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.