Don’t get me wrong. I like Steven Matz. He’s easy to root for as a Long Island kid pitching for his hometown team. Overall, however, his 2020 season didn’t build on his 2018 and 2019 performances.

In his sixth season with the team, the 29-year-old southpaw went 0-5 in six game starts (plus three relief appearances), with just over 30 innings pitched. He gave up 33 earned runs including 14 home runs. His ERA was 9.68 and his WHIP was 1.70. He was placed on the 10-day injured list on August 30th and returned to action on September 13th. A two-week stint on the injured list might not be too big a deal in a full 162 game season but in a shortened season, the impact of that injury was multiplied. This impacted the team, even more so, when you factor in the performance issues with Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha plus absentee issues with Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman.

When writing a proposed 2021 roster, I suggested that the team move on from Matz and deal him. The general response to that seemed to indicate that many readers have not given up on him. What drives that support? What things can we find about his performance this season which offers hope for improved future results?

Some things to consider:

o In 2020, Matz produced a 36:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

o It should be noted that team’s 2020 pandemic-reduced schedule was not an easy one and Matz had to face the Braves twice, the Nationals three times, plus the Yankees, the Rays, the Phillies, as well as the Red Sox once each. The shortened schedule along with the reduced number of teams faced certainly didn’t help any Mets pitcher.

o Matz’s velocity remained consistent throughout the season, ranging between 93 and 95. His lowest velocity game (93 mph) occurred in his first game back from the injured list against the Braves on September 18th, when he gave up six earned runs on eight hits in just under three innings pitched.

o In 2020, Matz gave up 13 of his 14 home runs against righthanded batters.

o Matz will turn 30 at the end of May next year.

o His two best performances this year were his first two starts. He gave up one earned run in a six inning non-decision against Atlanta on July 25th. He then gave up three earned runs in just over five innings against Boston on July 30th.

If the overall consensus is that Matz is part of the solution and not part of the problem, it seems logical that he be used in a role that provides the highest percent chance of a successful outcome. As such, a relief role seems to be the best choice. An opponent can exploit a weakness in a starter by stacking their line-up but a reliever can exploit an opponent’s line-up by facing a specific sequence of statistically vulnerable batters…

12 comments on “Trying to find a reason to stick with Steven Matz in 2021

  • Pete

    Problem is you’re going to be paying him as a starter to work in the pen? At what? 5.5 million dollars? To be an Ollie Perez? Better to put him in a package deal. Can we at least stop pretending that next year he’ll be okay? He’s almost 30. What you see is what you get.The Mets can better utilize that money elsewhere.

  • Edwin e Pena

    Matz can bounce back, however, he is not a 2nd, 3rd or 4th starter. He is a fifth starter. He can go against the other team’s # 5 and have some success. Forget 2020, it was an outlier of his career, he can be effective . Good guy and team guy. Coach him up and get him right for 2021. Starting staff can be something like: Degrom, Peterson, Stroman, Lugo, Matz.
    2 lefties in the mix
    If Mets are putting Lugo back to the BP, then another starter is needed via trade or Free Agent.

  • Thomas M Christensen

    Matz in the beginning showed great potential but he has had some injury problems and has the problem of giving up gopher balls on counts he should be striking the batter out . He has potential still but unless he shows he’s worth the size of his salary maybe he’d do better with another team that won’t put too much pressure on him to win. I can name at least 4 teams he’d work out for ! Colorado , Pittsburg, Cinncinate & Chicago . I know there are a few players on those teams that could very well interest the Mets in turn. I know after the series there will be mucho trade talk so stand by maybe the Mets can improve for 2021 ? Who Knows !

  • Metsense

    If the Mets are seriously considering a run at the division title then they have to improve the starting pitching. They need to obtain by trade or free agency and commit to 2-3 good,new starters. Matz should not be in the initial rotation plan. Contenders don’t give away starts . Matz tendency to give up homeruns makes him suspect as a back end reliever. Matz has an option left and maybe he can be an expensive insurance policy in the minors but why should the Mets do that when he will be a free agent or out of options at the season’s end. The best thing is to try to trade him before December. Otherwise they should non-tender him because he shouldn’t be in their plans if they want to contend.

