Matusz makes his big league debut

Baltimore Orioles vs Detroit Tigers.
Matusz starts of his major league career (Icon/SMI)

Today against the Tigers, another top pitching prospect for the Baltimore Orioles made his major league debut. I already looked at Chris Tillman’s recent debut hereand he showed very good stuff; however, Matusz was considered just a step below him on BA’s most recent prospect rankings, being considered the 9th best prospect in the country.

Evan Brunell already took a brief look at Matusz’ rise through the minors, and it was impressive. In 113.2 innings between two levels in the minors this year, Matusz had a 3.12 FIP and was allowing just 10% of his balls in play to be hit on a line. His tERA (Statcorner’s tRA scaled to ERA) was just 2.26.

Okay, so with all of the hype out of the way, how did Matusz actually look in his debut? The results were pretty good: he completed 5 innings, allowing 6 hits and 1 run. He also struck out 5, walked 3, and didn’t allow a home run. You can watch highlights of the game here, including his strikeout of Miguel Cabrera on a very good changeup.
It’s also worth mentioning that Matusz faced all righties in his debut, which makes his strong results all the more impressive.

Let’s see what Pitch f/x had so say about his stuff:


As you can see he was able to get the fastball up in the low 90’s, topping out at 94 MPH, with a wide range of movement to it. His changeup mirrored the fastball in terms of movement, but was thrown about 10 MPH slower on average. Based on some twitter evidence, that it his favorite pitch to throw. His slider was also all over the place, sometimes looking like a cutter, and other times looking more like a curve. Overall, he showed good stuff, especially from a lefty.

Now let’s see how he located, first organized by pitch type:


As you can see, he pounded the strike zone with all 3 of his pitches, while offering no clear pattern of location. In total, he threw 66% strikes, which makes the fact that he walked 3 hitters seem strange. Now let’s take a look at what hitters were able to do with his stuff:


The first thing you may notice was that the Tigers’ hitters were very pesky, fouling off a lot of pitches. In fact, they spoiled a little over 19% of his pitches tonight compared to a league average rate of about 17% (thank you Statcorner). That’s likely the reason for his high pitch count despite hitting the strikezone pretty well. He also appeared to fall victim to a tight strike zone.

He was also able to generate swinging strikes in over 11% of his pitches, which is well above the league average rate of about 7%. His fastball was a hit or miss pitch, literally, as it yielded 6 swinging strikes but was also tagged for 5 base hits.

Overall, this was a very impressive debut, both in process and results, especially given the fact that he faced all right handed hitters. He was able to pound the strike zone, and miss bats at a high rate, and that manifested itself in a 5 strikeouts and a sub 3 FIP for the game.

Evan already mentioned this earlier today, but the Orioles look like a stacked team in the not to distant future. You just got a glimpse at one of the reasons why.

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  1. Mike Eller said...

    Thank you for the Pitch f/x on him. I agree with your conclusion on the Orioles. In three years, the AL East may have the four best teams in baseball.

  2. Mike Rogers said...

    I’m glad you put up the final strikezone plot. As a tigers fan, I took a look at him for a prospect website and he was getting squeezed all night. At least 11 pitches called a ball were in the zone or on the line and another 2-3 were borderline enough to possibly get called a strike. Definitely a tight zone tonight.

  3. Mike Fast said...

    Nice work, Nick.  It looks to me like he’s throwing both a four-seam and two-seam fastball, which is why he’s getting the variety of movement on it that he is.

    As far as his breaking pitch, it looks like the four slowest were curveballs and the rest were sliders.  I don’t think he threw any cutters—the two sliders that are up around 83-84 mph were thrown in the third inning when his fastball was also at its peak velocity of 92-94 mph.

    In regards to plate location and pitch type, if you want to find patterns in those, it’s often quite helpful to split by the handedness of the opposing batter.

  4. Nick Steiner said...

    Thanks for the detailed reply Mike (Fast).  Gameday actually classified a couple of curveballs and 2 Seamers; however, they looked too much like the slider and the fastball to me.  Obviously, I was wrong smile

    Also, I was going to split up the location by batter handedness… but he only faced righties all game.  Tough first start, huh?

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