PORT ST. LUCIE — The analytical numbers are starting to add up more favorably for Steven Matz under new Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner.
“It’s been really good, I think he is really good at communicating some of the analytics stuff to us and translating it to a way where we can actually take action in it,” the left-hander said Saturday at the team’s pre-camp. Matz could find himself in a battle for a rotation spot after the additions of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.
“Some of that stuff, as new as it is, is hard to translate to ‘OK, how do I do that on the mound?’ And I think that is something he is really good at,” Matz said after a long-toss session and a conversation with Hefner.
Matz had not been comfortable with analytics in the past.
“I think I was hesitant towards it just because you see all these numbers,” Matz said. “You don’t want to change anything because you know what got you here and all of a sudden this new stuff is coming along and you are like, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t want to start changing everything now.’ I think that’s the big thing. The numbers can show that little adjustments can help a lot.”
Matz and Hefner have worked on hand positioning on his pitches. Matz knew Hefner from when the coach pitched for the Mets.
“We were talking today about some of the way my pitches overlay and what pitch plays off another pitch, how they look the same coming out of my hand, that type of stuff,” Matz said.
The key in the release of the pitch is to be on top of the ball instead of getting on the side of it.
“Sometimes it is hard to feel in real time,” Matz said, “but when you see it on the slow motion cameras, you say, OK. When you look back and see what you can feel, it all makes sense.”
Matz, 28, was 11-10 overall with a 4.21 ERA in 2019. At home, he was 8-2 with a 2.31 ERA. On the road, he was 3-8 with a 6.62 ERA. Matz must take the comfort he finds at home onto the road. Hitting coach Chili Davis said Matz, a great athlete, is the best hitting pitcher on the team, and if Matz makes positive adjustments under Hefner, it would make a huge difference.
Last month, Matz won the Joan Payson/Shannon Forde “Community Service” Award from the NY BBWAA for his charity TRU32, which supports first responders.
“That means a lot to me,” Matz said.
In 2013, Matz was managed by new Mets manager Luis Rojas at Single-A Savannah.
“I have a really good relationship with him, we won the South Atlantic League championship,” Matz said. “I learned a lot from him. He is very approachable and is a good communicator.”