This story from John Harper of the Daily News about Mets pitching prospect Steven Matz is pretty good. It talks about his recovery from Tommy John surgery, some odd advice from Dr. James Andrews that proved to be a breakthrough for Matz and gives a good introduction of Matz to people who don’t know the guy very well.
But, for better or for worse, fans tend to gravitate toward comps. Is this guy as good as that other guy? Does he pitch more like Shalbotnik or more like Smedley? GIVE ME A NAME! This despite the fact that your better scouts and personnel people will tell you that comps obscure more than they reveal and that providing them creates unrealistic expectations.
So, when you see the comps tossed out about Matz, yeah, you know it may be tough for him to meet expectations, even if he’s excellent:
Certainly there is something about Matz that inspires visions of greatness. Last year Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen compared him to another lefty, one Clayton Kershaw, raving about how explosively the ball comes out of his hand.
And now Frank Viola, the Mets’ Triple-A pitching coach whom Matz credits for teaching him the mental part of pitching when they were both in Class-A Savannah in 2013, invokes the name of the lefty who all but singlehandedly won the World Series for the Giants last season. Yep, Madison Bumgarner.
Worth remembering at this point that Matz turns 24 in May. When Clayton Kershaw was 24 he already had a Cy Young Award, a pitcher’s triple crown and 716 major league innings under his belt. Madison Bumgarner was 24 for most of last season. A season in which he collected his third World Series ring and crossed the 1,000 innings pitched mark if you include the postseason.
Obviously Dan Warthan and Frank Viola know that and are not saying that Matz is the equal of two of the best pitchers in baseball. But, no matter what Matz does, there will now be people who say “hey, he was supposed to be our Clayton Kershaw!” or “he’s no Madison Bumgarner!” Which is a damn shame, but that’s how this kind of crap tends to go.