In part five of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Oriole” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at rookie left-hander Brain Matusz… THE FIGHTIN’ POLISHED PITCHER!
This was Brian Matusz’s first year in professional baseball, and he showed why he was considered the most advanced pitcher in the 2008 draft. He started out in A-Ball – and dominated (2.91 FIP) – was promoted to Double-A – and dominated (2.55 FIP) – before making his major league debut on August 4th. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to call him up this year, but Andy MacPhail had confidence in the kid and Matusz proved it justified.
Matusz mostly stayed true to his scouting report. He was effective in striking out batters (7.66 K/9), showed good control (2.82 BB/9), and was a flyball pitcher that could occasionally be susceptible to the home run ball (1.2 HR/9). His fastball had pretty good velocity (91.5 mph) with a little below average movement, and he could slow it down (87.8 mph) using the two-seamer to get some more tail and a bit more sink on it. His change-up was relatively straight, but watching him he seemed to get good arm action on it. Matusz threw two breaking-balls; a slider and a curveball, with the latter being a little slower and having a bit more movement. The curve was his best pitch, coming in at 3.36 runs better than average per 100 thrown according to FanGraphs, which ranks him 4th amongst AL starters with at least 40 innings pitched (for curveballs).
Overall, Matusz finished with a 5-2 record and a 4.63 ERA (but a 4.08 FIP) in 44.2 IP. He was shut down early after having thrown a total of 157.2 innings at the three levels this year, since the team was concerned about an excessive workload. In that short time he accumulated 0.8 Wins Above Replacement, which would be a #2/3 starter like 3.2 WAR over a full season (180 IP). The kid’s only 22, but he may already be the best pitcher on the Orioles staff.