Mets: Matz returns but slider has not… yet
Steven Matz had a strong return to the mound against the Braves and went back to pre-September 2015 in the process
Steven Matz had to wait two months to make his season debut. Once he did, the Mets’ southpaw was in command for seven innings in a win over Atlanta. However, there was one thing missing from Matz’s start: the use of a slider.
Matz reverted to pre-September 2015, using just his regular arsenal. He threw zero sliders, which can raise an eyebrow and a question or two. Is Matz done with that pitch? Or is he just being extra cautious and maybe looking to re-incorporate that pitch again down the road?
After Matz busted the slider out in his last couple of outings of 2015, he started to lean heavily on it early in 2016. However, Matz developed bone spurs and the usage of his slider dipped to 7.5% from June to August. Contrast that to April and May when he threw a slider 14.8% of the time. That’s about the timeline divide for pre and post-bone spurs.
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We all know Dan Warthen has his way of teaching a slider and Matz was one of the guys willing to learn it. There’s a very detailed article here that details Warthen’s slider, how it differs, and the criticism that it’s been more conducive to injuries.
The number one concern for Matz is obviously staying on the field. He has dealt with a litany of injuries throughout his professional career, and most of them in his arm. Maybe the slider is a pitch he isn’t fully comfortable with at the time. Opponents hit .250 off Matz’s slider last season, but it was also statistically more of a swing and miss pitch than his curveball.
Only time will ultimately tell if Matz is comfortable enough to get back to learning the slider that Warthen was quoted as saying was “easy on the arm when done correctly.” Critics would beg to differ and point to the list of injuries suffered not just by Matz, but by the rest of the staff.
Regardless of what happens down the road, Matz has proven his repertoire is more than good enough with the three-pitch mix that he’s offered in his Major League career. Take the five-start sample of Matz’s four starts in 2015 before he mixed in a slider and his season debut this year. The numbers read as follows: 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA in 31.0 innings. He’s walked 10 and struck out 24 while surrendering 22 hits.
Next: Three regulars are back, and this should spark the team
Matz is scheduled for his second start of the season on Friday against Washington. And we’re hoping it’s just as dominant as his first start.