Matz In The Bullpen Must Be Temporary

Seeing how Steven Matz has struggles of late, the Mets were wise to put him in the bullpen until the All-Star Break. If nothing else, you don’t want a pitcher with a 7.36 ERA in June getting another start if you can avoid it. Preferably, you’d like to get him straightened out.

This is an opportunity for Matz. He has a chance to work on things. With his coming out of the bullpen one area he can work in is doing better the first time through the lineup. In his career, batters are hitting .260/.334/.453 off of him. That’s worse than his second and third time through the lineup.

That’s even more pronounced with him with batters hitting .298/.374/.645 the first time through the lineup. That’s a large reason why he has an 11.40 first inning ERA which drops precipitously to 1.20 in the second inning.

For Matz to be an effective starter again, he’s going to have to figure out these issues. More than that, the Mets need him to figure things out because they don’t have a Plan B.

It is expected Zack Wheeler‘s days as a Met are numbered. He’s a pending free agent, and short of an extension (don’t hold your breath), the Mets will be moving him at the trade deadline. Fifth starter Jason Vargas has an $8 million team option. Between his behavior and complete inability to routinely go five innings, the Mets are likely to and should decline his option.

That leaves two spots to fill in the rotation. If you move Matz out of the rotation, that’s three. The Mets don’t have the organizational depth to handle that.

Anthony Kay may or may not be ready, and he’s not yet in a position to be penciled into the rotation. David Peterson is further away than Kay. Mets haven’t seen enough from Corey Oswalt, and they’ve seen less from Walker Lockett. There are few and far between rotation options past them.

There are interesting free agent options, but the Mets do not operate with the type of payroll which would permit them to sign three quality starters. Based upon last offseason, the last thing you want is for Van Wagenen to swing a trade to fill out the rotation.

No, the Mets need Matz in the rotation if for no other reason than the team has no other options, and they have limited resources. Putting Matz in the bullpen may prove to be the smart move because it could help him figure out how to better handle batters the first time through the lineup. However, even if he thrives there the Mets cannot make this a permanent move.

That is, unless, they’re going to finally step up and act like a big market team. If that’s the case, all bets are off. Of course, we know that isn’t happening, so Matz must stay in the rotation.

24 thoughts on “Matz In The Bullpen Must Be Temporary”

  1. David Klein says:

    Are we at the point where we can say Matz is not only a bad pitcher but maybe very bad? The last three years his Fangraphs war is 0.3, 0.9 and 0.1 that is dreadful and sadly next year he goes from your fourth starter to your third and you would have a very hard time competing with him in that spot.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      One of the issues with Matz is he get swept up in the five aces hype. I’m guilty of that as well as my enthusiasm for him at times ignored the obvious.

      Matz is really a middle of the rotation starter. However, he’s not pitching like one right now. He’s got to get things ironed out, and he has to change what has become an all too obvious pitch sequencing.

  2. OldBackstop says:

    His ccomplete inability to go five innings?

    June 16, gave up one hit, pinch hit for in the 4th (by deGrom). 72 pitches. Leaves with lead, bullpen blows it.
    June 26, three hits, pulled with a 4-1 lead, 77 pitches. Bullpen nlows lead
    April 19. 2 hits, one run, pulled after 75 pitches in the 4th
    April 26, 3 hits, one run, pulled after four with 81 piyvhes
    April 30 3 hits, one run, 83 pitches pulled in 4th with 84 pitche
    May 26 pulled after 5, one unearned run, 81 pitches

    On and on. In 13 starts this year, he has given up 2 earned runs or less 10 time.s In only one of those games was he allowed over 90 pitches.

    The number one reason to fire Mickey Calloway is his constant yanking of Vargas.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Six starts he was out before five. That’s nearly half the time. He routinely cannot go five.

      1. OldBackstop says:

        Dom Sith cannot routinely play first base. He barely has any starts. When he plays he can routinely only get through an inning or two.

        That’s your logic.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          You’re comparing a bench player to a starter, so no, that’s not my logic.

  3. Blair M. Schirmer says:

    I was off the Matz train early. It’s tempting to keep rooting for guys who had success, however brief, but it can be a useful corrective to just stand the old saying on its head, and “Scout the Stat Line.”

