Friday, February 25, 2011

The Crystal Ball 2011: Brian Matusz

Young Brian Matusz is the Orioles' best shot at having a true ace this season.

After a rough learning curve (he was, even by Andy MacPhail's admission, rushed to the majors in 2009), Matusz turned a corner in the second half. Second half numbers for the rotation:

            G HR BB SO SO/BB   ERA    WHIP
Guthrie    14 10 16 62  3.88  2.76   0.990
Matusz     14  7 25 63  2.52  3.63   1.194
Bergesen   15 15 28 57  2.04  3.94   1.261
Tillman     6  6 22 21  0.95  6.03   1.468
Arrieta    11  6 28 32  1.14  4.85   1.533

Guthrie had a great second half too but Matusz did it at age 23 which, of course, makes him more projectable going forward. He showed the talent and the toughness to be a top of the rotation starter.

In addition, he has been a little unlucky in his brief career in terms of the quality of his opponents. From Bill James Online:

More than 80% of Matusz starts in his career have come against winning clubs. That's a high number even taking into account that he pitches in the AL East. Oddly, he seems to do better as the competition gets tougher but that's probably due to small sample size and that's not really the point I'm getting at. The point is that Matusz has been given a very tough assignment in terms of quality of competition and having to learn on the job. It was a trial by fire and he seems to have come through it OK. This crucible will make him better going forward and his numbers will look better as he sees a more normal distribution of competition.

Oddly enough, his great changeup (hailed by most as his best pitch) doesn't seem to be getting guys out like you would expect. According to, his changeup actually has a negative value. His best pitches are his fastball and slider. Maybe he's pitching backwards? Using his changeup to set up the fastball and his breaking stuff? 

Regardless, after Adam Jones, Matusz is my pick to breakout in 2011. He's using every weapon in arsenal, he's made it past the early bumps in the road while facing the toughest possible competition and he will be just 24. 

I don't want to say it (although when you look at the competition, maybe this isn't such fantastic praise) but Matusz looks poised to be the best pitcher to come through the Oriole system since Mike Mussina. 

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