  • JimO

    ..and the Nats just released Michael Taylor*.

    *I know you guys already told me that the Mets don’t need him.

  • TJ

    The Matz decision will really be about value and whether the Mets can afford to pay him guaranteed money to be a wildcard. The pandemic economics will add more uncertainly. Starting pitching always costs a ton (see Porcello) but I expect that there will be some type of buyers market for borderline starters, which is what Matz is. I believe he can be re-signed if non-tendered, and if so, that would make more sense…providing a lower guarantee with a bunch of incentives in an environment that he is familiar with. Lastly, I don’t like the idea of signing him as a reliever. There is enough uncertainty year to year in the pen and with his penchant for throwing up the long ball, it’s not a good fit.

  • texmet

    Not a chance to trade him!!!!! Trading team would be stuck with arbitration award and have to pay him. Why would they trade anything of value? Only hope is that team and Matz agree to something reasonable (4-5 million) or team has to non-tender him making him a free agent. Hope he stays. Left handers are weird and they often blossom late in their careers. Starting lefties are also always in short supply.

  • Mike W

    I think a lot of Matz’s problems are in his head. Would really good teams like the Dodgers keep Matz as a potential starter? No, they wouldnt. They bring up pitchers like Buehler and May and have Josiah Gray waiting in the wings.

    Watching the Astros Rays game. Tampa used five, yes five rookie pitchers in tonight’s game. Plus, a $ 28 million team payroll.

    Over the last four years, what good pitchers have we brought up ?

    There you have it. Cant wait for Cohen.

  • Rich

    I doubt he goes anywhere just yet. Cohen is as rich as he is because he knows what hes doing and the first thing hes gonna do (and is doing now) is review everything, the team, the food, the stadium, the parking situation.

    Matz, along with the other guys who struggled this year, are going to get a long look from the new management team. This is a very weird year and 33 innings does not a career make. If you were a baseball fan before analytics then you know that many leftys dont mature until their late 20s. I think he will get another chance because he still has upside and hasnt thrown a lot of innings.

    Cohen is looking at $400 million in losses over the next two years. $5 or 6 million for Matz doesnt matter, we are probably $60-70 million short of where we need to be with the payroll anyway. Cohen has come into a down market and guys like him buy in down markets. He is gonna want to squeeze what he can out of what we have and augment from there. (and we have a lot) So trading or non-tendering Matz doesnt make sense right now. Can you imagine if he gets non-tendered and goes and kills it somewhere else? Not a good start for the new regime, and not the way Cohen operates.

  • TexasGusCC

    Matz in his last two full years (2018-2019) has averaged about five innings a start spanning exactly 30 starts per year. That’s terrible. Further, as pointed out by Thomas, Matz seems to lack a put-away pitch. We don’t know if he just gets too much advice or he needs to ditch certain pitches and go be a “Randy Myers-like” reliever, but he does look confused on the mound and too deliberate and thoughtful.

    Looking at his career splits, his weakest numbers seem to be in the first 25 pitches of the game. He seems to get better as the game goes along and shows no decrease in velocity or stats. But, that’s over his career. In 2019 and 2020, his numbers the third time through a lineup have been much higher. But, if his numbers career-wise were good, why did they make him a five inning pitcher all of a sudden? Too many times we all remember Matz coming out after six when he pitched well, and he probably could have gone more. Seems the organization has lost faith in Matz and he has on himself. A trade seems like the only solution that might help both sides. Let his new team put him on the mound and let him keep throwing and pitching seven innings like he used to. Pitching in front of so many personal critics probably has hurt the kid’s psyche. Or, he needs to see a sports psychiatrist

    • Name

      “Too many times we all remember Matz coming out after six when he pitched well, and he probably could have gone more.”

      Callaway deserves all the blame for this. He was consistently too early with the hook for Matz. Like you said i could point out multiple times where Matz was cruising and had a low pitch count and Callaway would just randomly take him out of the game. If there’s ever a time where a pitcher didn’t approve of his manager’s handling of him, i would imagine Matz would be high on the list.

  • JimO

    Tremendous responses. I wonder if we could get Phil Regan to work with him again.

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