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The Season That Was: Steven Matz

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A look at Matz’ 2021 season

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Steven Matz came to us in trade from the Mets for Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz and Josh Winckowski.

I don’t think I’d be misstating it if I said we were not terribly excited about the deal. Matz had a 9.68 ERA in 2020 (just 30 innings, but still). And he hadn’t had an ERA better than league average since 2016.

Add in that some of us still had high hopes for Reid-Foley (he pitched 20 innings for the Mets this season). Diaz beat him out with 25 innings.

I mean, we were ok with the trade (61% said they liked it), but we weren’t thrilled about picking up a rather average starter.

We had polls asking if Matz would have an ERA under 4.00 (47% of us were right) and if he would have more than 140 innings (53% of us were right).

Steven was a former top prospect, so there was hope that Pete Walker could find what prospectors saw in him. We do tend to think of Walker as a miracle worker.

Maybe we have good reason:

Standard Pitching
W L ERA G GS CG IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP
14 7 3.82 29 29 0 150.2 158 70 64 18 43 0 144 6 1 5 647 115 3.79
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/18/2021.

Baseball Reference has him at a 2.0 WAR. FanGraphs 2.8, giving him a value of $22.1 million to the Blue Jays.

Steven had a BABIP of .321 (better than his .341 in 2020). 75.4% of his baserunners were left on base (much better than the 58.6% from last year).

His FIP was 3.79, and his xFIP was 3.94.

Matz line-drive rate was 22.2% (down from 28.4), ground ball 45.5% (up from 32.6) and fly ball 32.4% (down from 38.9). 12.3% of his fly balls left the park (way down from 37.8 last year, but that was an outlier, career average was 16.4).

His strikeout rate was down from last year (22.3% from 25.4), as was his walk rate (6.6%, from 7.0).

Steven’s soft contact rate was up (18.9% from 12.5), and hard contact was down (27.1% from 39.6).

LHB (.276/.324/.396) and RHB (.261/.319/.408) hit him much the same.

He was somewhat better on the road (3.77 ERA, batters hit .256/.307/.387) than in our various home parks (3.90, batters hit .256/.307/.387).

Steven’s was much better in the second half (2.91, batters hit .256/.310/.360) than in the first half (4.72, batters hit .273/.329/.448).

Ray by month:

  • April: 4-0, 4.00 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .216/.292/.343 in 27 innings.
  • May: 2-1, 4.41 ERA in 6 starts. Batters hit .293/.333/.444 in 32.2 innings.
  • June: 1-1, 6.39 ERA in 3 starts. Batters hit .315/.393/.574 in 12.2 innings.
  • July: 1-3, 4.50 ERA in 4 starts. Batters hit .297/.329/.500 in 18.0 innings.
  • August: 2-1, 1.30 ERA in 5 starts. Batters hit .226/.281/.302 in 27.2 innings.
  • September: 4-0, 3.86 in 6 starts. Batters hit .266/.324/.375 in 32.2 innings.

The Jays were 15-14 in his starts. They averaged 6.02 runs. There were 9 starts when they scored 3 or fewer runs.

Days of rest:

  • 4 days, 13 times: 4.68 ERA.
  • 5 days, 8 times: 3.64.
  • 6 days or more, 8 times: 2.70.

Times through the order:

1st: Batters hit .246/.291/.369.

2nd: Batters hit .266/.327/.395.

3rd: Batters hit .303/.366/.504.

His best start, by GameScore, was his first start of the season, a 73, April 5th, on the road against the Rangers. He went 6.2, allowed 2 hits, 1 earned, 1 walk with 9 strikeouts.

His worst stare, by GameScore, was April 28th, a 22, in Dunedin against the Nationals. He went 3.2, allowed 8 hits, 6 earned, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts.

The most pitches he threw in a game was 112, May 25th against the Yankees. The least, 48, June 30th, against the Mariners.

He averaged 88.2 pitches a start.

Matz averaged 5.2 innings per start.


I don’t think anyone expected Matz to have the season he did.

The only real question is, ‘does he get a Qualifying Offer?’ It is easy for me to say it, but I would. $18.4 million for a season doesn’t seem that far out of line for Steven. But, of course, it isn’t my money. But I’d like to think he can have the same sort of season next year. If he does the same, he’s well worth the money.

It isn’t like he was throwing harder than in the past. The speed of his sinker, slider, change and curve were all about the same as in the past. And he threw each about the same percentage of the time as in the past. He was just doing it better.

He’s turning 31 next May, so I’d likely not sign him to a long-term contract, but one or two years wouldn’t be out of line.

Of course, maybe the team would rather look for the next guy instead.

I wonder no matter where he signs next year if a small tip will be sent to Pete Walker.

There were times, during the season when I thought Matz was likely to be moved to the bullpen. He had a down stretch there in the middle of the season. It seemed to be brought on by troubles with RISP. They seemed to get righted. On the season, batters hit .256/.323/.419 against him with RISP, but, for a bit there, batters were hitting over .350 in that spot.

Where ever he ends up, it will be interesting to follow his career.

Poll

Would you give Steven Matz a Qualifying Offer?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Yes
    (263 votes)
  • 26%
    No
    (96 votes)
359 votes total Vote Now

Poll

For his 2021 season, I would grade Steven Matz an

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    A
    (19 votes)
  • 34%
    B+
    (131 votes)
  • 42%
    B
    (159 votes)
  • 14%
    B-
    (56 votes)
  • 2%
    C+
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    C
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    C-
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    D+
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    D-
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (1 vote)
377 votes total Vote Now