Braves 2021 Player Review: Tyler Matzek

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Tyler Matzek once rolled his ankle. It wasn’t a big deal. Maybe a 2 week setback, tops. And yet, the ankle rolling put him on a 6 year journey of resilience that peaked with the greatest relief pitching appearance in postseason history. You cannot convince me otherwise.

What we knew about Matzek coming into this season scared me a bit. His journey through the yips was softened a bit in 2020 as there were no fans in the stands. Less pressure to perform. However, 2021 showed us fans that Matzek is here to stay, the yips, which are the omnipresent demons, are stacked away somewhere in a dark corner of Matzek’s mind, and Matzek will be a Brave for many a year.

There’s a stat out there that just doesn’t get enough air time. Inherited runners scored is a tell-tale sign of the real reliever that is on the rubber. We Braves Journalers even coined the term “Grybo” for allowing inherited runners to score. For Gryboski’s career, he allowed 34.4% of inherited runners to score. Honestly, this isn’t good, but it’s hardly terrible and, like Jonathan F. discussed here, maybe we should rename it (and might I suggest “Campout”). This isn’t about Rick Camp or Kevin Gryboski. Neither could hold Matzek’s jockstrap. In 2021, Matzek was extraordinary with runners on, only allowing 11.1% of inherited runners to score. For those that like things concrete, 3 of 28 scored.

Matzek’s season didn’t start near as brilliantly as it ended. Like most of the team, Matzek was at his worst in April as he carried a 4.91 ERA . The problem wasn’t strikeouts. He was still sittin’ em down with a whopping 18 in 11 innings. It was the walks…8 of them. That was enough to get me watching closely. Was 2020 a fluke? Was Matzek, once again, plagued by the anxiety that derailed his career in 2015? Oh ye of little faith. That answer was no.

From May on, Matzek was brilliant, carrying a 2.08 ERA. The walks were more than I’d like to see on the year (5.3/9) but the end result wasn’t fluky. In the postseason, he hit hyperdrive and was superb. In 15.2 innings, he struck out 24 while boasting a 1.72 ERA. Add that to the regular season numbers and you get ELITE.

I don’t really have much else to say. This’ll do just fine.

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

25 thoughts on “Braves 2021 Player Review: Tyler Matzek”

  1. My God this Matzek video… Goosebumps all over again and again. I remember sitting in bed shouting and celebrating after the 7th. Best inning ever pitched.

  2. I know I didn’t “discover” Matzek, but I was the first to report the MILB signing and get truly excited about his return. I read about 20 articles on his journey, including the most recent turn of events (at that point) about overcoming the yips and finding velo through Driveline. When things like that happen, I feel there’s an instant connection with the player. Ozzie will always be my favorite Brave, but Matzek is in my top-5 of all-time.

  3. Nice job Ryan. I wonder what performances would be strong contenders for best postseason relief appearance? This was Matzek’s appearance in written form instead of the video:

    K’d Pujols
    K’d Souza Jr.
    K’d Mookie
    K’d Seager
    GO Turner
    GO Smith

    He went through almost the entire middle of the order and mowed them down. I’m sure there are some other really dominant relief performances, but that’s definitely up there.

  4. @4 I remember vividly when you discussed his signing and the potential it had to be very impactful. Very astute observation from the jump…great work Ryan!

  5. On Matzek’s game 6. I saw this on twitter yesterday and also remembered us worrying that overexposure to the same lineup would make Tyler less effective against the Dodgers. This was his 5th appearance against them in 6 games which makes what he did even more impressive.

    I also remember distinctly when Ryan was hyping Matzek up before anyone here knew anything about him other than remembering his high draft pedigree and time with the Rockies.

  6. Matzek’s postseason is actually quite comparable to some of Rivera’s great postseasons and Matzek never got to close which pads the number just a little.

