I can't think of a player that has had a bigger swing in his performance from very good to very bad quite as dramatically as Brian Matusz.
Over his last eight starts last year, he went 6-0 with a 1.57 ERA. In 10 starts this year, he is 1-7 with a 9.84 ERA. His ERA is 11.42 over his past four starts since he returned from the minor leagues.
The question that doesn't seem to have a clear and definitive answer is this: What the heck happened to Matusz?
Maybe it's one mass of a combination of a lack of proper conditioning along with too much tinkering with his delivery along with an injury along with a lack of command along with perhaps a lack of confidence.
Matusz seems to always be somewhat upbeat in his postgame interviews. Finding a positive in a tough situation is fine and probably somewhat necessary for him but some fans might feel better if they heard him say 'I'm a total mess right now, but I vow to get this fixed someway, somehow.'
Right now all fans and reporters can do is ask some questions and ponder what the issue is.
We have to remember Matusz was hurt for the season's first two months and some wonder if he is still hurting. He himself has questioned his own conditioning and hinted at issues adjusting to the change in pitching coaches from Rick Kranitz to Mark Connor.
I also have to wonder why there was a need to bring Matusz back to the majors when he had just started to get solid results at Norfolk. He had allowed four earned runs over 23 innings in his last three Triple-A starts before he returned to the majors.
Now, over his last six Orioles starts, he has allowed 6, 8, 6, 6, 6 and 5 runs.
This from a pitcher who entered this year with a career ERA of 4.37 in 40 big league starts. He entered this year with a career mark of 4-3 and ERA of 2.49 in nine starts against the Red Sox and Yankees. You don't luck into those numbers.
Let's hope Matusz is down, but far from out.
In New York, Buck Showalter told reporters of Matusz:
"He's got a lot of work to do between now and next April. I look forward to him coming back and competing for a place on our team next year.
"There are two sides to it. I'm a father first. I don't like to see anybody get beat up on. I don't think that Brian is at a point right now where he can defend himself properly."
Wow. He can compete for a spot next year? This was not a ringing endorsement.
This fall from grace from someone that looked to be a cornerstone of future success was stunning and dramatic.
I remain confident that Matusz will be good again for this team. I have to admit I am not as confident about that as I once was, though.