    I’m not saying we should always do this, by any means–but it’s remarkable how often the stat line lets us see through the hype and our own, obscuring fandom. When everyone to their seventh cousin was hyping Dom Smith in 2017, a simple look at his previous two years with the air let out of those stats, particularly his BABIP and road stats in AAA, showed he had little chance at that point of hitting for enough power to succeed in the majors. He needed at least another year of development in the minors.

    When fans in general last year and this offseason were fretting about Alonso and whether he’d hit enough, or whether his fielding would be so horrible as to warrant a trade to the DH-league, a plain reading of his stat line at the plate showed he dominated all 5 levels of the minors while his fielding was acceptable. There was literally no precedent for a kid like that not hitting enough to warrant a starting spot, and no need to spend on a back up plan, either, on a team with far too many weak roster spots elsewhere.

    Or take Zack Wheeler. How often do pitchers with all of 1/3 of a brilliant season under their belts after six years in the majors, pitch extremely well in their seventh year? The answer is “rarely.” Too many fans were talking about Wheeler as the Mets’ third #1 starter, when the chances of that were slim. The FO of course was happy to encourage such talk. It let them treat the rotation as settled, but even journeymen like Dillon Gee have stretches comparable to Wheeler’s last two months of 2018, and it was really only Wheeler’s last 10 starts that were brilliant–his first four starts in July 2018 resulted in an ERA approaching 4.

    The there’s Steven Matz. Between 2015 and 2016 he threw 168 very good innings. Promising, but limited. And that was it. As we all know he suffered a tear in 2010 requiring TJS, then he pitched through 2016 with a severe bone spur, had surgery, began 2017 on the DL with a flexor strain, struggled, had problems with his ulnar nerve, was DL’ed again, and had season-ending elbow surgery in August 2017. That’s a guy who is unlikely to ever again pitch well with any kind of durability.

    That’s also a guy an actual contender for 2018 would list as one of their scrap heap guys, in their #6-10 pile along with pitchers named Oswalt and Flexen. Instead, since they were in Pretend Contend mode, Matz was the Mets designated #4.

    Matz’s 2018 was distinctly unimpressive. His year wasn’t the year of a #4 starter on a contender. If you look at the #4 SPs on contenders, they’re all better than Matz. That he had hung in for 30 starts and 150 innings with a slightly below average ERA for an SP was slightly encouraging, but his peripherals, as summarized by his dismal 4.62 FIP, were not. Again, Matz had a year that on a contender would move him into the #6-10 group. Instead, again, he was the Mets #4.

    The current bullpen move is something the Mets should have tried last season, after Matz had gotten to around 100 innings–to work on his 1st inning jitters, but also to limit his workload while seeing if relief was a role that made sense for him, given the Mets desperately needed to upgrade a rotation spot for 2019 (as much as the FO pretended otherwise).

    Are they going to keep faking Matz, Starter? Probably. They’re only moving him because they’re still pretending to be in the postseason race, but with Wheeler departing, probably through trade, the Mets aren’t going to add two starters in addition to picking up Vargas’ 2020 option, something that’s looking increasingly likely with every adequate start (hey, I’m just the messenger). They’re probably not adding any starters unless another Gio Gonzalez falls from the sky. So unless Matz is completely hopeless from here on out, next year’s rotation is going to be deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, Vargas, and Kay. Oswalt will hang around as their sixth starter.

    The biggest problem with Matz is that he simply looks done as an effective starter. He’s already 28. He had 4/5ths of a nifty season a long time ago, and 2015-2016 get further away every year–while even 2016 was marred by injury and pain. The bullpen is a good place for him. He might learn to be productive there. It’s probably the only place he still might be.

    1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

      btw, it’s interesting to note that Fangraphs adores Wheeler. Their version of WAR has him 19th among all eligible starters. deGrom’s at #8. Syndergaard’s at #28. (bWAR has Wheeler at 1.9 WAR, or t30th–eminently respectable.) That’s 3 #1s, or one 1A and two 1Bs. And the Mets are still 8 games under .500.


      1. metsdaddy says:

        This is why I keep saying the Mets biggest problem is their defense.

        1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

          Their defense is just brutal. In case you missed it, here’s one from Fangraphs all the way back on May 8 2019.

