Have you seen a player that you know has good upside but hasn’t exploited his potential? I have, it’s Phil Maton. The 28-year-old right-hander has been a decent reliever in his five-year career, but there have been times when Maton has proved he can be much better. Without going too far, he was excellent in the postseason, giving the Astros a reliable option for the middle innings in October.
Acquired from the Guardians for center-fielder Myles Straw in July, Maton was a little inconsistent in the regular season for Houston. It’s not like he had a bunch of consecutive bad appearances, but he was hit hard from time to time. The good thing about him in the regular campaign is that Phil completed 21 scoreless performances in his 27 games.
In fact, Maton would have finished the season with a 0.66 ERA in his final 16 games had not been for a five-run massacre in September 22 against the Angels.
Fortunately, he kept his dominance when it counted the most for the Astros: the postseason. In 12 games in October, Maton allowed only one earned run in 12 1/3 innings of nine hits, three walks, and 14 strikeouts. Opponents hit for a .200 batting average off him and his ERA closed at 0.73 (2.68 FIP).
He pitched mostly in the sixth inning, the frame he’s been more successful in throughout his career. That factor might’ve played an important part, but who knows. Just look at the following career stats:
6th inning: .248/.306/.350/.657, 41.1 IP, 3.70 ERA
7th inning: .260/.360/.458/.818, 58.1 IP, 5.09 ERA
8th inning: .240/.323/.429/.751, 50.2 IP, 5.51 ERA
Maton appeared in 12 of the 16 games the Astros had this postseason. And he left us these highlights to remember:
Game 6 of the ALCS vs Red Sox, won by Astros:
Game 2 of the WS vs Braves, won by Astros:
Game 3 of the WS vs Braves, won by Braves:
Game 5 of the WS vs Braves, won by Astros:
The good thing is that he won’t become a free agent until the end of the 2023 season. And even though it seems that Maton’s efficiency depends, at least for now, on how manager Dusty Baker uses him, the righty can make a push to improve and avoid first-pitch hits, a scenario that has hurt his stats throughout his MLB journey.
For you to have an idea, Maton’s opponents have posted a .421/.434/.674/1.108 line against the first pitch across 100 plate appearances in his career (95-for-40, nine doubles, five home runs). That’s just unacceptable. In a modern-baseball world where everything is known and there are thousands of stats and videos, Maton needs to be less predictable and definitely avoid being so hittable beginning an at-bat. But fortunately, the Astros have time to help Maton improve and be more like his postseason self.