After a 2020 season that included a scratch from the starting rotation and some time in the bullpen, Steven Matz recently went “back to the basics” with former pitching coach Phil Regan to fix his mistakes from last season. In nine total games and six starts with the Mets in 2020, the left-hander put up a 9.68 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP.
Unsurprisingly, these numbers forced Luis Rojas to shift Steven Matz into a bullpen role. One thing to consider is that he only made six starts during the shortened 2020 MLB season. Compare this to 2018 and 2019, where he made 30 starts in each season and accumulated a 3.97 and 4.21 ERA, respectively.
Steven Matz and Phil Regan In Florida
To try and fix his mistakes ahead of training camp and spring training, Steven Matz met with Phil Regan, the Mets’ pitching coach in 2019. The two have had a positive relationship and met down in Port St. Lucie last month for five days.
Matz used the facilities of the Port St. Lucie Mets, the Mets’ Single-A affiliate. During their time in Florida, the two reportedly avoided changing anything major. Instead, they focused on his previous success and what worked well before the 2020 season. They also worked together in both 2012, when Phil Regan was Matz’s pitching coach with Port St. Lucie, and in 2019, when Regan was the Mets’ interim pitching coach.
To quote Regan, “We thought we could refresh him and get him going into spring training in a positive attitude […] so that he wasn’t going in on the season that he had.” Obviously, the 2020 season was a nightmare for Steven Matz, so Phil Regan felt like it was important to restore some confidence in the 29-year-old lefty.
Regan was watching while Matz was struggling, and he now feels that velocity was the main culprit behind those struggles. According to the former Mets’ pitching coach, Matz told him that his increase in velocity during the season convinced himself that he could start pitching up in the zone more. “I think, as a result, he overthrew the ball a little bit and tried to throw the ball by guys,” said Regan.“Even though you throw 97 mph, you gotta pitch. You gotta be able to hit those spots.”
Again, nothing new was uncovered in their five days of work. Regan suggested they work on balance and consistency physically and mentally. When he would watch Matz set up his pitching delivery, Regan noticed that Matz’s head fell behind his feet. Regan prefers that pitchers keep their heads right above their feet. Additionally, Regan suggested Matz land on the ball of his foot instead of his heel. The advantage to that method is that he would not fall off to the third-base side and ruin his balance pre-delivery.
Following their collaboration last month, Regan feels confident that the young left-hander will get back on track in 2021 and come into spring training with a more positive mindset. It’s apparent that Regan has high praise for Matz as exemplified by this quotation, “You don’t find a lot of lefthanders around with his kind of stuff.”
Can Steven Matz Re-Enter the Rotation In 2021?
Finally, it is unclear whether Steven Matz will be given the opportunity to start for the Mets next season. Many Mets fans hope that Trevor Bauer would sign with the Mets. Currently, the Mets rotation is Jacob Degrom, Marcus Stroman, Seth Lugo, David Peterson, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard (when he returns from injury).
The problem here is that Seth Lugo would be more valuable as a bullpen piece for the Mets, and Steven Matz was ineffective during the 2020 season. With Bauer in the lineup, the Mets rotation would most likely be Jacob Degrom, Trevor Bauer, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and David Peterson or Steven Matz for that final rotational spot, so Matz will have to rely on a strong training camp and spring training to earn back the trust of the franchise.
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