Here are the top five reasons why Brian Matusz should be given a fair opportunity to be a starting pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles in 2014.
5. He’s proven he can do it.
As a starting pitcher his rookie year, 2010, Matusz pitched to an impressive ERA of 4.30 and pitched in 175 innings. He ended up tied for fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting. He came back for his sophomore year and… Well, to put it mildly, he struggled. Matusz was historically bad, so historically bad that some believed his career would be over. Thankfully, in 2012, he found his niche as a left handed situational reliever. As he has excelled in his new role many people just remember how atrocious he was in 2011 and forget how fantastic he was in 2010. Which Brian Matusz starter will we see if we bring him another shot at starting? My guess is the 2010 version because he’s now pitching like he did in 2010.
4. Velocity is Up.
According to FanGraphs, in 2009, when Matusz made his major league debut, his average fastball velocity was 91.5. In 2011, his historically bad year, it had dropped all the way to 88.5. In 2013 it is back up to 91.4. It also notable that he’s never thrown his 2-seamer as hard as he did last year at an average speed of 91.6. As you might imagine with the success of the last two years, virtually all of his pitches have become more effective. Moreover, he has an arsenal of pitches that can get Major League hitters out.
3. Starter Stuff
One of the reasons Mariano Rivera was moved from starter to reliever was because of his limited repertoire. Sure, his cutter was unhittable, but one of the things that made it unhittable is that you were staring at normal fastballs the entire game, and then in walks Rivera with one of the best pitches in the history of the game. Hitters would have had more success against the cutter if they would have faced him multiple times a game, but only seeing him once at the end, made that single pitch virtually impossible to hit. A starter will face an entire lineup three or sometimes four times a game (with Orioles starters it’s usually just three). This means a starter must have multiple ways to get a player out in case the batter adjusts to one of his pitches. Brian Matusz has five solid pitches: 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, slider, curve, and changeup. As a lefty specialist, his slider and curveball have made him devastating to left handed hitters. I understand that he is better against lefties, but I still would take him over a lot of the players the Orioles have run out to the mound to start games.
2. Lack of Better Options
It’s never good for your number 2 reason for why someone is good to be that everyone else sucks, but… it’s true. Just look at some of the names that have started for the Orioles in the past two years: Zach Britton, Dana Eveland, Randy Wolf, TJ McFarland, Jake Arrieta, Freddy Gonzalez, and Josh Stinson… And this is just in the past 2 years when the Orioles have been a relatively good baseball team. I have more confidence in Matusz to start a game than any of the above mentioned names. I know it’s a lame argument, but it’s an absolutely true and valid argument on why he should be given a shot as a starter. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?
1. There’s nothing to lose
I think Matusz can be a really good Major League starting pitcher, but let’s say I’m wrong (it wouldn’t be the first time… darn you Nolan Reimold!), and let’s say he struggles and it clearly isn’t working out. Okay, no problem. Back to the bullpen he goes to do what he does best.
In the end, the Orioles need to get better at starting pitching. I’m not holding my breath that the Orioles will bring in any significant upgrades to the starting rotation. This means we have to look at how to get better with the pitchers we have. Giving Matusz a fair opportunity to start is a no risk, high reward possibility. I understand those who say if it’s not broken don’t fix it, and let Matusz do what he does best. I understand it, but I completely disagree with it. The goal is to get better. Brian Matusz may be a really good lefty specialist, but Brian Matusz as a number 3 starter… ah, now that would be special.
Going into the 2014 baseball season, the Baltimore Orioles should give Brian Matusz a legitimate opportunity to be a starting pitcher. Relievers being converted into starters happen rather frequently. CJ Wilson, Chris Sale, Neftali Feliz, and Lance Lynne, just to name a few, are all players who successfully made the conversion from reliever to a starter.
Matusz has multiple pitches to get batters out. Many relievers become relievers because they just have one or two devastating pitches that get hitters out. These pitchers can be very successful because they only have the face a particular batter one time in the game, so that hitter has a difficult time adjusting to that one devastating pitch. A starter must be able to throw multiple pitches effectively as he will see the same batter 3 or even 4 times in a game, and as the hitter adjusts to a certain pitch, a starter must be able to adjust as well and use his other pitches. Brian Matusz along with the variations of his fastball (4-seam, 2 seam, and cutter) also has a solid slider, to along with an above average curveball and changeup. This array of pitches went on display his rookie season where he pitched to an impressive ERA 4.30 in a 175 innings; he ended being tied for fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. This impressive rookie campaign was followed by an abysmal sophomore year where his ERA ballooned to an embarrassing 10.69. Halfway through the next year, 2012, he was moved to the bullpen where he pitched effectively. So essentially, what we are left with is he had a great year and half when he first entered baseball; then he an atrocious year and half, after which he was moved to the bullpen. While in the bullpen he has pitched effectively, showing us that he is capable of getting major leaguers out.
Of course some would argue that he’s too valuable as a lefty specialist to lose out of the bullpen. I would contend that