Thus far in 2016, Matt Harvey, Bartolo Colon, and Noah Syndergaard have been dominating the back pages of the New York tabloids while another member of the Mets' starting rotation, Steven Matz has been quietly dominating batters.
Matz, who was drafted by the Mets in 2009 and made his major league debut in 2015, had a rough start to the 2016 season, lasting only 1 2/3 innings against the Miami Marlins on April 11 while giving up seven runs on six hits, including one home run to Giancarlo Stanton. Since then he hasn't lost a game, has given up only six runs total, and his shortest outings were six inning performances on April 29 and May 9—both Mets wins.
In his start against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, Matz pitched eight innings of shutout ball, which marked the fourth time he had gone at least six innings without giving up a run. Wednesday was also his longest outing of the season. Since that atrocious first start of the season, Matz has lowered his ERA from 37.80 to 2.36. In his last four starts, he's averaged seven strikeouts. His season high of nine occurred in his second start of the year when he rebounded nicely to last seven innings while only giving up three hits — no runs — against the Indians. And since that start against Cleveland, Matz has ranked first in MLB in ERA (1.13).
When looking at his splits, it's interesting to note that he does much better on the road than he does at Citi Field, at least by ERA. One the road it's a minuscule 1.32, but in Queens it's 3.63. Another fascinating split is day/night; Matz thrives during the day. He's 3-0 and has not given up a run in just over 22 innings pitched. He's also issued only three walks while striking out 24 batters during the day.
At night, it's a different story for Matz. He's not awful, but his numbers are quite different. At night his ERA jumps to 4.36, and he's given up 31 hits compared to the nine he's given up during the day. One similar number is strikeouts. He's struck out 26 batters at night. He's also given up three home runs at night while not yet falling victim to the long ball during the day. While not statistically an indicator of much, they're interesting to point out.
So what's Matz doing right? He's inducing a lot of ground balls. Right now his ground ball rate is sitting right around 56 percent; he doesn't give up a lot of line drives (19.6 percent) or fly balls (26.2 percent).
While there has been a slight dip in his velocity from April to May, it has happened on all of his pitches. The difference in velocity between his four-seam fastball and his offspeed pitches is relatively the same, so it hasn't affected how hitters are seeing his offerings.
That's another thing about Matz that's an advantage to him. He has four pitches, and he throws all four well. Matz may not throw the ball as hard as his teammate Noah Syndergaard — Matz will hit 95 at his max — but right now, he doesn't need to. He's striking guys out at a high rate without having to hit 100 mph on the radar gun.
When batters are making contact with Matz's pitches, it's not hard contact. His Hard% (Percentage of balls in play that were classified as hit with hard speed) is only 23.9 percent. MLB average for starters is 30.8 percent.
Right now, Matz is 7-1 on the year, and even though win-loss record is not the ultimate measure of a pitcher's success, it's fun to note that both Bartolo Colon and Jacob deGrom finished with 14 wins in 2015 after a full season.
If Matz continues to pitch the way he's been pitching all season, he could hit that 14 win total by the All-Star Break.
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Stacey Gotsulias is a contributing writer of Beyond the Box Score. She also contributes to The Hardball Times and writes about the New York Yankees for It's About The Money and BP Bronx. You can follow her on Twitter at @StaceGots.