After watching Brian Matusz pitch Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, I am sure many of you took comfort that he shook off some bad outings and pitched well.
The kid is a rookie after all and is going to take his lumps, but when you can pitch like he did on baseball’s biggest stage Tuesday it has to impress.
That said, I had an interesting conversation with a scout last week that I wanted to share with you. Jeff Z and I were talking to scouts about the Orioles’ young hitters for Tuesday’s story. I was chatting with one of them – before Matusz’s start on Tuesday, by the way – and the overall team came up. Remember, I wasn’t grilling him, or anyone else, about the team’s pitching. And it's only one person's opinion.
The scout said the Orioles’ real problem is that they don’t have anyone who projects as a future ace. I quickly pounced on that, asking him about Matusz, who most scouts view as a No. 1 or No. 2 because he can throw four quality pitches for strikes.
But this scout, who I promise you has impressive credentials and is well-respected by his peers, isn’t buying Matusz as a future ace. (By the way, he only saw Tillman briefly last year, and never Arrieta, so he didn’t want to talk about them at length).
“He has no one outstanding pitch,” the scout said of Matusz. “Most times, your front of the rotation guys have at least one dominating pitch. He doesn’t have that pitch that he can go to when he has got to get a guy out. He has pitchability, but he has to be exact with his fastball to have success. He has got to be exact with his pitches to be effective. This is not a knock against the kid. He is going to be a very good pitcher down the line, I just don’t see him as an ace.”
What five-man rotation slot does the scout see Matusz filling in his career?
“He probably is a No. 3. And I don’t think he is a No. 3 yet, at this point.”
What separates aces from good pitchers, the scout said, is the ability to get hitters out with one pitch when everything else they have isn’t working that day.
“Aces say to hitters, ‘You know what I am going to do here. I’m going to go with my best stuff and you see what you can do with it.’ Matusz has to pitch to get guys out, and on days when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he struggles a bit.”
Like any good scout, this one leaves the door open for a misdiagnosis. He knows that most of his counterparts love Matusz, his makeup and competitive fire. So the scout said that could lead him higher up the rotation ladder as he becomes more experienced.
“Once he’s around the league a while, maybe he’ll make the necessary adjustments and he’ll be what the others say he is. But at this point, for me anyway, I don’t see it.”