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Mets: Analyzing data and what could be next for Steven Matz

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ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 10: Steven Matz
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 10: Steven Matz
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Mets LHP Steven Matz is off his shortest and worst start of his career. Here’s a deeper look at the data behind the results

When Steven Matz next takes the hill, it will be coming off his shortest and worst start of his young career. Matz only lasted one inning while surrendering nine hits and seven runs (all earned) against Colorado on Sunday. That came off the heels of another shaky start in St. Louis prior to the All-Star break.

What’s the deal? Look no further than this article from Abbey Mastracco with terrific insight and quotes on why Matz has struggled lately. The question now becomes what happens going forward? First, let’s dig deeper into the data.

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Matz threw 39 pitches in the short outing against the Rockies. Nine of them were sliders. If you look at the heatmaps on Fangraphs, you’ll notice Mastracco’s point illustrated. On Sunday and in general, Matz’s slider has not strayed much from being middle in to right handers and middle away to lefties. Matz has thrown a total of 25 sliders since he re-introduced it in his fourth start of the season against Miami.

Here’s another noteworthy subject. At the expense of his slider, Matz has used his change-up less. Raw data shows the change-up has been Matz’s best pitch this year. Opponents are hitting .240 and slugging .360 against his changeup this season. In fact, let’s go back to 2015 before Matz broke out the slider until the very end of the season. That year, he threw 81 change-ups and had a .150 batting average against.

If/when Matz can get a consistent hold on the slider then he could be tougher to figure out. He already has three above average pitches and adding a fourth could vault him into the best third starter in the league. Another vital part of that equation is obviously staying healthy.

It will be interesting to see how aggressive Matz will be with incorporating his slider going forward. He’ll continue to work on it in bullpen sessions and get the location to match the break generated. The movement on his slider presently looks more horizontal than vertical. It’s a matter of time before we see any adjustments start to unfold.

Also in play is if Matz will take the opposite route and shy away from the slider more. After the back-to-back hits to start the second inning, Keith Hernandez felt that at least for the day Matz should “get away from that slider because it’s not breaking much.”

Next: Is 2017 a repeat of 2009?

Matz has had tough starts to bounce back from before, but bringing back his fourth pitch has been the cause of the latest struggles. His next scheduled turn will be Friday when the Mets open a series against Oakland.

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