The Mets have proved patient with Steven Matz for some time now. Facing the challenge of two proven starters bidding for his spot, where does he land…
The Mets caused many an eye to roll when they scooped up Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha from what many claimed to be the major league starters’ trash bin.
Yet, upon closer look, the signings have merit. Wacha has won sixty percent of his decisions over his seven-year career while Porcello won a Cy Young with the Red Sox in 2016 and is tenth among active pitchers in innings pitched over an eleven-year career.
For each, the risks are self-evident. Are they on the cusp of extinction, or are they about to reach the pinnacle of a second wind that will fortify an already potent Mets staff?
Brodie Van Wagenen didn’t know when he signed them, and we won’t know until Spring Training and the early part of the 2020 season plays itself.
The Enigmatic Steven Matz
But beneath it all, is an endearing though the somewhat tumultuous portrait of a Mets starting pitcher whose time with the team hangs in the balance of the next few weeks and months.
Steven Matz is not the relief pitcher, as he is relegated to become if he cannot earn one of the two remaining spots on the staff of the Mets. He is a starting pitcher who, over the last five seasons, has made 101 starts for the Mets.
At 28, Matz carries a pedestrian 31-36 mark and a disappointing 4.05 ERA into the 2020 season. He displayed sparks, but never a full-blown flame last year winning eleven games while dropping ten.
Most teams get by with a pitcher like Matz at the bottom of their rotation, but a team like the Mets whose sights are set on a World Series needs more.
Matz, a local product who was born and raised on Long Island, appeared buoyed when Marcus Stroman came to the team mid-summer in a trade with the Cleveland Indians. The pair have been friendly rivals since their days in high school and travel leagues.
But again, the fuse seemed to die out when Stroman had issues himself in adjusting to New York and the National League.
Mets And Dodgers Take The Southpaw Test
In 2017, an impressive piece appeared in Hardball Times, in which the main idea is that southpaws take longer to develop than righties.
Using Sandy Koufax as their poster-boy, the author argued, “erratic left-handed pitchers who test the patience of their team’s management.
Since southpaws are fewer in number than right-handers and typically take longer to mature, most teams will stick with them longer.”
However, no one can accuse the Mets of not being patient when it comes to Steven Matz. Nor, has anyone ever said he doesn’t have the arm to pitch at the big-league level.
Steven Matz And The Professionalism Test
Instead, behind the scenes, the primary source of frustration with Matz comes from between his ears. A complete mess on the mound at times, Matz often spews negative body-language at the first sign trouble he finds himself in.
To put it another way, more often than not, Steven Matz is his own worst enemy, not the guy standing in the batter’s box.
As an example, a seasoned Rick Porcello or Michael Wacha, on a bobbled ground ball to short that puts a runner on first with one out, will turn to the offender, saying, “Let’s get two and be done with this”.
Whereas, Matz shows a tendency to squeeze the hell out of the ball, miss his release point, and getting lit up on pitch he’s tried to throw at 105 mph.
Mets: Make The Right Choice For The Right Reasons
The trio is due to be carefully observed by Luis Rojas and the Mets new pitching coach, Jeremy Hefner, throughout Spring Training. Hopefully, this is treated as a pure baseball decision, and there will be no interference from the front office.
Moreover, the Mets do not need a situation wherein Matz is tossed a bone because he is the least likely to deal with a demotion to the bullpen professionally.
Mets players are not stupid, and they’d recognize something like that a mile away with cause to immediately suspect the judgment of their new manager, as well as his ability to put the best players on the field at all times.
The Dodgers, of course, were handsomely rewarded for their patience with Sandy Koufax. Soon, we’ll know if the Mets are afforded the same with Steven Matz.