          While a sabr team like the Astros were preventing +17 runs (so, almost 2 wins) in just the first 6 weeks by shifting, the Mets were actually punting runs at -2 when they shifted–one of just 5 teams to go negative when shifting. So much for Wags’ “analytics department.”

          Their DRS was also 64 points worse than that of the league-leading Dodgers. As the linked article notes, a swing of 42 or 43 equals 0.7 runs per game saved or lost on defense, and that’s if those missed plays only result in singles, which they surely do not. 64, then, is right around 1 run at the absolute minimum. Imagine trying to pitch when your defense costs you AT LEAST a run every time out compared to a well-crafted defensive team, and at least half a run compared to a merely average defense. It’s an insuperable burden for a pitching staff unless your offense is about the best in the NL–and the Mets offense, 9th in runs scored, clearly is not that.

    2. metsdaddy says:

      Scouting the stat line doesn’t typically tell you anything other than the ability to play at a particular level.

      1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

        There does exist solid evidence that minor league stat lines accurately predict major league performance. MLEs, aka Major League Equivalencies have long been used by teams (well, as a Met fan, I have to add “by most teams”) to predict how players in the minors will fare in the majors. It’s an extremely reliable tool.

        As early as the 1980s Bill James was writing that properly viewed, minor league statistics are no less predictive of future MLB performance than prior MLB performance. It was a huge leap in our understanding of how to predict future performance.

        As for Alonso, there just weren’t any comparable players–comps–who failed. It wasn’t just his predictive minor league performance translated into their major league equivalencies that was so impressive, it was that his most comparable players in the minors all succeeded in the majors. It was difficult to find comps, as well. The number of players who not just succeed but dominate at all 5 levels from low A through AAA and do so their first time through at a young age is vanishingly small.

        Alonso’s closest comp was Giancarlo Stanton, and even Stanton fumbled in his first-go round in 341 PAs in AA. Doing so at age 19 is hardly cause for upset and he crushed AA in his next go round the following year, but Alonso on the other hand completely dominated AA his first time through. He was a monster, yet the Mets tended to treat him as a mere competitor for the 1B job, when by September 2018 they should have inked him in for 150 starts a season in the majors for at least the next 3 years.

        It’s tempting to say Van Wagenen pulled off a rare good move in bringing up Alonso and starting the season with him, but given it’s a lost year, the Mets may well regret losing out on Alonso’s age 30 season in 2025, his first FA year.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          I haven’t seen any solid evidence of a correlation. For every Alonso, you get a Taijeron or Campbell. There’s also a Lugo with terrible Triple-A number. Scouting requires much more than looking at stat lines.

          1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

            I never said it didn’t, which is why I wrote, explicitly, “I’m not saying we should always do this, by any means….” Not sure why you would ignore that.

            As for solid evidence of correlation, I’ll take Bill James’s evidence over 3 decades, thanks.

            Wrt Taijeron, he nicely makes my point. Old for his level (a 23 yo in the Sally League is an antique. Those players rarely succeed), couldn’t make it to AAA in a bereft system until he was 26, problems in the field–those guys are never more than spare OFers, at best. So does Campbell, who had similar problems. Iffy in the field, a problematic corner guy, and he was weak in his first 200 PAs in AA at 23. As a repeater at 24 he was even worse. At 25 he didn’t have enough power for a corner guy (his slugging MLE was under .400) and was still stuck in AA. That’s JD Davis-lite, at best. As for Lugo, he already had a track record of age-appropriate success given his arm problems, moving steadily up through the system, and he had been successful in LV before the Mets decided to repeat him. It’s LV. You have to account for park. He was also doing well at the single most important marker for a pitcher: K/9.

            Age is everything, as is succeeding your first time through, in addition to having a rapidly improving glove at a position you’ve focused on. Alonso had all of those things going for him. Taijeron and Campbell had none of them.

  4. Saul’s Colorist says:

    I hope the assignment will help Matz focus better on the “first time around.”

    Yet, does Matz get bent out of shape on a bad outfield play?

    Does he have a thick skin, short memory, high confidence and relentlessness that some effective relievers have.

    Is he a match up delight for the Mets against lefties?

    Can he pitch often!

    Can he warm up quickly?

