Devoid of any context, you couldn’t help being disappointed.
“Steven Matz is 1-1, with an E.R.A. over 8.00.”
Of course, you know where I’m going with this: Steven Matz, after a bright, shiny, three hit shutout over seven innings, looks less like a pitcher possessed of an 8.00 E.R.A. and more like one with roughly double that, in wins. In short, Steven Matz, without wordplay or strained analogy, looked pretty damn good out there.
7 IP, 9 K, 3H. Seven letters and numbers. Mostly meaningless, even in the context of one game: it’s a line any pitcher could put up on any given day, if they happen to be on their game. But right now, it means much more.
Coming off a fiasco of a Harvey Day. Coming off the news — which has reportedly been fied, or at least downgraded — that Jacob deGrom’s turn in the rotation would be skipped, and that a D.L. stint was likely. Coming off a potential injury to d’Arnaud and a disheartening loss that should have been a win.
7 IP, 9 K, 3H seems pretty damn important.
Within the Mets blogosphere, the self-proclaimed analysts, the writers who pride themselves on not thinking emotionally and always taking situations rationally, Steven Matz hadn’t made it yet. He hadn’t proven himself. He wasn’t yet a member of the big four, the four aces, whatever you want to call them. He was supposed to be, but he wasn’t, yet. And maybe they were right.
Indeed, they almost certainly were: Matz had absolutely not proven himself yet, in seven major league starts. But all the same, there’s a human element to look at as well. I won’t score any sabermetric points for this, and don’t think I’m knocking analytics because they’re obviously obscenely valuable and intrinsic to playing the game the right way. But there was a part of me — frankly, a not so small part — that looked at Steven Matz, and asked, “How could he NOT prove himself?”
He’s a Long Islander, one of precious few in Mets history. He’s already been knocked down — in his case, by Tommy John surgery a few years back — and come crawling back. To slightly rephrase Moneyball, he sounded like a Met already.
And then, starting a season that was his big chance to prove himself, he went out and gave up seven runs to the goddamn Marlins. And the next day, the Earth had been destroyed.
No, not really. But that’s the sense you got from the headlines. They all seemed constructed the same way — “we’re not overreacting, but that’s only because this situation is so awful you couldn’t possibly overreact.” One paper called for Matz’s demotion, citing a scout that said he looked lost.
As I said, I’m not knocking analytics — in fact, in this case, they’re absolutely correct. The scout was wrong. The scout’s probably been wrong before. Every ounce of “conventional baseball wisdom” or “player development strategy,” or more likely, simply the desire to say something worth reporting, was absolutely wrong.
Steven Matz is ready. He’s not lost, he’s not lacking confidence, he’s not lagging behind in any of those ridiculous intangibles scouts used to cite to prove that only they could do what they did. Today proved it; his next start, whether he’s great or mediocre, won’t disprove anything. We saw a major league pitcher today, perhaps even a major league ace. Small sample size won out yet again over reactionary nonsense, as it tends to do. Sample size always wins.
And yet again, while Matz was pitching, the offense was humming along like it’s started to do. Michael Conforto showed us — and Keith Hernandez — why he’s going to be our number three hitter for the next fifteen years. Cespedes had a few hits. Everyone, in fact, seemed to have a few hits. We didn’t score for a seven inning stretch. It might as well have been seven minutes. It didn’t matter.
We knew coming into the season that our offense would be good, possibly even above average. A 2-5 start didn’t change that, and going 3-1 since doesn’t change it either. Our offense is the same — good, possibly even above average. We didn’t hit for a few games; now, we’re all doing it. Duda singled in two. Asdrubal Cabrera had another hit. Kevin Plawecki had two of his own. We’re not the Big Red Machine; then again, the Big Red Machine didn’t have our pitching, except in all-too-literal sense.
In short, we’re back where we wanted to be — good, bordering on great. We’re five and six. Six and six, the formality of Noah Syndergaard wrapping up his win tomorrow notwithstanding. The Nationals lost today, proving that a 9-1 start isn’t all that much better than 5-6. We’ll play the Nationals soon enough; when we do, we’ll show them how much their 9-1 start is worth against Matz, Thor, Harvey and deGrom.
Now, as we said, let’s take stock of where we are without the emotional specter of a potentially decimated Matt Harvey looming over us. We’re absolutely fine, is where we are. We’re great. We’ve got Thor tomorrow, and then Colón, and then a Harvey who for all we know will be completely fine. DeGrom is reportedly on his way back after his newborn son took a turn for the better, and although as a Mets fan I’m loath to proclaim any injury healed before a player demonstrates the truth of it on the field, I’ll trust deGrom when he says that he’s ready to go.
We’re back on the track we never really left, ready to get back out there, brief notions of failure dispelled, and start beating opponents with our arms and our bats.
What the hell — I’ve got nothing more to say. There’s only so many ways to say that we’re damn good. Let’s go beat somebody.