If you asked a Mets fan on June 1 of last year who the best pitcher on the team was, he or she might have told you about the amazing run that Steven Matz was experiencing. The southpaw had just rolled off eight straight starts of two earned runs or fewer to lower his ERA to 2.28 with 53 strikeouts and 11 walks. He hadn’t even thrown 100 innings as a member of the major league roster, but Matz was pitching like the rock of the rotation.
Fast forward back to the present, and Mets fans are less confident in Matz due to a shoulder strain and a bone spur injury that combined to cut his 2016 campaign short in August. After dominating the first two months of the season, the young lefty crashed to Earth in June with a 5.74 ERA during the month. Matz rebounded in July and looked to be back to his early-season self when he took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning against San Diego on August 14.
Unfortunately, that would be the last game pitched by Matz in 2016. A seemingly mild shoulder injury eventually sent him to the disabled list before ending his season when he aggravated it in late August. And so the 2016 book closed on Matz with a 3.40 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 132.1 innings.
Compared to his breakout debut campaign in which he recorded a 2.27 ERA in 35.2 innings, Matz in 2016 improved on his strikeout, walk, and ground ball rates to improve his FIP from 3.61 to 3.39. He might not be the most exciting or famous member of New York’s starting rotation, but Matz is just as important to the Mets’ future success as guys like Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey.
If Matz can rediscover the consistency he had in early 2016 and avoid the injuries that have limited him to fewer than 200 innings in two big league seasons, then he can give the Mets the solid mid-rotation presence they lost when Bartolo Colon signed with the Braves. He might even move into the ace conversation that has so far been dominated by his more popular teammates.