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Steven Matz to the New York Mets bullpen makes permanent sense

07/04/2019
Thomas Hall

The New York Mets have moved Steven Matz to the bullpen until the All-Star break, but they should probably keep him there for the rest of the season.

New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway announced that Steven Matz would be moving to the bullpen ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Yankees. However, Callaway also stated that he expects Matz to be back in the starting rotation following the MLB All-Star break.

Matz made his debut as a reliever in Wednesday night’s game against the Yankees. He came in with two runners on in the bottom of the seventh inning and was able to get Didi Gregorius to groundout to get out of trouble.

It seems as though the Mets don’t have much confidence in putting Matz back in the rotation after the Midsummer Classic. And why should they? Matz has been very inconsistent throughout the first half of the season.

Entering Wednesday, Matz owned a 4.95 ERA, 1.463 WHIP, 5.42 FIP, 2.0 HR/9, 3.3 BB/9, and an 82 ERA+. His inability to keep the ball from leaving the yard has been his biggest downfall this season.

So if a move to the bullpen can provide positive results for Matz, the Mets should then seriously consider making that move permanent for the rest of the season.

The second-round pick from 2009 has been a starter his entire career, but moving to the bullpen could be a way for Matz to save his career. Pitching out of the bullpen would be a way for the Mets to manage his workload and decide which part of the opposing lineup he faces.

Also, moving to the bullpen would allow Matz to potentially focus on three pitches to help him regain his mojo. Last month, Matz’s primary pitch, his sinker, was pounded for a .634 OPP SLG through his six starts. Which was a massive spike compared to the .298 OPP SLG that Matz recorded during his six starts in March/April.

Matz’s usage of his sinker has also gradually decreased since the first month of the season. The New York-native has gone from using his sinker from 62.55% of the time in March/April, to just 46.94% in June. So, coming out of the bullpen should allow Matz to utilize his sinker more, which in turn should help him pitch more effectively.

Becoming a three-pitch pitcher should also improve Matz’s secondary pitches. Matz has been most-effective this season when he’s using his changeup around 20% of the time. His changeup has created a 14.33% whiff percentage so far this season, which is the highest of any of his pitches.

Matz’s curveball has generated the second-highest whiff percentage of any of his pitches this season. While it did get smacked around for a .714 OPP SLG this past month, throwing it just 5% instead of 15% could provide Matz with more strikeouts instead of hard contact.

New York Mets

The pitch that Matz would need to forget about completely as a reliever is his slider. Matz has barely even thrown it much this season. So far this season, Matz’s slider has been hit for a .514 OPP SLG. Which means subtracting that pitch from his repertoire should immediately provide him with better results going forward.

Moving Matz to the bullpen for the rest of the season would create the need for a fifth starter in the Mets rotation. But, the Mets could get by without a fifth starter through July. The Mets have an off-day every Monday in July. So along with the All-Star break, the Mets would only need to use a bullpen-day once or twice this month.

The Mets may or may not still have Zack Wheeler on their roster after the trade deadline. So, the Mets could have two spots in their rotation to fill at the beginning of August. But, the Mets will have multiple players to fill those holes, without needing Matz back in the rotation.

Matz could be used as an innings eater followed by an opener similar to how the Rays utilize their rotation. Or, the Mets could decide to move Robert Gsellman back to the rotation on a trial basis. The 25-year-old hasn’t been productive coming out of the bullpen so far this season. But, being used for more than one inning could help Gsellman work through his delivery problems.

Or, the Mets could decide to bring up multiple pitchers from triple-A Syracuse. Chris Flexen, Chris Mazza and potentially Drew Gagnon could all be recalled and given an opportunity to start in the rotation.

Regardless of who eventually fills out the rest of the Mets rotation, Matz should be kept in the bullpen for the rest of the season. Following the conclusion of this season, the Mets should then consider placing Matz back into the rotation for the 2020 season, depending on his results in the second half of this season.

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