ward Melville High School, Long Island, a short distance from Citi Field.
Not highly hyped as say an Amed Rosario, Steven Matz has been the guy the Mets have slotted as their fourth starter for the last four seasons. Much like teammate Zack Wheeler, injuries have thwarted his career, but that’s where the comparison ends given Wheeler’s “I get it” breakout second half last season.
It’s not so much the injuries as it is what we see when Matz is healthy enough to pitch. A lifetime 20-26 pitcher at the age of 28 come May, Steven Matz rolled to a disastrous 5-11 record with an ERA of almost four. No surprise, if the Mets stand any chance of competing in the National League East in 2019, the team can’t have that again.
Hannah Withiam, writing in The Athletic, submits that Matz “burns with competitive fire,” but has yet to harness that spirit despite the all-out efforts of the Met’s coaching staff encouraging him to do so by trusting his stuff.
Perhaps, but as an observer from a distance, Steven Matz has yet to unleash anything near the power behind his arm to get major league hitters out. Instead, we get this beat around the bush, picking at corners, leading to baserunners sitting there as ducks waiting to be driven home on the first real mistake Matz is destined to make, after throwing way more pitches than needed in an inning.
Whether it be pitching or hitting, baseball, as it’s played today, is a game of power. Spin rates and swings and misses are the parameters by which pitchers are measured. Steven Matz can have both – when he wants to.
Steven Matz will have good days, as well as some clunkers, as the fourth starter for the Mets in 2019. That’s been the case over the past four seasons. But for the Mets to climb over the Nationals, Phillies, and ultimately the Braves, Matz needs to elevate himself from a pedestrian pitcher to a more reliable starter if the Mets are to seriously contend in 2019.
Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball