New York Mets southpaw Steven Matz spoke to MLB.com from Port St. Lucie on Saturday, giving a glimpse into the players’ mindset heading into Spring Training, just three days away, and what goals he has set for himself for the upcoming season.
It appears Matz is just as excited as we are for things to get underway. When asked of his expectations of the Mets’ re-tooled pitching staff, Matz expressed clear excitement at the prospects and potential of this group.
“You saw what the starters did last year, it was really exciting,” the 27-year-old said, referring to the Mets starters’ fourth-best-in-the-NL 3.54 ERA last season. “Now Brodie [Van Wagenen]’s been adding a ton of guys, a ton of new faces, that are going to really help this team win. I think everyone is really excited [about] this year.”
An upgraded back-end of the bullpen in Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson, along with last year’s relief star Seth Lugo, incumbent Robert Gsellman, and the host of depth pieces Van Wagenen’s added to the relief corps this offseason has surely strengthened a weak spot on this roster in recent years.
The Mets’ top-notch rotation of reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, fireballer Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Jason Vargas (more to come on them in a minute), as well as Matz, should give this team a step up, for sure.
After a healthy yet up-and-down season in 2018, this season figures to be a big year for Steven Matz. He was quite straightforward when pressed about what areas he’s looking to improve upon this year.
“I learned a lot last year […] running out there 30 times was huge for me. I hope to do the same this year and I’m really excited to get the season going”, Matz said. “The biggest thing I want to work on is going deeper into games. Last year I didn’t log as many innings as I would like to. This year I want to go deep into games and win some more games.”
Matz began the season a bit slow, owning a 4.98 earned-run average, 5.42 fielding independent pitching rating, 26 strikeouts, and 16 walks over his first five starts of the year, all in April (21.2 innings pitched).
In May the lefty saw upticks in some facets of his game (2.25 ERA over five starts; 24 innings), but notched just 15 strikeouts and owned a 5.83 FIP. June (3.90 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 29 strikeouts, nine walks over five starts; 32.1 innings) was extremely promising, but July (6.07 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 29 strikeouts-to-11 walks in six starts; 29.2 innings) brought Matz right back down to earth.
After a brief, initially frightening, disabled list (never forget) stint (left flexor pronator strain; August 3 to August 16), and a forgettable loss to the Phillies in his first start back (two innings, five hits, six runs), Matz flipped a switch and finished the season on an absolute tear.
From August 26 through the end of the year (eight starts; 44.1 innings), Matz pitched to a 2.44 ERA with a 3.77 FIP/3.50 xFIP rating, 51 strikeouts, and 16 walks.
As with other members of the Mets’ staff last season, pitching coach Dave Eiland appears to have a terrific — and downright effective — course of action in mind to get players to buy into his mantra and, in turn, flourish.
Along with Matz, Jason Vargas and Zack Wheeler are two prime examples of Mets pitchers taking great strides as the season wore on. Vargas saw his first half line (8.60 ERA, 6.61 FIP) melt to 3.81 ERA and 3.92 FIP, respectively, in the second half.
Wheeler was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball in the second half of the year, pitching to a 1.68 ERA (second-best in the majors during that time), 2.53 FIP (seventh-best), with 8.76 strikeouts and 1.80 walks (12th-best) per nine innings.
If Steven Matz’ strong finish is any gauge of the steps he’s taking under Eiland’s tutelage, maybe we should expect big things from the power-southpaw this season, as well.