New York Mets pitcher Steven Matz isn’t giving away many free passes in 2019 and the result is a promising start to the season.
We’re through April and the best pitcher on the New York Mets this season has not been Jacob deGrom. It isn’t Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler either. Steven Matz has been this team’s best starting pitcher through the first month of the season.
Oddly, Matz is also the guy who took the mound to start the beatdown against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 16 that ended in a 14-3 loss. Matz didn’t retire a single batter in his lone loss of the year and received a first-inning hook after allowing 8 runs, 6 of which were earned.
Matz has battled back since even defeating the Phillies. He has not allowed more than a pair of earned runs in any other start and currently resides with a team-leading 3.68 ERA through those six starts to begin 2019.
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What has been the key to Matz’s success? One of the major factors is his lack of giving away anything for free.
Matz has the best walks per nine rate on the starting staff. The 2.5 per nine rate is promising after last year’s 3.6 walks per nine he served up in 2018. The career-high number of walks issued last season was my main concern for Matz—along with the home runs. While the latter is still high, Matz isn’t giving away free passes.
Maybe most promising of all is how consistent Matz has been with throwing strikes. In his second start of the year against the Washington Nationals, the lefty starter walked four batters. He didn’t allow any runs and the Mets won. He hasn’t walked more than two in any other start giving me hope he has found his command.
There’s a lot to like about Matz’s game this year. Though he’s not quite ace-material, he’s definitely giving this team a chance to win every fifth day. The starting staff was supposed to be the strength yet again in 2019. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out this way with the other four struggling early.
Interestingly, Matz’s FIP is worse than deGrom, Syndergaard, and Wheeler. This number, measured by a pitcher’s ability to avoid bad things like walks and home runs while issuing strikeouts, looks worse for Matz right now because of his lesser strikeout numbers when compared to his teammates. At 8.9 per nine strikeouts this season, he falls fourth on the starting staff. This is still, by no means, a cause for concern and an acceptable rate when he’s not allowing runs to score.
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The season is long and Matz has about another 25 starts left to give. Through the early going, I’m satisfied with what I have seen. In typical fashion, when he has been bad, he has been really bad. When he has been good, Matz looks more like the pitcher we’ve always wanted him to become.