Danny Abriano, SNY.tv:
The season-ending ulnar nerve surgery Steven Matz had on his pitching elbow is the same type of surgery Jacob deGrom underwent last Sept. 20.
During the surgery, Matz' ulnar nerve was moved in order to relieve discomfort. He had been pitching through significant pain at times season, reported Marc Carig of Newsday, who said Matz insisted on pitching through it even though his elbow was swelling up and he had to shorten bullpen sessions and skip others entirely.
"I really wasn't able to work on stuff that I wanted to," Matz said about the shortened and/or skipped bullpen sessions.
Prior to deGrom's surgery, he was dealing with numbness in the fingers on his pitching hand in addition to elbow discomfort. It hasn't been reported whether Matz was dealing with numbness in addition to the elbow discomfort, which resulted in him receiving pain-killing injections, sometimes right before starts, according to Carig.
The 26-year-old Matz, who missed the first two months of the season due to an arm injury, had a 6.08 ERA (5.02 FIP) and 1.53 WHIP with 48 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings (13 starts) this season.
While pitching through pain this season, Matz threw his slider much less (4.3 percent, compared to 10.4 percent in 2016) in order to reduce the stress on his elbow, Mets manager Terry Collins said on Monday. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate decresead dramatically as he struck out 6.48 per 9 innings -- down from 8.77 in 2016.
While pitching through pain in his elbow and numbness in his fingers late last season, deGrom had a start on Aug. 18 where he allowed eight runs on 13 hits in 5.0 innings. During his next start, he allowed five runs on 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings. On Sept. 1, which was his last start of the season, he allowed three runs on six hits in 5.0 innings.
DeGrom's fastball velocity last season was 93.4 MPH, down from 95 MPH in 2015. This season, after returning from surgery and having a regular Spring Training, deGrom's average fastball velocity has been 95 MPH as he has struck out 191 batters in 165.0 innings. By comparison, Matz' average fastball velocity was 93.1 MPH this season, down from 93.6 MPH in 2016 and 94.3 MPH in 2015.
When healthy, Matz shown immense potential. He had a 2.27 ERA (3.61 FIP) and 1.23 WHIP while striking out 34 batters in 35 2/3 innings during his rookie season in 2015. Last season, Matz had a 3.40 ERA (3.39 FIP) and 1.21 WHIP while striking out 129 in 132 1/3 innings.
Finding out when Matz' elbow discomfort began (and whether he experienced the same type of numbness as deGrom did last season) would be instructive, especially if this is something that has been bothering him since last season. But even if we don't find out, it's fair to believe that Matz' performance in 2016 was an aberration that was due in large part to him pitching through pain for the majority of the season.
Why the Mets let Matz pitch through pain for that long is another question. And while recovery from any surgery is never a given, Matz and Mets fans can draw a hopeful parallel with deGrom, who has been largely dominant this season after returning from the same surgery Matz is about to undergo.