Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins explains excitement in adding Steven Matz

Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins joins Lead Off to discuss the club's acquisition of Steven Matz, and how excited he is about his stuff and his potential to break out in Toronto.

Statistically, Steven Matz was at his worst in a lot of ways last year.

In a pandemic-abridged season, Matz posted a 9.68 ERA (44 ERA+), 7.76 FIP and 1.696 WHIP. He also finished in the bottom six percentile in exit velocity allowed, hard-hit percentage and expected batting average.

So for those seeking positives in the aftermath of Matz joining the Toronto Blue Jays from the New York Mets via trade, they’ll have to look a bit closer.

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins certainly has, and he explained his excitement for adding Matz during Thursday morning’s Lead Off show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan.

“We’re excited about his ability to get swing-and-miss, we’re excited about the power to his stuff,” Atkins said. “Incredibly hard working, incredible teammate.”

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We can’t quantify Matz’s work ethic or value as a teammate just yet, but Atkins makes a point about the on-the-mound qualities. Matz’s average fastball velocity was 94.5 m.p.h. last season, which was his highest since his debut season in 2015 and nearly two ticks higher than league average.

From a swing-and-miss standpoint, his 23.4 whiff rate lagged behind league average (26.8), but he sported a 32.6 whiff rate on change-ups. Some combination of above-average fastball velocity and a missable change-up could be a recipe for a rebound.

There’s also this: in 2020, every offering from Matz’s four-pitch mix had a higher weighted on base average (wOBA) than expected — which isn’t a good thing for pitchers. That’s been the case for most of his career, as his total wOBA has exceed his xwOBA in five of six seasons.

Clearly the Blue Jays see some things they like, and Atkins believes there’s room for Matz to succeed on this roster.

“I’m excited to have (our personnel) try to put this guy in a position to have success,” Atkins said. “Guys who can get major league hitters to swing and miss at a good clip and don’t walk a lot of guys, there’s a place for them on every team. On every team. And hopefully we can be a part of his continued growth and development and continuing to get better.”

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