Steven Matz and Spring home runs

One of the criticisms of the recent Mets was that they were too reliant on the HR ball for offense. Looking at Spring Training numbers, we see that they are tied for 16th with 26 HR. Your first thought may be that middle of the pack is a good place to be. It means they haven’t stopped hitting homers but it’s not the only thing going on, either. But we have to take into account that there are two main areas for Spring Training – Florida and Arizona. But once we divide into teams that train in Florida, the Mets’ offense is tied for eighth in homers, in the 15-team loop. So we still have the same results.

Of course, we can’t just look at homers. We need to know how the entire offense is doing. If they’re middle of the pack in homers and near the top in offense – that’s great. But if they’re middle of the pack in homers and near the bottom in runs, well that’s another matter entirely. Turns out they are 10th among Grapefruit League squads in offense. So, on a league-wide basis, the Mets’ offense is slightly worse than they are in just home runs.

But that may only mean that the minor leaguers for the Mets have hit more homers than the minor leaguers for other teams.

So, let’s just concentrate on guys who will make the majors. We see that six of the top seven leaders on the Mets in homers this Spring are guys likely to see significant time in Queens. Pete Alonso leads the way with three homers and while he may or may not make the Opening Day roster, few would expect him to be in the minors come May 1. The only one of seven guys on the Mets with multiple homers who will spend most of the year in the minors is David Thompson.

Now let’s look at homers from the pitchers’ perspective.

Mets pitchers have allowed the third-most gopher balls of any staff, surrendering 35 HR in 201 IP. If we limit it to teams that train in Florida, only the Orioles have allowed more taters. If we just look at the guys who will fill the rotation, the Mets’ five starters have allowed 12 HR in 61.1 IP. That’s not good. Steven Matz is skewing the results, as he’s served up six gopher balls so far this Spring. But even if we subtract Matz, the remaining four starters have allowed 6 HR in 50.2 IP, which is much better but still above where you’d think mostly elite pitchers would be.

That’s a 1.07 HR/9 rate without Matz and a 1.76 HR/9 with Matz . Last year Jacob deGrom (0.41), Noah Syndergaard (0.52) and Zack Wheeler (0.69) all had HR/9 rates significantly better than that. Matz was elevated at 1.46 and Jason Vargas was the worst, with a 1.76 mark. Interestingly, Vargas has the best rate so far this Spring, as he’s allowed just 1 HR in 12.1 IP.

Our quintet has faced 261 batters this season and allowed 19 BB and 1 HBP, along with the 12 HR in their 61.1 IP. Furthermore, they have 62 Ks and 19 BB. They’ve combined for a 4.26 ERA and a 4.59 FIP. But even combining the five starters together, we don’t have a particularly large sample so Matz’ terrible results are having an outsized drag on overall performance.

Last Spring, Matz gave up just 1 HR in 20 IP in Grapefruit League play. His good results in the Spring most certainly did not carry over into the regular season. But the pitcher who allowed the most homers in the Spring in 2018 cannot say his luck changed. Hansel Robles served up 5 HR in 11.2 IP in Grapefruit League play and he turned around to allow 7 HR in 19.2 IP with the Mets before they cut ties with him. In 2017 Sean Gilmartin and Wheeler led the club with 4 HR allowed in the Spring. During the regular season, Gilmartin allowed 2 HR in 3.1 IP and Wheeler served up 15 HR in 86.1 IP.

But let’s not end this on a down note. Let’s find something positive in all five of our starters’ results this Spring:

Syndergaard – Opposing batters have just a .189 AVG against him so far, after they recorded a .258 mark last season.
Vargas – That HR rate mentioned earlier is the big thing but 12 Ks in 12.1 IP is nice, too.
deGrom – A 7.5 K/BB rate.
Wheeler – A 0.83 WHIP is noticeably better than last year’s career-best 1.12 mark.
Matz – When he keeps the ball in the park, he’s getting more ground ball outs, as he has a 15/9 GO/AO ratio, compared to a 17/18 mark in 2018 Spring Training.

10 comments for “Steven Matz and Spring home runs

  1. NYM6986
    March 17, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Nice perspective on the HR Brian from both sides of the coin. I’m hoping continued tutoring from Mickey and Dave will get Matz back on track. As a long time Met fan I never put stock In spring training results because they usually go in with so many question marks on offense. That does not seem to be the case this spring. I know it’s only spring training but can anyone remember our starting positions players collectively having as strong a showing at the plate? Maybe Chili Davis’ make contact is doing the trick. They will never be the Bronx bombers but think they have a half dozen players who could crack 20 plus HRs. More importantly if those same half dozen can bat .280 plus they will manufacture runs like never before. Cano and Ramos look like big additions so far and their presence makes all the kids better. It’s often a matter of attitude and if you remember ‘86, it was attitude and chemistry that propelled the team forward. We never felt out of a game all season. We’re not quite there but if we play hard and get Ces back mid season, we could be a very strong contender.

