Steven Matz And Jon Niese: Two Peas From The Same Pod?

Steven Matz (Photo: Dylan Buell Getty Images)

Steven Matz and Jon Niese: Two careers with remarkably similar patterns. Will Matz one day join Niese pitching for the Long Island Ducks…

On Monday, April 1, Jon Niese was drafted by the Long Island Ducks, an Atlantic League team independent from affiliation with a major league team. A nine-year veteran, mostly with the New York Mets, Niese compiled a pedestrian 69-68 record over a span of197 starts.

Jon Niese (Photo: Bucs Dugout)
Jon Niese (Photo: Bucs Dugout)

With points granted for Niese’s persistence and confidence in his ability to return to the level he once held, is this the same fate awaiting Steven Matz if he continues his mediocre production as a starter in the pennant-contending Mets rotation?

Both Niese and Matz are homegrown products produced by the Mets. Niese was a 7th round pick in the 2005 Amateur Draft, while Matz rated a higher selection as the Mets pick in the second round of the 2009 Draft.

Niese breezed through the Mets system making his debut three years later in 2008, while Matz plodded his way to the big leagues making his debut in 2015 with an impressive 4-0, 2.27 ERA record. In both cases, each was predicted by the Mets to be a mainstay in their rotation.

Steven Matz Still On His Feet – Barely

Niese is history, but the story of Steven Matz is ongoing and his position in the Mets rotation will give Matz 30+ starts, excepting injury. For a team like the Mets, with Dallas Keuchel still in the picture as a free agent signee, the Mets continue to remain faithful to their belief that Matz has what it takes to have a positive role in the team’s pursuit of an NL East Division title, and games beyond.

Steve Matz, New York Mets Starting Pitcher Photo Credit: New York Daily News
Steve Matz, New York Mets Starting Pitcher Photo Credit: New York Daily News

There’s a problem with that thinking though, and the Mets know it as well as anyone. A telling stat over Steven Matz’s career is this – it took Matz 30 starts to compile 150 innings pitched in 2018.

Five innings per start indicate an ongoing lack of maturity and presence when Matz is pitching – or more aptly – throwing.

At the age of (soon to be 28), Matz should have figured out a balance between his ability, rated as high by nearly everyone, and what it takes to get major league hitters out on a consistent basis. Much Like Jon Niese though, the image of Steven Matz on the mound often reflects a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.

Writing for Fangraphs, Nick Pollack analyzed Matz with this scouting report:

“The southpaw also showed signs of excellence down the stretch, boasting a 2.44 ERA in his final eight games inducing a 12% swinging strike rate following a paltry 8% mark prior. It was a product of doubling his slider usage and it’s possible that Matz can hint at dominance again with a similar approach across a full year. Health needs to be on his side, but the talent is still there for Matz to produce the season we’ve all been waiting for. Nick Pollack, FanGraphs
Crossroads (Photo: istock)
Crossroads (Photo: istock)

The word that comes to mind when thinking of Jon Niese or Steven Matz is “soft”, which raises a red flag immediately when it comes from someone who has no acquaintance with either person.

But you look at what you see, and even from a fan’s perspective, there’s something “off” about the Steven Matz we see on the mound today. We don’t see thius “presence” on the mound when Matz is pitching.

Granted, not everyone is Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, where every pitch is a re-creation of the U.S. troops landing on Normandy during World War II. Thrust with a purpose and a mentality suggesting, “Here it is, let’s see you hit it”.

Steven Matz At The Crossroads Of A Career

The future for Steven Matz hangs in the balance. Unlike Niese whose time to adjust has passed him by, Matz has the remainder of this year to blossom and produce in a way most everyone believes he can. “Promise” will never disappear from any conversation involving Steven Matz.

It’s just a question of whether or not Matz will next surface on the roster of the Long Island Ducks, joining Jon Niese in that long climb back from a career that could have been different – but wasn’t.

Or, will Matz rise to the level necessary to be what he is – a fourth or fifth starter with a team on their way to the 2019 Playoffs? Next move – Steven Matz.

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.

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