Come on. It’s just spring training. Steven Matz has started World Series games! What is a little winter tune-up in the grand scheme of things?
Well, this start will be factored in to what may be the team’s biggest decision going into the 2020 season.
WHO WILL LOCK DOWN THE FIFTH AND FINAL ROTATION SPOT?
Is it gonna be Steven Matz? Or is it gonna be Michael Wacha?
So, maybe the headline is a little misleading. Maybe it should have read “BIG SPRING FOR STEVEN MATZ.”
I think it’s safe to say Rick Porcello is a lock for the rotation. Sure, he was one of the worst qualified starters in baseball last year. But, that ten million dollar price tag is going to play.
So, for all intents and purposes, it’s Wacha vs. Matz.
Personally, I think Matz has gotten a raw deal from fans. A few trips to the Injured List had Mets’ supporters calling him soft. A few mid-game meltdowns had fans calling him Jon Niese. Pitching in the shadow of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard had him labeled as a “disappointment.”
For his entire tenure as a Met, Matz was the fourth or fifth rotation option. Serving as the only lefty, Matz has pitched to a career ERA just over 4.
Present that option to any Major League team and chances are they will take it and run. But, Mets fans have higher standards, I suppose.
Guess you can’t blame them too much. They were promised “Five Aces.” Expectations should have been tempered after “Generation K,” but that’s not how things work in the Big Apple.
Well, life comes at you fast.
And after a half decade of having the luxury of a built in pitching staff, the Mets may have to look outside of the organization for pitching help going forward.
Guess what? After taking a look at the free agent starting pitchers who will be available the next few years, I predict Mets fans will be praying for Matz-like production. But, we can cross that bridge when we get to it.
While we’re on the topic though, I’d certainly like Porcello to pitch more like 2019 Matz than 2019 Porcello.
And for the record, 2019 was not a good one for Matz. He posted a 4.21 ERA, a 4.60 FIP and missed time with radial nerve discomfort. However, I’m very encouraged by his strong second half which included a complete game shutout.
You’ve heard the Brodie talking points. You may have dropped them in Met debates yourself. “Marcus Stroman was brought here to be Zack Wheeler’s replacement!”
You can spin it however you want, but our rotation today is worse than it was at the end of the 2019 season.
So, if I’m the one making the decisions, I’m going with the pitcher with more upside going forward. And that pitcher is….
I’m not a Michael Wacha fan in 2020. While it’s not hundred percent accurate to say Matz is trending upwards, Wacha is definitely trending downwards.
Wacha lost his rotation spot with the Cardinals last season, and then was even worse out of their bullpen. For a pitcher who relies so heavily on his change-up, the constant shoulder issues are a huge concern. Every season Wacha has been losing velocity on his fastball. Obviously, the change-up is not going to be as effective.
I appreciate the irony of bringing up injuries in an argument to support Steven Matz, but Wacha’s injuries have directly affected how he pitches. Every year his velocity is going down. Every year his strikeout rate is going down.
For Matz, it seems like a lot of his pitching issues are mental. We mentioned the Niese-like implosions above.
Do you know what I think? (I could be wrong.) Steven Matz, since his debut, has always had his rotation spot essentially guaranteed. I believe this competition will do wonders for him. An extra motivated Steven Matz may finally reach the heights projected for him as a prospect.
If this duel comes down to talent, I believe Matz wins easily.
Michael Wacha is a client of Brodie Van Wagenen’s former agency, CAA. He signed for 3 million dollars, but the contract is so bonus laden, he can reach double figures if he meets certain incentives.
I don’t want to accuse our GM of throwing another one of his former clients a bone, but The Mets told Wacha they plan to reserve a rotation spot for him if he is healthy.
That was quickly forgotten because the Mets signed Porcello shortly afterwards. I’ll tell you this, though. Wacha remembers.
So, leave no doubt Steven. Start today and keep going. Despite his time with the team, and the fact that Matz is the only lefty option, I still feel like Wacha has the advantage.
Maybe I’m paranoid. Maybe Brodie isn’t treating the Mets like a rest haven for his former clients.
Still. I want Steven Matz to leave NO doubt this spring.