The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Meet the Matz

Yesterday afternoon in Queens, New York, starting pitcher Steve Matz, making his Major League debut against the Cincinnati Reds, watched as the first batter he ever faced, Brandon Phillips, smacked a lead-off homer over the left-field wall.

The home crowd of 29,635 could never have guessed what would happen next.

Matz, apparently, had the Reds right where he wanted them.

The Long Island lefty, who grew up a Mets fan, quickly recovered his composure and shut down the Reds the rest of the way (other than a Todd Frazier solo homer in the 4th) on two runs and five hits through seven and two-thirds innings pitched.  Matz fanned six while walking three.  Of his 110 pitches, he threw 72 for strikes.

That manager Terry Collins let Matz go out and start the eighth inning after Matz had already thrown 90+ pitches through seven innings had as much to do with the Mets tired bullpen as it did Matz fine performance.

Or maybe it was Matz’s bat that Collins did not want removed from the game.

Matz became the first pitcher in the past hundred years to produce three hits and four runs batted in during his Major League debut.  His double in the second inning over the outstretched glove of Billy Hamilton plated the Mets first two runs of the game.  Matz also singled in the fifth inning, then lashed another single to center in the sixth-inning, driving in yet two more runs.

Neither Matz hitting nor his pitching performances in this game can easily be written off as flukes.  Before his call-up, Matz was batting .304 in Triple-A Las Vegas, and his earned run average through 14 starts this year was 2.19 with 94 strikeouts in 90 innings.  Said Vegas manager Wally Backman, “Matz is just bored down here.”

Just a few years ago, however, yesterday’s amazing performance was not an event that anyone would have readily predicted.  In 2010, Matz underwent what these days seems to be the inevitable Tommy John surgery.  It took him nearly two years to fully recover.  While many pitchers tend to recover and return to full health, surgery on a young arm is surgery, and no two cases will ever turn out exactly the same way.

So it was with great joy yesterday, for his family and friends in attendance as well as for Mets fan everywhere, that all of Matz’s hard work over the past few years has paid off with such unexpected dividends.

The Mets, who now enjoy one of baseball’s finest young rotations (if not the best) of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom and now Steve Matz (as well as veteran lefty Jon Niese and Jabba the Bartolo Colon), along with the currently recovering from T.J. surgery, Zack Wheeler, have Mets fans everywhere giddy over what the future may hold for New York’s senior circuit franchise.

While it is obvious that the Mets need to go out and get a bat, in the meantime no one could blame manager Terry Collins if he is tempted to use Steve Matz as a pinch-hitter.

That the 40-37 Mets (who have now won four home games in a row after enduring a terrible road seven-game losing streak) are still in the playoff hunt nearly halfway through the season is a testament primarily to their fine pitching.

Historically, this has nearly always been the case with the Mets when times are good.  Steve Matz and his mates in the rotation could take this team further than anyone, including this writer, would have predicted at the beginning of this season.  This might not be ’69 or ’73 all over again, but God knows it’s not 1963, 1981 or 2014, either.

That Matz was born and raised less than fifty miles from, and shares a birthday with this writer only makes me want to root that much more for this 24-year old phenom.

The only question is, what could he possibly do for an encore?



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23 thoughts on “Meet the Matz

  1. Bill….why in the world would the Mets acquire Tyler Clippard!? Jesus, they could have conceivably got Zobrist….just….mind boggling.

    • I was sort of wondering that myself. I don’t know, but maybe they just couldn’t work out a deal for Zobrist (assuming they even tried.) I’m not against getting Clippard. They’ve been pretty hard on their bullpen through the first four months of this year, but yeah, given a choice between the two, I would take Zobrist.

