Don’t count Steven Matz out just yet

The 2017 season for Long Island native Steven Matz mirrored that of several other pitchers in the Met’s rotation. Specifically his stats were poor and he was hurt quite a bit. That has lead to some fans getting discouraged about his future, but those feelings may be premature.

We know when Steven Matz is healthy he is a pretty good pitcher. The lefty was drafted by the Mets in the second round of the June 2009 draft. Matz lost some time to Tommy John surgery before making his debut with the Mets during the team’s pennant drive in 2015. In 35 IP he had a 2.27 ERA and 4-0 record. He earned three starts in the postseason, one each in the NLDS, NLCS, and WS with a cumulative ERA of 3.60.

In 2016 he logged 132.1 IP with a 3.40 ERA and a 9-8 record, still some fine numbers. His stats would undoubtedly been even better except that he pitched through pain for the second half of the season. The pain was determined to be caused by bone spurs, which were surgically removed, ending the season for Matz.

Then came 2017. He started the season on the DL, he ended it on the DL again and in between there were some ugly numbers, 66.2 IP with a very high 6.08 ERA and a 2-7 record. But as we delve into these stats, there is cause for hope.

When Matz healed and returned to the rotation in June, he pitched very well. In June Matz pitched 27 innings with a 2.67 ERA. The opposition BA against him was just a measly .218. Then for the rest of the year batters teed off on him like it was batting practice and he ended up with those ugly numbers cited above.

So what happened? Did he suddenly forget how to pitch? It is more likely that he was he was feeling the effect of the ulnar nerve injury that would ultimately end his season. It apparently was diagnosed later than it could have been, resulting in Matz pitching through pain, and pitching ineffectively as noted. Matz underwent ulnar nerve surgery in his pitching elbow in September.

The good news is that the surgery on Matz was very similar to the surgery Jacob deGrom had at the end of the 2016 season. We all know that deGrom recovered and had a big year for the Mets, setting a personal best in IP and finishing second in the NL in strikeouts with 239.

Matz has shown that when healthy he can pitch, and pitch well. If his recovery arc from the ulnar nerve surgery is similar to that of his teammate deGrom, Matz will be an important part of the 2018 Mets pitching staff.

9 comments for “Don’t count Steven Matz out just yet

  1. Jimmy P
    October 10, 2017 at 10:57 am

    I don’t think counting him “out” is the challenge here.

    Sure, maybe he comes back and pitches well. Certainly in the realm of possibility.

    But, but, but.

    It’s also impossible to count him “in,” and that’s the rub.

    Personally, I think of him as a reliever/long man, not one of the top 5 to begin the season. If things open up, if he establishes health, the club can go from there. Remember, no way he can throw more than 150 IP anyway.

    In best of circumstances, how many IP can Wheeler throw? Or Harvey? It’s a significant obstacle.

  2. Chris
    October 10, 2017 at 11:09 am

    He will just get hurt again. Can’t count on him…like Wheeler…..or Harvey. Not every uber prospect makes it. Thor and deGrom …2/5 is about right. I think the other 3 will always have issues of one kind or another.

  3. Eraff
    October 10, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    It’s probably beyond hope to think that Matz will get beyond his Injury woes. His injury stoppages outnumber and overshadow his “10 healthy start runs”.

    Even asssuming some level of useable recovery accross the Starting Staff, The Mets need to get specific with a range of Innings Counts/Innings Needed projections for their Starters.

    Perfectly Healthy, would Matz, Thor, Wheeler and Harvey project as 150 inning Max per guy?…as a Cap. Add Jake’s 200-225 top end and you’re at 800 Innings of 1400 total. You need around 900 or so the account for 6 innings—so they look to be short, even at an optimum. You add Lugo and Gsell, and if it’s “perfect” it works.

  4. Metsense
    October 11, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Matz is controllable until 2022 so a lot should happen before he is “counted out”. The expected prognosis is that he should be recovered from ulna nerve surgery. He should be added to the competition as fourth/fifth starter along with the other inconsistent unreliables of Harvey, Wheeler, Lugo and Gsellman and the best two should be in the rotation. The Mets need to add a #3 or better starter to the roster to stabilize the rotation and avoid a repeat of 2017. A recovered Matz should be able to win the 4/5 spot but he should not be expected to equal his 2016 numbers. Health is what is holding Matz back but the Mets have the “controllable time” not to force the issue and make the same mistake like they did last summer.

    • NormE
      October 11, 2017 at 8:20 am

      Very well thought out comment.

      • TexasGusCC
        October 11, 2017 at 9:31 am

        +1

    • Jimmy P
      October 11, 2017 at 9:31 am

      Agree with all of this. Just adding that the more I watch the sport, the more I appreciate the impact of “missed time.”

      We’ve seen it with d’Arnaud, most recently.

      When very good prospects miss serious chunks of time, there’s a setback that occurs. It’s not like time stops and they return exactly where they were relative to everyone else. In most cases, there’s slippage. I worry about that with guys like Matz and Wheeler. Certain developmental milestones were supposed to have been reached and instead there’s a black hole.

      We see this with people who experience serious childhood illness. There are certain moments that are best experienced in “real time” and when they don’t happen, that individual can never fully get that moment back. That’s my belief, anyway. It’s unrealistic to think Zack Wheeler will be right back where he once was if and when he regains full health. He’ll need time to climb back just to get to where he used to be.

      At the same time, I love Zack Wheeler and still believe he can become an outstanding pitcher. A guy who can win playoff games. But I don’t think he needs “one” healthy season. I think he needs a few. Same with Matz. Same with Harvey. It’s also why I think TdA should take it up a level in 2018. He spent a lot of time securing the foundation in ’17, now the walls can come up.

      One last thought which seems to have gotten lost: While we can obviously count these guys as “uncertain,” that’s true all pitchers. We saw it with Noah. There’s no sure thing. Jake could go down in a heartbeat. So even if the Mets go out and sign Yu Darvish or whomever, that pitcher is only slightly more likely to be “fully healthy” next season. Mets need more quality at the AA and AAA level. The good news is that it should be a bit better in 2018 than it was last season, when it was horrific.

      With this group, I really don’t know who will be able to throw meaningful, quality innings in late August and September. Even in the best scenario, all three of Matz, Wheeler, Harvey should be out of gas. Let’s send some of these guys into the pen.

    • Chris F
      October 11, 2017 at 10:32 am

      +1

  5. Eraff
    October 11, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    If I were asking the question, Reload or Rebuild, I’d need to address my payroll intentions moving forward.

    As JP has pointed out, there may not be High Gain innings available in Sept/October–even with a “perfect” return to health of your high gain guys.

    Their problem has been planning for perfection. All the Pitchers were supposed to be High Paid studs right now…and all of their top drafts were supposed to be low paid studs right now. Instead, they have a mix of this and that, and a bit of bad luck—and they’re kabloowee.

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