    • March 17, 2019 at 8:46 pm

      Thanks for the kind words!

      Last year during Spring Training the following players all had .800 or better OPS marks:
      Nimmo, Flores, Rosario, Evans, Bruce, d’Arnaud, Guillorme, Cecchini, Cespedes and some minor league guys. Seven of those nine listed guys had OPS marks of .863 and up.

      This year above .800 we have:
      Alonso, Smith, Cano, Guillorme, Rosario, R. Davis and some minor league guys.

  2. Chris F
    March 17, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    Matz remains a total head case. His posture on the mound went right back to what we’ve seen all along.

    No one can fix his delivery problems. His release point is too early and he doesn’t finish pitches. as a result he throws hard but way up in the zone. For him to get things down he needs to cut back, so he throws 80 mph fool-no one breaking balls that get launched. Watch the first inning over again if you have MLB.tv

    This guy is a 5th starter at best, but really more like pro level depth, just like Vargas. Starting pitching depth is going to put a big hurt on this team…again…

    • March 17, 2019 at 8:36 pm

      I keep going back and forth on Matz.

      The HR are a problem and there may just be no way around that. But we’ve seen as recently as the end of last year a stretch of pitching where he consistently gets guys out. Maybe that’s the definition of a 4/5 starter – a guy who does good when everything is going right but who can’t recover from the slightest setback.

      • Mike Walczak
        March 17, 2019 at 9:10 pm

        This should be Matz’s make it break year.

  3. Metsense
    March 17, 2019 at 8:21 pm

    I am not concerned about the offense because the starters have good OPS except Nimmo and Lagares. Cano 1.255,Rosario 1.097, Alonso 1.058, McNeil .865, Ramos .795 and Conforto .782. Nimmo is dragging at .615 but that is unlike him. Lagares in not a hitter and his .458 is indicative of that. Maybe the Mets should turn to Broxton at .725 with the plus glove. There is still depth will Lowrie and Frazier.D.Smith and two Davis’ have also had a good spring.
    I am concerned about the back of the rotation with Matz and Vargas. It seems that Vargas could step up into a 4th Position Starter but the Mets can’t afford to have Matz regressing to a fifth position starter. I think Lugo will be in starting rotation before long and Oswalt is going do push the envelope in Syracuse. Maybe it’s time to explore signing Dallas Keuchel.

    • José
      March 18, 2019 at 12:26 am

      Metsense: “Maybe it’s time to explore signing Dallas Keuchel.”

      That’s some good sense!

  4. TexasGusCC
    March 18, 2019 at 12:52 am

    Chris, like Brian, I also don’t know how I feel about Matz. He has way too many holes in his game for a guy that is in his fifth pro season. Can’t hold runners, inconsistent release and results, the sulking annoys me, and if he gets hurt tomorrow no one would bat an eye. But when he’s got it together, he’s solid. I have to give him more rope seeing that this is only spring training and if he can learn something about himself now that would help him in April and beyond, then it’s worth it.

    Metsense, Keuchel isn’t budging from his demands and Boras yesterday compared him to Kyle Lohse, who held out for his deal, got it on March 25th, and then got hurt in the early going. Boras won’t mention that last part however. Too, Lohse had lost his stuff and no one wanted to give him a third year until the Brewers went 3/$33. For the money Keuchel wants, I’d much rather have Kimbrel.

  5. March 18, 2019 at 8:54 am

    Matz is “The Girl with the Curl”…. he’s irresistable at first glance. Something is missing…maybe it’s “as easy” a diagnosis as concentration and excecution. Maybe it’s something harder to grasp—all of the components that comprise “Game Sense”.

    His 93-95 Lefty Stuff seemed to translate early on…interrupted by aches and injury. My guess is that he’s avoiding pain and chronic pain and certain pitches. The velocity seems similar, but the hitters look very comfortable. Hitter Comfort is much more important than the Radar Gun.

    • MattyMets
      March 18, 2019 at 9:25 am

      Eraff, I think that’s especially true if lefties. Look back at the 80s Mets. Ojeda and Fernandez were not the hardest throwers. Ojeda mixes pitches and kept the ball low. Fernandez moves the ball around a lot but avoided the meat of the plate. Matz has good stuff and a nice repertoire but he leaves too many pitches over the middle.

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