Jul 25, 2022; Oakland, California, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Phil Maton (88) throws a pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning at RingCentral Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to Gallery Sports’ Houston Astros Spring Training player spotlight, Astros Player of the Day. We will look at a different Astros player each day throughout spring training.
Today’s Astros Player of the Day is relief pitcher Phil Maton.
When the Astros left Maton off their ALDS roster the reason given by former general manager James Click and manager Dusty Baker was that it was due to an injury which would be explained by Maton. The Astros reliever appeared in 67 games during an injury-free regular season, so news of an injury was a surprise.
More than two hours before Justin Verlander threw the first pitch of the Astros postseason run, Maton stood in front of the Astros dugout and sheepishly explained why he had a cast on his right hand.
The normally stoic Maton fractured the fifth metacarpal in his right hand punching his locker after he allowed two runs while recording just one out during the Astros’ final regular season game, which included allowing a single to his younger brother, Nick. He underwent season-ending surgery on his hand days later.
Acquired in a deadline trade for Myles Straw, Maton became a postseason hero during the Astros’ 2021 World Series run. He allowed one run over 12.1 innings in 12 games, and he wasn’t scored on while making five World Series appearances, but he could not carry that success over into his first full season with the Astros, and Click declined to say if he would’ve made the team’s postseason roster had he been healthy.
Maton’s 2022 season was as up and down as it gets. He finished April with a 4.82 ERA, his May ERA was 2.13. He compiled a 5.00 ERA in June, 2.53 in July, 6.97 ERA in August, and 2.63 in September and October. He finished 2022 with a 3.84 ERA, the best of his career, but merely league average, which on the Astros staff had you at the bottom of the bullpen pecking order.
Known for his high spin rates, Maton pairs a 91 MPH fastball with a slider to righties and a curveball to lefties, but his fastball velocity has decreased each of the last two seasons, and after opponents hit .206 with a 37.8% whiff rate against it in 2021, they posted a .253 average with a 29.5% whiff rate against his fastball last season.
Maton’s most effective pitch last season was his curveball, which he threw 31.5% of the time, 44% to lefties, and held opponents to a .165 batting average, but hitters only swung and missed at it 32% of the time, down from 40% in 2021, and it was touched for four home runs after he allowed just three home runs on his curveball from 2017-2021.
Now fully healthy, Maton, who will turn 30 at the end of the month, is set to become a free agent after the season along with Ryne Stanek and Hector Neris, so 2023 will essentially serve as an audition for the Astros and the rest of the league.