      • Jason M. on said:

        And now we have Cespedes in lieu of Zobrist. I *eagerly* await Gary’s feedback on Cespedes. 🙂

      • I’m still in a mild state of shock over the Mets pulling off that deal. An actual MLB power-hitter? Yikes! I need a drink to steady my nerves. Throw in another fine performance by Matt Harvey last night, a Wilmer Flores walk-off, and they held Bryce Harper to 0-5. Let’s just freeze this moment in amber so future archaeologists can evaluate it. Cheers, Bill

      • And yes, Jerry Seinfeld really did tweet “Now there is a Cespedes for the rest of us”. Not a Mets fan, but def a Seinfeld fan, and that was classic!

  2. dr. strangelove on said:

    What could he possibly do for an encore? Today, we have that answer … 6IP, 2H, Zero ER, 8K. If there was a reality check, it was his 0-for-3 performance at the plate, although he did pick up an RBI on his 4th-inning ground out.

    • And the best part is, his bat wasn’t even necessary today. His teammates scored about a weeks worth of runs for him. Wish they could have spread some of that offense out over the course of two or three games. But yeah, Matz is very impressive.

  3. Jason M. on said:

    I’ll admit I thought this team was gonna roll over and die after dropping below .500, but they’ve continued to fight back. The Mets’ medical and coaching staffs have *no idea* about proper pitching mechanics; they lead the league in preventable injuries, medical misdiagnoses, and Tommy John surgeries. One might reasonably thank that the Wilpon Gang collects more money in insurance policies than they pay out in salaries.

    That said, there are so many potentially impressive young arms. All we need now is a proper third baseman. And shortstop. And second baseman. And left fielder. And ….

    • I really don’t think upper management cares all that much if the Mets make the playoffs this season. The young arms will excite enough fans to fill enough seats for them to claim that progress is being made. Then, in the off-season, they might sign another mediocre player to fill one of about four holes in the lineup. Instead of waiting for Wright to come back this year (and we have no idea how effective he’ll be when and if he does come back), they should go out and get a 3rd baseman (Todd Frazier, perhaps, or even Martin Prado?), then worry about how to deal with two third basemen later.
      Thanks for the comment,

  4. One of the many great things about WordPress for me is meeting three Mets fans; you, Glen, and Debra (Ptero 9). I had never really experienced that feeling you all seem to share, that misfortune lurks around the next corner. Makes for great writing as well. I hope the Mets and Brewers are still talking trade.

    • “Misfortune lurks around the next corner.” Well put, my friend. Yes, I do hope the Mets might actually make a deal, but I’m not holding my breath. Glad to hear from you, man.

  5. Reblogged this on The Ball Caps Blog and commented:
    Another reason to like the Mets.

  6. Mike Cornelius on said:

    A most impressive debut, and a great job by you as always.


  7. The funny thing about the Mets…their pitchers are doing a nice job at the plate: DeGrom can hit, Syndegaard has wielded Mjolnir to the tune of .250, Niese is on the right side of the Mendoza line, and even Bartolo is hitting about half his weight.

    • That’s true. Good thing they’re in the N.L. where the pitchers can hit, otherwise, if they were in the A.L., Sandy Alderson would have some truly inferior DH batting 5th, doing a worse job than these kid pitchers are doing (and Colon as well.)
      Thanks for stopping by,

  8. I was absolutely blown away by Matz’ and Sunday’s debut game. Mets fans really need some kind of boost after enduring so much humiliation (which of course we’re used to 🙂 ).

    If ever there were a game I wish I could have been at not-Shea to see live, this was the one. Mets and Long Island pride all rolled up into, not only a big win, but a game of historic proportions.

    Let’s go Matz!


  9. If he keeps hitting like that, maybe they should move him to the outfield as the second coming of Babe Ruth. 🙂

    • Or, if the unfortunate happens, and he blows out his arm again, there’s always the example of Smokey Joe Wood, who ended up being a pretty fair hitting OF with, I believe, Cleveland?
      Thanks, man

  10. Allan G. Smorra on said:

    Bill, I love your style of writing. It just flows with information and personal insight. Allan

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