Where Does This Leave Matz for 2024?
Matz isn't always going to pitch this well. Almost nobody maintains a 1.65 ERA for longer than a few months. But it's encouraging to see him fixing issues. He's allowing fewer home runs and softer contact. Matz ranks in the top 10% of pitchers at preventing barrels, balls hit hard at ideal launch angles. The lower home run rate isn't luck. It's the result of changes in Matz's arsenal and strategy.
Matz's fastball has been outstanding over this stretch, and the strong command allows him to throw his changeup much more effectively. He's mixing up these looks more often too. One of Matz's most glaring issues before was fastball location. He threw his fastball high, and he threw his changeup low. This made it easier for hitters to distinguish between the two pitches. Now, Matz is more effectively changing levels and speeds, keeping opponents off balance. All of this coincides with improved command of his curveball, which is landing in the zone more often than ever.
Matz is even making it into Pitching Ninja's videos now! He may actually have the nastiest strikeout stuff of any Cardinals starter right now. His season numbers also look solid. He now has a 3.91 ERA and has been an above-average pitcher. That's better than plenty of other big names, including Chris Bassit, Nestor Cortes, Julio Urias, Aaron Nola, and many more.
To top it all off, Matz's $11 million salary is significantly lower than any of the aforementioned pitchers are making. Maybe, the Steven Matz deal will end up being a bargain. $11 million is low for reliable rotation pieces. Whether Matz can become that is unknown. The longer this stretch continues, the more encouraging it will be. For now, it's obvious that Matz will be part of the 2024 rotation. Where he pitches in the rotation is up to him and his success.