Coming off one of the best postseason runs, as far as relievers are concerned, in Braves history, expectations were sky-high for Tyler Matzek entering 2022. Everybody expected him to return and be one of baseball’s most unhittable bullpen pieces. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, especially early on.
Through the first six weeks of the season, Matzek just didn’t look like himself. His fastball velocity was in the low 90s, and the strikeouts were few and far between. It quickly became evident that the high workload from the previous season had taken a toll on him, and the Braves opted to place him on the Injured List with a shoulder injury. At the time, he had allowed six earned runs over 10.2 innings — a 5.06 ERA. However, since his return, things have gone substantially better. In his last 23 appearances, Matzek has posted a 2.49 ERA over 25.1 innings, and batters have hit just .180 off him with a .572 OPS.
I was relatively surprised by those numbers. Perhaps it’s because the Braves haven’t utilized Matzek in high leverage situations, but it feels like he hasn’t been himself, even since his return; his velocity is still down from last year. In 2021, his fastball had an average of 96 MPH. This year, it’s down to 94.3. As a result, he hasn’t been the strikeout maestro he once was, averaging just 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings compared to 11 last season.
However, when taking a deeper dive into his Baseball Savant page, I was even more shocked to see that his repertoire — in terms of velocity — mirrors his 2020 numbers. That season, Matzek’s fastball also sat at 94.3 MPH, and his slider was actually slightly slower than he’s throwing it this year. The only difference is Matzek struck out 13 batters per nine innings in 2020. Although, the COVID-shortened season could’ve skewed those numbers, due to the small sample size and lower workload.
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