    Matzek’s postseason yielded 1.16 WPA and 23.8% cWPA. Here are Mo’s best 5 years by cWPA

    5) 1998 (1.19 WPA, 23.1% cWPA)
    4) 1999 (1.41 WPA, 23.3% cWPA)
    3) 1996 (1.28 WPA, 24.5% cWPA)
    2) 2000 (1.46 WPA, 38.1% cWPA)
    1) 2003 (1.43 WPA, 43.5%!! cWPA)

    Not sure where his game 6 performance should go in all time relief appearances in the playoffs (got to consider Morton, MadBum, Schilling, Mo, Unit etc. but given the situation and the history between the teams, it seems to warrant a top 10.

  7. So I made two lists. The first is postseason performances with WPA>0.1 in a single season by relief pitchers. That list is here: https://stathead.com/tiny/2mdez

    As you can see, Matzek’s season is not very high on that list. But that’s because WPA>.1 is so much easier to achieve for closers than for other pitchers. Even so, Matzek had 4 such games (as did Will Smith) but trails Andrew Miller’s amazing 2016 leads the pack at 8 such games.

    But when you lower the criterion to WPA>.05, a far more realistic standard for a noncloser, Matzek’s 2021 is the best of all time: 10 of his 13 appearances increased his team’s probability of winning by more than 5%. John Wetteland’s 1996 (damn! can we never get around that blasted year) is one of 6 guys with 8 such appearances in a year.
    https://stathead.com/tiny/40jOh

  8. Excellent job adding some more context Jonathan. And on your second list Smith and Minter show up with 6 such outings in 21 and Jackson had 5. Smith had 5 and Matzek had 4 in 2020 as well.

    Also it seems the 2021 Braves have to lead all time in WPA>.05 appearances in one postseason, any way to check that?

    Also, any chance you could run both lists for individual career totals just for my curiosity?

  9. Matzek’s Game 6 NLCS performance was one of the greatest in franchise history — yes.

    Fave Ozzie Guillen Moment: When he snaked an RBI single thru the infield vs. Armando Benitez in the 10th inning of Game 6 in the ’99 NLCS. Saved our ass from a Game 7.

    #7
    That guy does some really cool stuff for Athens music.

    Looks great… anyone who ever spent time in Athens (post-1980 or so) will remember seeing zillions of band flyers on kiosks all over downtown — some of them were pretty clever. (After all, UGA does have an art school.) I had a bunch in my freshman dorm, but I have no idea what happened to them. Maybe they’re in this book.

    ALSO: Dogs & Braves — just 9 weeks apart… amazing.

  10. @4 I also remember you being high on Matzek early on and picking him as your dark horse for the last bullpen slots. Great call.
    That half inning against the dodgers is the stuff of legends.

  11. Matzek shutting down the Dodgers was the moment this team turned the page. In years past, LA scores 4 times and wins game 7.

    I honestly believe it was the most important game moment for this organization since David Justice’s game 6 homer.

  12. I remember thinking early in the season that Matzek was somehow simultaneously the best guy and the worst guy to bring in with the bases loaded. By the end, he was just the best guy.

  13. @21 Totally agree.

    Without Matzek, we don’t make or win the World Series. Factoring in his history, it’s truly one of the most amazing stories in franchise history. One setback in his physical and/or mental recovery could have led to a number of outcomes where he’s not with Atlanta or not back in major league baseball.

    Something I overlooked until recently: he still has three years of team control left. Relievers can be a fickle lot, but if he’s healthy I think we have a super elite weapon for hopefully a few more deep postseason runs.

    Have there been any more rumors on Bryan Reynods? If we resign Freddie and trade for him, I think we’re the best team in the National League.

  14. This is the first international signing period without penalties from Coppygate. It’s crazy to think that we won a World Series with almost no capital from the international market from the previous 4 seasons (was it 4?), both trade capital or actual help on the field. I wonder if we’ll land any can’t miss prospects like Kevin Maitan this cycle. Lol.

    In other news, the Melk Man has finished his route. Melky Cabrera retired. Has he ever offered any theories for why he was so bad in Atlanta?

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