Steven Matz was supposed to fight for his New York Mets starting rotation spot. A pair of injuries have elevated him to the number two starter.
Remember back in March when there was a competition in New York Mets camp for the fifth starter role? Longtime Mets pitcher Steven Matz was up against Michael Wacha for that final spot. An injury to Noah Syndergaard put them both in the rotation and the latest ailment to befall the team, this time to Marcus Stroman, has elevated Matz’s role even further.
From rotation hopeful to the number two starter to open the year, Matz has had an interesting climb this offseason.
There was only ever a little doubt Matz might not earn his way into the rotation this year. He has been there since his debut in 2015 with the exception of two relief appearances last year and regular injuries since making his MLB debut.
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Fortunately, Matz has been healthy for the past two years. He made 30 starts in each and the hope has been with health will come success.
We didn’t exactly see a new and improved version of the Mets southpaw in 2019. Although he won a career-best 11 games, his 4.21 ERA was higher than the 3.97 ERA he posted in 2018. Matz did have a slightly better FIP and ERA+ than he did one year prior so at least there’s some argument to make it was about equal.
Matz is one of those Mets players that’s still hard to predict accurately. One week he looks fantastic. The next he’s exiting the game by the second inning with his head hung low and a crooked number beside the name of a different time.
The loss of Syndergaard and now Stroman puts even more pressure on Matz to become the pitcher he was earlier on in his career. In his first 28 big league starts, this is a guy who went 13-8 with a 3.16 ERA. In his three seasons since, he’s 18-28 with a 4.44 ERA.
Now 29, we are beyond the stage where we can hope he’s still developing. Matz is in what should be the prime of his career. The numbers tell a different story.
Over the last several years, Matz has been able to sit quietly behind Jacob deGrom and others in the rotation. His results, good or bad, didn’t have as large of an impact as they will in 2020. Although starting the second game of the season doesn’t mean much after a few games, it still has some weight.
The plans drawn up by Brodie Van Wagenen and his team did not involve Matz on the mound for the second game of the season. He was supposed to sit behind four other men and fight to keep his job.
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A pair of injuries and the decision to put him ahead of Rick Porcello to start the year has changed all of that. This is Matz’s year to claim the reputation he had early on in his career. It’s time for the lefty to find his mojo again.