Steven Matz has been really good the parts of the two seasons we’ve seen him in the majors. Unfortunately, he’s also spent considerable time on the disabled list in both of those years. Matz had offseason surgery to clean out bone spurs in his elbow but what ended his season was irritation in his shoulder. Fortunately, the shoulder did not require surgery and the latest news is that he’s throwing pain-free and will enter Spring Training without any restrictions. Still, the perception is that he’s a walking injury risk. Will this cause us to be more bearish than normal? Here are our individual forecasts:
Most see him at 163 IP or fewer, which would indicate another DL stay or two. But the overwhelming majority of us see him performing at a very strong rate, with nine of the 11 members of the panel predicting an ERA of 3.35 or better. A 3.35 ERA would have ranked tied for 12th in the NL last year among qualified hurlers. So, we see more of the same – strong pitching when healthy, just not healthy enough to keep off the DL.
Our wildcard category for Matz was his isolated slugging as a batter. My impression of Matz was that he was a pretty good hitter for a pitcher; so, I was surprised to find out that he did not have a homer in the majors. In 59 PA in the majors, Matz has a .080 ISO, a pretty strong mark for a pitcher. Picking a well-known hurler at random, Stephen Strasburg has a .041 ISO in the majors.
Here’s what the group think Matz will do in 2017:
We expect that he’ll be both healthier and better than he was in 2016. Last year Matz threw 132.1 IP and finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Ideally a young guy who heads into the season with a clean bill of health would be expected to throw more than 158 innings. So, are we being unusually cautious here? Let’s see what the computer models predict.
We have the most optimistic ERA/FIP but Steamer sees a few more innings. The innings forecast from ZiPS is the most bearish and it seems we would all be a bit disappointed if this is all the innings that the talented lefty could produce this season.
The top comp by ZiPS for Matz is Steve Avery. After a blip last week with a guy who was never really good, ZiPS goes back to tossing out a guy who was good early in his career only to fall apart at a relatively young age. Avery looked like he was getting ready to settle in as one of the top pitchers in the game for a decade or more when in his age 23 season, he posted an 18-6 record with a 2.94 ERA. But he never posted an ERA under four for the remainder of his career. He was done in by a variety of injuries, reminding everyone of the dangers of pitching in general and accumulating three straight years of 200-plus innings in the majors during his age 21-23 seasons.
For what it’s worth, Matz didn’t make his major league debut until age 24 and has never thrown more than 140.2 innings in any season since becoming a professional.