Tyler Matzek

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Tyler Alexander Matzek

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Biographical Information[edit]

Tyler Matzek was a first-round pick in the 2009 amateur draft.

Matzek was 13-1 with a 0.97 ERA as a high school senior, holding opponents to a .144 average. The Colorado Rockies chose him 11th overall in the draft. He was signed by scout Jon Lukens at the August 17th deadline for a club-record $3.9 million signing bonus.

Matzek made his pro debut on May 24, 2010 for the Asheville Tourists, allowing one hit over five innings. He went 5-1, 2.92 in 18 starts for Asheville, pitching only 89 1/3 innings. He struck out 88 batters, but also walked 62. He started 2011 with the Modesto Nuts, but had no success at all in the California League: in 10 starts, he was 0-3, with a 9.82 ERA and 46 walks against 37 strikeouts in 33 innings. After that terrible start to his season, he went back down to Asheville at the end of May, but did not do as well as the previous season. In 12 starts, he was 5-4, 4.36, and still struggled with his control as attested by 50 walks in 64 innings, although he did strike out 74 batters.

Tyler was back with Modesto in 2012, but had another underwhelming season, going 6-8, 4.62 in 28 starts. On the good side, he did pitch 142 1/3 innings and strike out 153 opponents. In 2013, he moved up to the Tulsa Drillers of the AA Southern League, where he went 8-9, 3.79 in 26 starts. He again pitched pitched 142 1/3 innings, but his strikeouts dropped to 95. he still received another promotion at the start of 2014, joining the Colorado Springs SkySox for his first taste of AAA ball. After 12 starts, he was 5-4, 4.05 when he was called up to Denver.

Matzek made his major league debut as a starter against the Atlanta Braves on June 11, 2014, and it was a good one. Pitching into the 8th inning, he allowed only 2 runs on 5 hits and struck out 7 to earn credit for an 8-2 win. Coincidentally, he was born on the same day as Jordan Lyles, a fellow member of the Rockies' starting rotation that season. On September 5th, he pitched his first major league shutout when he defeated the San Diego Padres, 3-0, firing a three-hitter. He went 6-11, 4.05 in 20 games, including 19 starts, pitching 117 2/3 innings.

When he started the Rockies' home opener against the Chicago Cubs on April 10, 2015, he became the first pitcher in team history to ever bat in the eighth spot. It proved to be good strategy as he hit a double in the 2nd inning and 9th-place hitter D.J. LeMahieu, who went 3 for 4, drove him in with a single. The Rockies won, 5-1, but Tyler did not get the win as he struggled with his control, forcing him to make a lot of pitches, and left after only four innings. These control problems only got worst as they turned into a full-on case of "Steve Blass disease", with 19 walks in 22 innings over 5 starts. A trip down to the minors did not help as he waled a combined 25 batters in 13 2/3 innings with the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes and Short-season class A Boise Hawks. In 2016, things were almost as bad, with 19 walks in 21 innings for the Class A Modesto Nuts, although he did strike out 28 batters, but in AA with the Hartford Yard Goats he was completely adrift, with 14 walks and an ERA of 14.29 in 5 2/3 innings.

Matzek almost gave up on baseball at that point, but did not want to let go without having tried everything. He worked with psychiatrists and psychologists, as the ailment was purely mental, not physical, and did not play at all in 2017, and in 2018 was with the homeless Texas AirHogs of the independent American Association. The results weren't great, as he went 3-8, 5.89 in 22 games (14 starts), with 93 Ks and 66 Ws in 88 2/3 innings. In 2019, he was given a three-game audition with the Jackson Generals in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization early on, but was released and returned to the AirHogs where he did a lot better, going 5-4, 2.64 in 22 games as a reliever, with a K/W ratio of 53/19. That stoked some interest from the Atlanta Braves who gave him a more extended audition than the D-Backs, with a total of 12 1/3 innings in AA and AAA; he struck out 18 and walked 5, showing good stuff. In 2020, he got a chance to play some Grapefruit League games with the Braves, showing how far he had managed to come back.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Mark Bowman: "Matzek tries comeback after years battling yips: Once a top prospect, first-round pick says 'the game was taken away'", mlb.com, March 8, 2020. [1]

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