Success versus lefties source of Matusz's late-season magic?

March 11, 2011|By Matt Vensel

Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz was one of the best starters in baseball over the final three months of the 2010 season, going 7-1 with a 2.18 ERA, 52 strikeouts and 16 walks in 11 starts after Buck Showalter's arrival in early August.

I assumed Matusz' magic was the result of the Orioles manager using his Jedi powers to guide the pitches from inside the dugout (that would explain all of Showalter's scowling).

But according to ESPN's Mark Simon, the "Matusz mystique" can be attributed to the pitcher's late-season success against left-handed hitters (and Showalter's aggressive approach to pitching, not telekinesis, probably had a role in that).

"The biggest difference in Matusz’s performance was his work against left-handed hitters," Simon wrote in this detailed post. "In those 11 starts, lefties were just 4-for-47 with 17 strikeouts. Basically, he turned into Randy Johnson against left-handed hitters (only with a fastball averaging 90 mph instead of 98)."

From April to July, left-handed hitters batted .280 against Matusz with a .744 OPS (on-base plus slugging). From August until October, Matusz limited them to an .085 average with a .225 OPS.

"Matusz made the necessary adjustments to his game to dominate lefties as the 2010 season reached its conclusion," Simon wrote. "Opposing hitters had six months to ponder new approaches against him. Who will prevail? It’s something to watch as the season unfolds."

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