In his first start of 2018, Steven Matz continued his trend of poor starts. After a promising start to his career, can the young left-hander stay healthy and get his game back?
Talent and stuff were never issues for New York Mets starter Steven Matz over the course of his career.
Going back to his days at Ward Melville High School in Setauket, NY, Matz was always dominant. In his senior season, Matz won the Carl Yastrzemski award for his performance, which identified him as the best player in Suffolk County on Long Island.
The Mets drafted Matz with their 72nd overall pick in 2009 and signed him to a contract just before he was scheduled to attend Coastal Carolina University. Before Matz could make his professional debut, he began to experience elbow discomfort during his tenure in the Mets’ instructional league in 2010. He was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament, which required Tommy John surgery. Thus, began Matz career of injuries that has threatened the natural talent that flows from his left arm.
Matz didn’t make his professional debut until 2012 and was dominant in his 69 minor league starts prior to his MLB debut in 2015. Matz went 25-20 with a 2.52 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in the minors, giving the Mets’ hierarchy a vision of a left-hander to lead the organization for years to come.
Names like Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack come to mind when Mets fans think of homegrown left-handers. Mets fans dream of Matz someday joining them in the annals of Mets history as dominant left-handers.
In his first 33 starts, despite battling constant arm injuries that kept him from the rotation weeks at a time, Matz went 15-9 with a 3.03 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. The only thing that was keeping him from greatness was making consistent starts.
However, starting with his sixth start in 2017, Matz has been unable to find the success that made him one of the most promising pitchers in the NL. Entering 2018, Matz finally found himself healthy and not experiencing pain in his pitching arm for the first time in a while. Despite his improving health, Matz continued his struggles on Sunday, going just four innings while allowing four hits, three walks and three runs. Over his last nine starts, Matz is 0-7 with a 9.82 ERA and 2.02 WHIP.
Entering Sunday’s start, Matz said he felt the best he had felt in a long time during warmups. However, that feeling did not continue during the game as he was unable to locate his pitches. For just the sixth time in his 42 career starts, Matz walked three batters and for just the eighth time, allowed multiple HR in a start. Three times over his last nine starts, Matz has failed to complete more than four innings. In his six other starts, he has never gone more than five innings, despite averaging 92 pitches per start. That is a clear sign that his command is way off.
Trusting his stuff is something new pitching coach Dave Eiland is encouraging Matz to do. When his curveball isn’t consistently breaking for strikes, that also seems to affect his fastball which he couldn’t locate to save his life on Sunday.
The main issue for Matz has always been his health. The Mets are hoping that after dealing with nagging injuries his entire career, he will be able to work through his struggles now that he is healthy. His next start will most likely be over the weekend against two-time defending NL East champion (and favorite again this season) Washington Nationals. Matz is just 1-2 in his career against them, but has pitched well, posting a 2.17 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in his four starts.
One start does not define a season but if Steven Matz can’t pick it up, he’ll, once again, be just another disappointment for the New York Mets.