Could Steven Matz have better days ahead for him in Major League Baseball than fellow New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard?
I think many of us have accepted Steven Matz will not play with the New York Mets beyond his current contract. There has been little, if any, talk about an extension with the southpaw. I can understand why. The Mets have much bigger decisions to make than what to do about the lefty who has fallen into the back of the rotation, not the front.
Matz can also join a new ball club via free agency after the 2021 season. However, for years the talk has been about how Syndergaard is the one the team could regrettable move on from. His name has come up plenty in past trade talks. As both of their free agency winters approach, I wonder if it’s actually Matz who could become a new player to the list of “ones who got away.”
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Through his first 101 starts and pair of relief appearances last year, Matz is 31-36 with a 4.05 ERA. His 97 ERA+ suggests he’s below-average.
Meanwhile, Syndergaard is 47-30 through his first 118 starts and a single relief appearance. He owns a 3.31 ERA and 119 ERA+. Some may say he has yet to reach expectations which is fair enough. However, there’s no debating—Thor has had a better career.
This may not be the case going forward. Tommy John Surgery is a big one and there’s no telling how Syndergaard will come back from it. Matz has dealt with his own health issues over the years but does have two consecutive seasons of reaching 30 starts. They seem to be behind him.
We know enough about the greatness Syndergaard can bring to the mound. Matz’s games register at a lower level. They aren’t as flashy or powerful yet he knows how to get the job done on a regular basis.
The thing about Matz is he has a tendency to blow up and get shelled in the first inning. He has a career 6.50 ERA in the first. In innings two through five, it’s below 4.00. Innings six and seven are in the 4.00s while the limited action he saw in the eighth and ninth have been scoreless.
Whatever it is that causes Matz’s early jitters is his biggest problem. If he can master it, Matz can be a whole different pitcher. He could even return to the guy he was when he first joined the Mets for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Moving forward, there’s no telling how each will perform compared to one another because of Syndergaard’s surgery. We may think we know what the best Matz has to offer looks like. As plenty of baseball history shows, sometimes it takes a few years for guys to lock in and become their best selves.
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As doubtful as it is for Matz to become a star elsewhere, Syndergaard’s hopeful return in 2021 should help direct the Mets as to which pitcher has a better future in Flushing—if it’s either of them at all.