The Importance of Strike One
We’ve all heard that strike one is the most important pitch and in Brian Matusz’ case, it’s imperative for him to get ahead. This year with the velocity of his fastball down about mile and half (90.1 vs 91.5), getting ahead or more importantly for him, getting two strikes on a batter has been the single most important factor in this success this year.
Take a look at these lines (AVG/OBP/SLG/) when batters put the ball in play against Brian Matusz in certain counts:
1-0 count - .419/.419/.698/1.116
2-0 Count- .500/.500/1.250/1.750
3-0 Count- . 000/.923/.000/.923
Even with one strike when he falls behind things go bad quickly for him:
2-1 count- .344/.344/.563/.906
3-1 count- .556/.826/.778/1.604
Even when he gets strike one, if the ball is put on play on the next pitch he tends to struggle.
0-1 count- .406/.406/.500/.906
Like most pitchers, he pitches more effectively with two strikes but for Matusz two strikes and less than three balls becomes a death sentence for batters.
0-2 count- .167/.196/.167/.363
1-2 count- . 179/.186/.284/.470
2-2 count- .154/.162/.308/.469
Once he goes to a full count it swings back into the batters advantage, mainly due t the walks (Matusz has walked 24 of the 69 (34.8%) batters he’s taken to a full count.
3-2 count- .222/.493/.333/.826
Batters who put the ball in play on the first pitch also have success.
1st pitch- .326/.333/.543/.877
But the most important line is what batters hit off him after the first pitch:
1-0 count - .303/.436/.505/.942 with a 34-45 K-BB ratio
0-1 count- .240/.261/.332/.593 with a 64-4 K-BB ratio.
What does all this suggest? Well first off it shows that strike one is extremely important and imperative to Brian Matusz’s success. It also suggests that when he gets behind that he’s not making quality pitches and that early on in the count he may not be making quality pitches either since batters who put the ball in play within two pitches are batting .386 (59-153) off him. That suggests he’s throwing a lot of non-quality strikes early on in the count. In comparison, batters hit .261 (48-184) off Jeremy Guthrie and .218 (17-78) off Jake Arrieta in two pitches or less. Not surprisingly Kevin Millwood .360 (54-150) and Brad Bergesen .425 (68-160) struggle as well with batters who put the ball in play within the first two pitches of an at bat. I would think Orioles fans would like to see him in the Guthrie/Arrieta group rather than the Millwood/Bergesen group.
If you want more bad news, I really hate to be the barer of this news, but the concerns about him wearing down quickly are certainly backed up by stats this year.
After the 5th inning:
BAVG - .340 (32-94)
ERA - 6.65
K-BB – 11-10
He also seems to have a hard time making adjustments the second time through an order:
1st PA in game- .219/.303/.311/.614
2nd PA in game- .315/.369/.522/.891
3rd PA in game- .276/.350/.415/.765
Do the catchers make a difference? I can see why Matusz prefers to throw to Tatum:
Jake Fox - 32.40 ERA .556/.667/1.111/1.778
Craig Tatum - 3.09 ERA .202/.278/.328/.606
Matt Wieters 5.28 ERA .288/.353/.429/.782
So when you look at the numbers there are several red flags. The numbers suggests he’s not throwing enough quality strikes, especially early in the count, he’s not making good adjustments the second time through an order (this could be a catcher issue as well), and he’s tiring too quickly for a guy who’s supposed to be a top of the rotation guy. Another concern is the loss of a mile and half off his fastball from 2009 to 2010. The velocity on his offspeed stuff has been about the same, but he’s giving up a mile and half of velocity that he didn’t have to lose. According to Fangraph his -7.4 wFB is 11th worse in the American League among qualified starters (Millwood’s -10.8 is 7th worse).
Matusz has made some improvements over his last two starts so hopefully that’s him making some adjustments. It’s only first full season in the major leagues and the hope is this is all part of his learning curve. Not everyone dominates right away and the one thing Matusz has is an above average ability to learn. Hopefully he’ll finish strong and next year come back and be the pitcher the Orioles and Orioles fans hoped he would be this year.
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Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.