Rockies Year in Review: Tyler Matzek

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Here at Rox Pile, we are starting a player review for each and every player that suited up in a Colorado Rockies uniform this season. This series will be going all the way up until Dec. 15 with player profiles posted every day.

Today, we are featuring Rockies starting pitcher Tyler Matzek.

Tyler Matzek’s season was something to forget. Sure, he didn’t throw well; he was wildly ineffective and couldn’t hit the strike zone with his fastball. The bigger issue is his hiatus after a disastrous May 6th start and his future in baseball.

I’m not going to bring up Matzek’s 2015 numbers. I can summarize it in three words; they weren’t good. He walked a lot of batters, couldn’t find the strike zone, and labored through every inning he threw. Anyone who watched him pitch this year could tell you that he didn’t look comfortable on the mound. When a player has a year like Matzek did in 2014, it’s more than a mechanical error; it’s mental. I don’t want to talk about his numbers. I want to talk about his mindset.

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Matzek was drafted 11th overall in 2009 out of Capistrano Valley High School in California. Matzek threw well  until a mid-season promotion to High A Modesto in 2011; the wheels just fell off. He lost control and was walking more than a batter per inning. It was so bad that Matzek stepped away from baseball and went to his high school coach for guidance. His 2012 was up and down, filled with hopeful signs of improvement and setbacks seemingly every other week. Still though, the Rockies promoted him to AA Tulsa in 2013 and he improved his walk rate, cutting his walks by 20 in the same amount of innings, but another problem arose; his strikeouts dropped by nearly 60. One problem was fixed but another reared its ugly head.

Still, the promotions continued – AAA and debuting for the Rockies in 2014 – as the organization believed in their record-setting investment (3.9MM signing bonus, highest in team history at the time). Matzek remarkably had his best numbers with the Rockies in his time in the organization, posting a career-low walk rate and looking like a future piece of the Rockies’ jumbled puzzle.

I have had some mental demons that come up when I’m in a game. It’s something that throws my mechanics off.

Throughout these five years, Matzek was a top prospect in the organization. There was tons of pressure on this kid; the drive to compete that is in professional athletes, a 3.9MM number sitting above his head, the need by the organization for Matzek to pan out, and, the biggest of them all, the pressure he puts on himself.

Matzek is a very self-critical guy; he admitted as much on the Purple Dinosaur Podcast with Anthony Masterson and Tyler Maun. He brings this self-induced pressure with him every time he steps on the mound. Matzek has a more difficult journey than most on every start; he’s not only battling the other team, he’s battling himself.

Entering 2015 Matzek had Rockies fans excited. Apprehensive, but excited to see him build on an impressive end to the 2014 season. Somehow I don’t think Matzek was as excited as we were. He succeeded when expectations were tempered; when people didn’t know what to expect from him. He had a clean slate to build his season with nothing to compare it to. After the success he had, that’s what fans expected him to be.

As we all know, Matzek struggled with the Rockies and was demoted to AAA Albuquerque. He struggled there, too, and took his first break of the season. The idea was to take Matzek out of high pressure situations and let him regain his composure away from baseball. After a month he was sent to A Boise. He made two promising appearances before one disastrous appearance derailed all the progress he had made. Matzek was given more time away from baseball..

Here are some quotes that Matzek gave to the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders during his short time with the Boise Hawks;

"“I’ve gotten away from some of the things I was doing well,” he said in a phone interview from Eugene. “There is a mental aspect that is getting in the way of my mechanics.”Such as?“I’m honestly not even sure,” he said. “Some mental things that happen to creep in and I have to make adjustments. I felt a little bit anxious.”…“I don’t think that it’s so much the yips,” Matzek said. “The yips, to me, would mean I wouldn’t be able to (pitch) in practice. I have had some mental demons that come up when I’m in a game. It’s something that throws my mechanics off.“It’s not something I want to share. It’s not something I want opposing teams knowing about.”"

Matzek is smart, self-aware, and a very talented guy. He’s still young at 25 and is dealing with obstacles very early in his still-promising career. He knows he has things to work through. He knows he has to overcome these obstacles to succeed and I think he has the mental fortitude to do it.

Matzek’s 2015 didn’t finish after his break. He made nine appearances for Albuquerque, all in relief and mostly in low-pressure situations. He threw 10 innings, gave up 4 runs, recorded 13 strikeouts, and walked 10. Not great, but he started to look like he had control again. It looked like he was managing those demons well.

I believe in Tyler Matzek. I believe he’ll still make an impact for the Colorado Rockies. It might be as a starter or in relief, but Matzek will finish his career in the majors. He’ll do it on his own time and when that time comes, I’ll be there rooting him on.

Next: Rockies Year in Review: Jon Gray

Check out our continuing 2015 Player Review series with the latest installment, rookie phenom Jon Gray.