How Blue Jays’ Steven Matz overcame rough patches to thrive in August
Between Robbie Ray’s constant dominance, the rise of Alek Manoah and the roller coaster of José Berríos’ Toronto Blue Jays tenure, it’s been pretty easy to miss what Steven Matz has been up to lately.
While Matz has had a few tough times this season – and looked like a candidate to lose his rotating job following the arrival of Berríos – the southpaw enters the start of Wednesday after the best month of his career by ERA (1.30 ).
In his five starts in August, the 30-year-old has conceded just four points, and now his ERA for the season (3.81) is only 0.01 higher than Yu Darvish and his FIP. (3.79) is 0.03 lower than the pace of German Marquez. FanGraphs estimates its worth at $ 15.7 million, more than three times what the Blue Jays pay it.
While it may be unwise to overreact to a handful of starts, Matz has made a few adjustments that could help him in the home stretch of the season, and possibly into 2022. The first is a increased reliance on fastballs resulting in lower slider usage, a positive development given that hitters are hitting 0.571 against Matz’s slider this year.
More important than the southpaw’s increased use of fastballs is how he handles the pitch, especially against right-handed hitters. Due to his solid change, Matz rarely made extreme spreads, but in the first four months of the season the right-handed attackers attacked him from a .277 / .334 / .451 line – roughly the level. production of Bo Bichette.
If all the guys you come up against are hitting like Bichette, you might have to rethink your approach, and Matz was attacking the righties with fastballs from top to bottom.
In August, however, he appeared to be making a concerted effort to hammer the inner part of the plate in order to get them stuck.
That inside corner pounding, especially up and down, seemed to work wonders as the righties managed a meager .226 / .273 / .312 line against him, similar to Joe Panik’s 2021 line. When you turn Bichette into Panik, you’re doing something right – and in Matz’s case, he’s created lots of harmless pop-ups, like this mortar shot from Miguel Cabrera’s bat.
Matz’s August was one of the best five-start periods of his career in terms of popup generation.
And that has helped drive a better career stretch when it comes to removing home runs on a flyball basis.
While it’s hard to say the durability of the contact suppression numbers over such a short period of time, the way Matz recently changed the form of contact against him is impressive.
In recent starts, the southpaw has always managed to force higher, more harmless balls into the air. While it would be unfair to crown him the next Marco Estrada for now, it’s a noticeable change of pace for a guy who has struggled with the long ball for much of the season and has posted numbers atrocious contact management process in 2020.
If Matz had a breakout month making his best impression of Ray and missing every bat in sight, it would be easy to trust that he found some new gear. Instead, he actually recorded an extremely low strikeout rate (6.51 K / 9) in August while also demonstrating an unknown contact management skill set that’s harder to believe. completely, although it is supported by some tweaks to its approach.
Whether Matz’s hot August is a harbinger of things to come or not, he has more than done his part to keep the club’s playoff hopes alive. It deserves some recognition, and if he’s able to keep up his pace – or something close to it – the question of whether the Blue Jays want to invest in extending his time with the club will become much more interesting. than she had seemed for most of the season. .