One of our regular offseason traditions is the Exit Interview, where we look back at each player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals in the past season. This is the 11th season we’ve done this and it’s a good way to get a view of the whole year, not just a short stretch of games. It’s sort of like a performance review before the players went off to their offseason work, spending a little time with Oli Marmol and going over what went right, what went wrong. Stats and grades are only for a player’s time in St. Louis, though splits numbers may include other teams. As always, my sincere thanks to the legend of cardinalsgifs for providing the header image!
Player: Steven Matz
Season stats: 5-3, 5.25 ERA, 15 G, 10 GS, 48 IP, 50 H, 8 HR, 10 BB, 54 K, 1 IR, 1 IRS, 3.78 FIP, 1.250 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, -0.4 bWAR, 0.7 fWAR
Statcast: .297 xwOBA, 9.2 barrel %, 88.4 exit velocity, 36.2 hard hit %, 26.1 K %, 4.8 BB %
Best Statcast category: BB % (91st percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Barrel % (18th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 2, Goat 2
Positives: Over half his earned runs came in two starts….take those out and he had a 2.72 ERA on the year….was able to come back as a reliever at the end of the season after injury and be very effective….batters hit .228 against him on the road but five of the home runs came away from Busch….batters had a .434 OPS against him in the second half (10.2 innings)….had a 1.69 ERA in September when he returned as a reliever….had a 1.17 ERA in his five wins….threw two perfect innings in his only save situation appearances….limited hitters to a .150 average as a reliever….walked nine in 42.2 innings as a starter….kept batters to a .548 OPS when receiving two or fewer runs of support….batters had a .583 OPS when behind in the count….gave up just a .380 OPS leading off innings….gave up a .180 average with no outs….allowed a .441 OPS as a reliever….made two starts on five days’ rest and had a 0.84 ERA….threw 6.2 scoreless innings at the Cubs….was in the top 9% of the league in walk percentage.
Negatives: Those two bad starts were really bad–seven runs in three innings in his first Cardinal start (against the Pirates, no less) and eight runs in two innings against the Giants….had two lengthy stints on the injured list….third place hitters had a 1.111 OPS against him….had an 11.12 ERA with six or more runs of support….batters slashed .550/.571/.950 on the first pitch….with two outs, batters had a .864 OPS….they hit .294 with two outs and runners in scoring position….gave up a .300 average when the Cards were trailing….had a 7.27 ERA in the first three innings.
Overview: The first year of the Steven Matz era didn’t quite go like folks were expecting, but given the circumstances I think it’s fair to say that it worked out fairly well. One of the questions around Matz was health and the shoulder that forced him to the injured list the first time did nothing to allay those concerns. However, he came back and was pitching one of his best starts of the year when he tried to go after a dribbler down the line and injured his MCL. That seemed to put paid to the rest of his season, but credit to Matz for working out and coming back as a reliever, much like Carlos Martinez a few years ago when he was injured late and there wasn’t enough time for a full rehab. Matz out of the pen was a revelation, however, and it would seem that if there is ever need to push someone out of the rotation, Matz might have a new life out there. Then again, the Cardinals might not want to pay $10+ for a mid-innings reliever.
Outlook: Matz is one of the five that should be a lock for next year’s starting rotation. Matz has gone over 150 innings three of the last five years (and one of the years he didn’t was 2020) and so he should be set to make much more of an impact in Cardinal red next season. He’ll either be the third or, depending on Jordan Montgomery, the fourth man in the rotation and he’s probably overqualified for that spot. (Plus, if the Cardinals sign a top free agent, he could slide back even further, strengthening the rotation even more.) It wouldn’t take much for Matz to earn his money and I fully expect he will.