It wasn't long ago that Brian Matusz was the latest in-line to be anointed the "ace of the future." His teammates Chris Tillman and Zach Britton have had the same distinction. But Matusz was special; he had a bobble-head night. Granted, he was playing for Norfolk at the time of the game while the little figures were being given out in Baltimore, but the fact remains that it happened. They don't give out little, springy, semi-look-a-likes of just anybody.
Name: Brian Robert Matusz Number: 17
Born: February 11, 1987 (27 years old) in Grand Junction, CO
Height: 6'4" Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: Left Throws: Left
Drafted: 1st round (4th pick), 2008 by the Baltimore Orioles
School: St. Mary's High School (Phoenix, AZ)
University of San Diego (San Diego, California)
Contract: $2.4 million for 2014 (First-year arbitration eligble, Free Agent: 2017)
Became an Oriole: Drafted
Fun Facts: -wears #17 as an ode to his favorite player, Mark Grace
-If he wasn't a professional baseball player he has said he would be a firefighter
Walk-up Song: "Voo Doo Child" by Jimi Hendrix
History and Personal Info
Matusz's father, Michael, ran track and field at Purdue University. His brother, Chris, played collegiate baseball at Iowa Wesleyan. So, it was no surprise that Brian was a supreme athlete. In his senior year of high school, his abilities were being fought over by a handful of major league organizations as well as a number of division I universities; most notable among them: Arizona State, Pepperdine and UCLA.
Before he even had an opportunity to choose a school he was drafted by the Angels in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun, he believed he was worth around $1.4 million at the time. The Angels were unwilling to meet that price so, instead, he headed to the University of San Diego for college.
While there, he continued to make impressions. His first ever pitch out of high school came in a relief appearance against the University of Texas. At the time, Texas was the defending national champion. You can imagine there was a lot of pressure on the freshman, and it showed. That pitch flew over the umpires head and hit the backstop in the air. Luckily for Matusz, the rest of his college career when much smoother.
He played on Team USA at the 2007 Pan American games that won the silver medal and had a banner collegiate career. Matusz was a Golden Spikes finalist, an award given to the nation's best college baseball player, and named to the Roger Clemens Award watch list of nominees for the best pitcher in the country.
In the midst of his junior season, he was drafted by the O's and began to climb the ranks of professional baseball, making stops at Frederick and Bowie before debuting in Baltimore during the 2009 campaign.
He was highly-touted coming up, ranking as high as the number five prospect in all of baseball following the 2009 season by Baseball America. That same year BA gave him the title of "Best Pitching Prospect" in both the Eastern League and the Carolina League.
In the past season and a half, Matusz has shown to be a valuable member of the Baltimore bullpen, especially against left-handed hitters.
He brings a four pitch repertoire to the mound: fastball, slider, change-up and curveball. As with many pitchers the fastball is thrown a little over 50 percent of the time, the slider; 21 percent, the change-up; 13 percent, the curveball; eight percent.
This season has seen about a two mile per hour drop in velocity of every single one of his pitches. The fastball is down to 91 miles per hour, the slider; 84, the change-up; 83, the curveball; 77.
For his career, Matusz has dominated lefties to the tune of a .208 batting average against. However, this season has been a bit different as they have managed a worrisome .273 average. This is nothing compared to right handed hitters who have done well against the southpaw in 2014 and previous seasons. The career average is a nice round .300, but 2014 has produced a beefy .333 average.
Before I sound too much like a broken record, 2014 has just been a bad start for the Arizona native. He is walking a career high 7.59 per nine innings pitched, while only striking out 6.75 in that same span. His FIP and xFIP are through the roof at 5.66 and 6.26, respectively.
However, a stat that may be a silver lining is that his batting average on balls in play is a fairly high .353. As many of you know, .300 tends to be the league average. That means that there are many extra base runners on to begin the year that likely won't be there later in the year. But it could also mean that he is getting hit much harder than usual. It's likely a combination of the two.
Even so, Matusz needs to start throwing more strikes and dominating lefties once again. In his last four appearances he has thrown two and two-thirds innings. In that time he has not allowed a run but has given up two hits and four walks. That's a WHIP of 2.25, showing that he got kind of lucky to not give up a run.
There was talk in spring training that Matusz would get a shot at the rotation again. That was squandered with the signing of Ubaldo Jimenez in February and has not been mentioned again since Opening Day.
With the emergence of Britton in the bullpen, it seems that Matusz has fallen even farther down in the pecking order for the next shot at starting a game. At this point he is likely behind Britton and top prospect Kevin Gausman; possibly even T.J. McFarland.
It is a good bet to say that Matusz will get a spot start here or there in the future, but don't kid yourself believing that he will stick. History teaches us a lot of things and one of them is that Brian Matusz flat out stinks against right handing hitting. He has only managed to keep them under a .300 batting average once in his career and that was his stellar rookie campaign of 2010.
We have seen first hand that those types of numbers don't cut it in a major league rotation. Must I remind you of his record 10.69 ERA in 2011?
He has proven his worth in the bullpen. Heck, his numbers against David Ortiz (1-for-20, 12 K) are enough to keep him on any AL East pitching staff. But that is right where he belongs. It feels like he has better stuff that the classic lefty one-out guy, but the numbers don't bear that.
Where do you think Brian Matusz fits in the Orioles pitching staff? Let me know in the poll and comments down below along with who you want to "get to know" next week.