Atlanta Braves 2024 season preview: Tyler Matzek's journey back to dominance

Tyler Matzek is back! However, what can the Braves realistically expect from the lefty in 2024? 

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game One
Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game One / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

Braves' left-handed relief pitcher Tyler Matzek is looking to overcome adversity once again in 2024. Matzek started his career in 2014 but didn't pitch from 2016 to 2019 due to struggles with the yips. It was a tough period for Matzek but he got through it and was then signed by the Atlanta Braves in 2020.

After three solid seasons with the Braves and memorable playoff performances, Matzek had to undergo Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2023 season. However, he has recovered and is preparing for a return to form during the 2024 season. Atlanta hopes he will return to the pitcher that featured in one of the best postseason outings you will ever see in baseball.

During his last appearance in 2022, Matzek had a 4-2 record with a 3.50 ERA in 42 games through 43.2 innings. He only struck out 36 batters, resulting in a lower K/9 ratio than his previous seasons with the Atlanta Braves.

FanGraphs ZiPS projects that Tyler Matzek will pitch 45 innings with a 2-1 record, a 4.20 ERA, and a 9.40 K/9. Ideally, Brian Snitker would prefer Matzek to pitch more than 45 innings in 2024, but his health remains the top priority.

Due to the chance he isn't able to remain healthy, the Braves may need to consider adding another arm to the bullpen. However, this would only happen if Atlanta really felt like Matzek was in trouble.

After a year of not pitching in 2023, it may take some time for Matzek to return to form. Right now, his fastball velocity is sitting in the 91-93 mph range as he works his way back. However, the breaking pitches still look really sharp.

The 4.20 ERA projection for Matzek might seem high due to the challenges of recovering from Tommy John surgery. Expect some setbacks along the way. Unfortunately, one rough outing can significantly impact a relief pitcher's ERA, which might be the case for Matzek in 2024. Despite his potentially high ERA, it is anticipated that it will be influenced by a few challenging outings.

There is a possibility that his K/9 rate could drop below the projected 9.40. Matzek’s focus will be on mechanics and command rather than velocity and sharp breaking balls. Consequently, hitters might make more contact off Matzek compared to previous seasons, which could contribute to a potential increase in his ERA.

Matzek's return to the Braves bullpen, alongside Atlanta's newest relief pitchers Aaron Bummer and Reynaldo Lopez, could lead to some impressive relief statistics in the league. One thing is for sure, Matzek has a confident energy and will bring that swagger in every single outing. No matter how good or bad his stuff is that night.

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