    Are they using him in long relief in non competitive games to help him take a step back and then two forward?

    So if Matz is in the pen by the trading deadline, Vargas on the block and not coming back …. Wheeler gone who are the MLB proven starters for next year?

    – de Grom
    – Syndergaard

    Well at least Saul, Fred and Jeff have less salaries to pay in Sept?

    More $.10 Meals on HRs?
    More money for The Katz Institute for Women?

    I mean I

    1. Railriders AAA says:

      Hey, those Syracuse Jet starters give us fits!
      We are a first place AAA team in the NYY system.
      We know baseball.
      You guys just bringing back deGrom and the Thor?
      Should not be a huge challenge.
      Matz reminds me of that Oliver chap the Mets had in 2006, same role?
      You guys can not afford Wheeler… he will get paid here in the Bronx
      The guy may have not hit his ceiling.
      We can use Vargas as a swing man.

      1. metsdaddy says:

        You’re actually bragging your Triple-A team is in first place?

        How sad

        1. Gothamist says:

          I think everyone is saying that either the Wilpons are broke and can not even imagine affording a potential future Cy Young winner in Zach Wheeler?


          that there is finally a bottom’s up rebuild?

          Keeping Noah until free agency and de Grom, a replacement for David Wright as face of their investment

          McNeil, Nido, Alonso, Rosario, Diaz, Familia as the seven centerpieces.

          The other 18… who knows for next year…. possibly Nimmo retiring, Smith traded, Cespedes, Lowry and others 2020 being last year on contracts, other players with control trying to salvage what is possible.

          There really is that little of what a top ten team would want to acquire for the playoffs? Sure, Seth Lugo has value, but how much? Would anyone take Cano for free? He can not catch up to a 94.

          THIS IS THE PLAN?

          They turn to their farm system, international acquisition machine and first city NY quality financial girth, marketing, analytics and intelligence…. and rebuild faster than the Atlanta Braves

          1. metsdaddy says:

            I’m not sure there is a plan.

    2. Blair M. Schirmer says:

      At this point, given the cost of even mediocre starters, unless the Mets are overwhelmed at the trade deadline they’re definitely bringing Vargas back. Say he just pitches to his norm from here on out, meaning he’ll fade a little–he’ll end the year with something like 6-6, 120 IP, 25 starts, an ERA around 3.80, ERA+ around 105, a FIP around 4.40…

      That’s perfect for the Mets and their Pretend to Contend approach to team building. They’re not looking to build a contender–they’re just looking to fake a contender as cheaply as possible.

      Last offseason Matt Harvey appears to have gotten from the Angels twice what Vargas will cost the 2020 Mets, and that was after Harvey had a season very much like the above with the Reds–where to get to even that modest seasonal performance means we have to throw out Harvey’s disastrous April with the Mets.

      It’s really, really likely the Mets are going to go into 2020 with deGrom, Syndergaard as their only 2 real starters. They’re going to pretend Vargas is a #3, that Matz is a #4 (unless he completely flames out), and they’ll bring up Kay as their #5, ready or not. There doesn’t seem to be any money in the crib and there are plenty of holes elsewhere.

      We might see someone like Gio Gonzalez brought aboard if his salary is in the neighborhood of 3m, but surely no one believe the Mets are going to buy out Vargas for 2m and sign a real starter for 3 years and 13-15m per? It’s just not what they do.

      1. Yankee Farm Playoff Success Matters says:

        Let Wheeler go!

        We do not know his ceiling and someone might want to find out and give him $22 x 4. Now if Wheeler was everyday like Cano?
        Can Wheeler field those tweeter pop ups in shallow right field?

        Start next year w Noah and Jake

        Sign Gio, sign Harvey, make Font a starter, throw Kay in ….
        They can get a five man rotation… easy

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Wheeler is still a good pitcher. Be wary about just letting him go.

  5. Gothamist says:

    We could have used Matz tonight!
    It probably was a great night for focusing on single HRs, even for those batters facing no one on, trailing by four in the later innings.
    Robinson almost got one HR, off that pitch an up in the zone 86 mph —change up….

    So so close!

    1. metsdaddy says:

      I didn’t get not using him after Vargas. You knew Font was going to put that game out of reach.

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