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Phil Maton’s curveball is helping him become a key piece in Astros’ bullpen­

Maton’s dominance has been off the charts in 2023 thanks to a well-developed breaking pitch.

Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Finally, all the confidence the Astros have given to righty reliever Phil Maton is paying off. The 30-year-old pitcher is having his best season so far in the MLB and has mastered a weapon that, still, some people call curveball. Maton has been almost untouchable on the mound and is inducing incredibly soft contact at a great rate.

It all comes down to an 0.82 ERA across 22 innings and 19 appearances out of the Astros’ pen in the 2023 campaign. He’s allowed only 10 hits and two earned runs, has given up only two walks, and has registered 22 strikeouts. To date, Maton’s plunked three and issued a home run. Pure dominance, they say.

This comes with a 2.56 FIP, a 0.55 WHIP, and a 0.8 BB/9 ratio. Maton is also among the best pitchers in expected stats such as xERA (2.61), xBA (.201), xSLG (.321), and xWOBA (.255).

The weird thing here is that Maton is getting this kind of dominance for the first time in his career, after seven seasons in the Majors, and despite dropping miles per hour on his fastball. After averaging a career-high 93.5 miles per hour on his fastball in 2020, he’s averaging 89.5 MPH this year.

The difference-maker this time is his curveball, a pitch he’s been developing and throwing more often year after year…

  • 2019: 18.9% of his pitches
  • 2020: 20.3%
  • 2021: 24.2%
  • 2022: 31.6%
  • 2023: 42.6%
Baseball Savant

This confidence in his breaking pitch has paid off big time for Maton as it’s become his elite weapon to get people out. To date, his curveball has produced a great outcome of just one hit (single) with 15 strikeouts over 39 at-bats (.026). This delivery has induced a 75.8-mph exit velocity average, which ranks first among pitchers with at least 10 batted ball events.

This kind of result might help Maton become more of a late-inning option for manager Dusty Baker. Maton hasn’t been used in high-leverage environments as he’s just logged one at-bat in those scenarios. He’s been brought out of the pen for medium-leverage and low-leverage cases according to Baseball-Reference.

No matter what, Phil Maton seems to be a 2.0 version of himself who can strike out more hitters, dominate even more, and have more command and control of his pitches – in fact, one of Maton’s most encouraging signs is his BB/9 ratio, which went from 3.3 last year to 0.8 this season.