In 2016, Matz began his season on a rough note. In his first start, he allowed 7 earned runs on 6 hits and 2 walks in only 1.2 IP. However, for the next two months of the season, Matz was unhittable. He recovered to post a 3.68 ERA in the month of April and only got better from there. In May, Matz posted a miniscule 1.31 ERA in 24.1 innings, and looked like the top-rotation starter that the Mets knew he could become. A struggle in June paired with a regression in July and August gave Matz a 3.40 ERA in 132.1 innings in 2016. Matz would learn that his summer struggles were health related, due to bone spurs in this left elbow. With his return looking increasingly unlikely, the Mets shut down Matz for season-ending surgery to remove the spurs. While Matz did not complete his first full season, both his surface and underlying numbers proved that he was very successful when healthy. The Mets expected him to be a key rotation cog for the 2017 season.
Steven Matz would not throw another major-league pitch until June of 2019, plagued by various setbacks in his return from surgery. His first start was a shutdown start of 1-run ball over seven innings. Matz looked every bit like the dominant starter he was in 2015 in his return from surgery, as he pitched to the tune of a 2.67 ERA in the month of June. The same could not be said for the months of July and August. A series of atrocious starts led to his ERA ballooning to a massive 6.08. This was a far cry from his ERA as low as 2.12 early in July. After being smacked around by the Yankees in his final start, Matz was placed on the injured list due to an irritated ulnar nerve. It was reported that some pitches in his arsenal were impossible to throw due to severe pain in his elbow, which explained the massive decline in production. Compared to Tommy John and other major elbow surgeries, this is a very mild procedure that did not usually affect production. If he could manage to stay on the field, the Mets expected him to become dominant once again.
Before the dominant part of his game could return, Matz needed to find a way to stay on the field. That’s what his 2018 season was all about. While his peripherals were mediocre (5-11, 3.97 ERA, 152 SO, 25 HR), there are two numbers that stand out: 30 GS and 154 IP. It was clear through the months of April and early May that Matz was trying to discover how to pitch while returning from injury, but also trying to discover how to pitch in a way that would keep him healthy. This led to mixed results — Matz had a 4.42 ERA on May 8th but brought that all the way down to a 3.31 ERA on June 13th — which was to be expected due to his time away from the game. A few terrible outings combined with a minor elbow issue (2 missed starts) elevated his ERA to a 4.60 on August 16th. However, Matz put it together to finish the season and ended with that earned-run average back under four. The importance of 2018 was not results, it was that Steven Matz managed to start 30 games for the first time in his major league career.
All of the ups and downs in the career of Steven Matz has led to this point. It is 2019, and the Mets’ are two years out of the postseason, yet seemingly “all in” on winning. Matz is slated as the No. 4 starter; however, with the inconsistent Wheeler in front of him and the ineffective Vargas behind him, he may need to be better than a No. 4 starter. Three games into the season, Matz has a 1.65 ERA, which is good for 8th in the entire major leagues. He has only given up 3 earned runs in the early season. Every game it seems there is an inning that Matz doesn’t have it, and every game Matz has issues with his pitch count. So far though, Steven Matz has faced tough lineups and has navigated them with poise like the No. 2 starter he has shown glimpses of throughout his career.
Every time Steven Matz has been healthy, he has been extremely successful. The issue has always been that he has struggled to stay healthy. Following a 2018 in which Matz proved he can be healthy for a full season, it is not unrealistic to expect a successful season. Of course it is not sustainable for a pitcher of Matz’s caliber to have an earned-run average under 2, but an ERA between 2.50 and 3.50 seems completely possible. If the Mets can receive that level of production, teams could have a real problem facing a rotation of deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and Wheeler.