Brian Matusz Wins His Major League Debut

Chris Tillman made his second career start yesterday, and now he’s not even the most inexperienced pitcher on the team.  That’s because 2008 first round draft pick Brian Matusz made his major league debut tonight against the Tigers.  I’m not a scout, but Matusz’s pitching motion looks a little weird to me – he seems to not take his momentum all the way through to the plate, and instead kind of stops half-way threw.  It seemed to have worked though, given his 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 5 K line and the number of weak balls in play by the Detroit hitters. The Pitch/FX data from Brooks Baseball shows that Matusz threw four different pitches: a fastball averaging 91-92 mph with average-ish movement that he used to pound the zone (see location graph below); a solid change-up at 82 that he got a strike on 70-75% of the time; a slider at 81 with good drop that he threw up in the zone a couple too many times (though he only threw 7 overall); and a curveball, which he only threw four times even though I had thought was his best pitch, at 79 with a little more movement than the slider but not even close to Tillman’s class (though he did use it to get a couple of K’s). [Note: It looks like some of the pitches Pitch/FX classified as two-seamers were actually change-ups, and the rest were just fastballs with a little extra sink and run in on lefties. I tried to break them up the best I could in the above comments.]

Despite the 3 walks, check out how many pitches were in the zone or just off the edges.

Interestingly, all five of Matusz’s K’s occured on pitches in the strike-zone, even though three of them were swinging. The guy can throw you a pitch anywhere from 76 to 94 mph in any count to either side of the plate. Matusz wasn’t dominating or particularly filthy (unlike, say, Justin Verlander… or Tillman’s curveball – seriously, I have like an unhealthy attachment to that pitch; it’s just so enchanting).  He reminded me a little of Mark Buerhle, which wouldn’t be a bad outcome (especially since Matusz has 6 mph on him) – workman-like and in control.  The future is quickly becoming now in Baltimore, and it’s exciting to see.