25 September 2014

Honoring Brian Matusz, One of the Most Effective MLB Relievers of the 2nd Half

Photo by Keith Allison

I've recently posted a few things about the Orioles postseason roster possibilities. In some of the comments on those articles there was a general negativity in regards to including Brian Matusz on the postseason roster. This wasn't a shock to me. Through Twitter and other online outlets, I feel like I have a pretty good feel for the overall tone of Orioles fans towards individual players. Sometimes I think the general narrative or consensus among fans is pretty far off base compared to the player's performance in his specific role. This is what caused me to write about Ryan Flaherty in one of my first posts here at Camden Depot. Today, I'm writing in defense of Brian Matusz, who has been a very effective player for the Orioles in the 2nd half, after a horrid 1st half.

No one can defend Matusz's first half. It was downright awful. Here's a look at just how awful it was.


There's nothing pretty about these numbers. Matusz had a terrible first half. But his terrible first half shouldn't skew opinions on Matusz so much as to view him unworthy of a spot on the postseason roster or as a failed reliever. Prove it, you say? I'd be glad to. Here are the same numbers for Matusz in the second half. I've included his rank among the 11 pitchers who have thrown more than an inning of relief for the Orioles in the second half.

1.56 (3rd)
1.74 (2nd)
2.42 (2nd)
31.4 (2nd)
.255 (6th)

On top of these impressive ranks among Orioles relievers, these numbers are splendid among all MLB relievers, too. 231 relievers have thrown 10 innings or more since the All-Star Break. Of the 231, Matusz ranks 34th in ERA, 13th in FIP, 18th in xFIP, and 7th in K-BB%. I'm puzzled as to how Matusz doesn't have the trust of Orioles fans. Granted, I totally understand how he lost their trust. But being one of the most effective relievers in MLB in the 2nd half hasn't been enough to gain it back? 

One counterpoint is that Matusz has been used less and in lower leverage situations in the 2nd half. He pitched 32 2/3 innings in the 1st half and only 17 1/2 so far in the 2nd. Maybe the smaller sample size has allowed him to hold off regression. Or maybe the 2nd half is the regression after an unsustainably bad 1st half. These are all hypothetical. What is certain is that Matusz has been good enough to be considered not just one of the more effective Orioles relievers since mid-July, but one of the most effective in all of MLB.

For the sake of thoroughness, I wanted to take a look to see how much of a factor luck played in Matusz's drastic splits by half this season.

2014 1st half
2014 2nd half

Matusz's BABIP has been consistent this year and in line with his career maark. He has gotten a bit more fortunate with flyballs leaving the yard in the 2nd half, but his number on the year is close to his career mark. It's safe to say that luck hasn't played a huge role in Matusz's season. He simply pitched poorly in the 1st half and has improved greatly in the 2nd.

Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com recently tweeted that the Orioles may carry only 11 pitchers on their ALDS roster. I suppose there is one scenario where Matusz could be left off the staff, and that's if the Orioles face the Tigers. The Tigers crush LHP, and Matusz is no exception, as the Tigers have a .373/.415/.573 slash line against him in 75 ABs. It's also been suggested that Wei-Yin Chen may not be in the rotation if the Orioles play the Tigers. So, clearly, either of these decisions would be more because of the Tigers capabilities vs LHP than our pitcher's inadequacies. 

Another interesting thing to consider is whether Matusz will return to the Orioles next year. He is arbitration eligible but under club control through 2016, according to Baseball Reference. Matusz will likely see a slight raise from his current $2.4 million salary. That's getting pretty pricey for a reliever who, no matter how effective he has been in the 2nd half, is replaceable with cheaper alternatives. But that's a discussion for another time.

Regardless of what role Matusz plays in the ALDS or next year, the fact is that, after a terrible 1st half, he's been very effective. So effective in fact that, when you are arguing that Matusz has been a failure or that he shouldn't be on the postseason roster, you are arguing against one of the more effective relievers in all of MLB since the All-Star break.

Stats from Fangraphs and ESPN, current as of 9/24/14

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It might be noted that the first half may be due to him being used in the preseason as a starter. switching schedules may have messed with his first half. Just a thought.