Atlanta Braves postseason hero hits the IL and it could spell the end of an era

Tyler Matzek has struggled to start 2024 and now lands on the Injured List, placing his future with the Braves in doubt.

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves
New York Mets v Atlanta Braves / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

Atlanta Braves reliever Tyler Matzek was a critical part of the 2021 World Series run, but his 2024 has been off to a rocky start. He's allowed 11 earned runs in 10 innings, giving him a 9.90 ERA. While his 5.94 FIP is much better, he's still been one of the worst relievers in baseball by that metric.

Matzek missed the entire 2023 season recovering from Tommy John Surgery, and today the Braves placed the reliever on the Injured List with left elbow inflammation. To replace him on the roster, the team recalled Ray Kerr from Gwinnett.

What Tyler Matzek going on the IL means for the Braves

Clearly, Matzek's stuff wasn't fooling batters. Although he was striking out batters and walking batters at a higher level than he was in 2022, when batters made contact, which they were doing a lot, they were crushing the ball.

The 33-year-old has a whiff rate in the second percentile and a barrel rate in the first percentile, meaning he has been one of the worst pitchers this season in both allowing contact and allowing hard hits at an optimal launch angle.

The result has been three long balls against just 48 total batters. This is tied for the most homers he's allowed in a Braves uniform, as he allowed three homers in both 2021 and 2022, but faced over three times more batters.

By placing Matzek on the IL, the Braves hope the time off can get the lefty's elbow right and give the next man up, Ray Kerr, a chance to prove himself.

In Gwinnett this season, Kerr has struck out 37.3% of the batters he's faced, although he too has been plagued by the long ball, allowing five bombs in 14 innings. He has a 4.50 ERA.

What this IL stint means for Tyler Matzek

If Matzek isn't able to return to form once he comes back from the IL, we could witness the end of an era with him in a Braves uniform.

In 2019, Jonny Venters started the season with the Braves but struggled in his first six games. The team placed him on the IL on April 15 and he returned from the IL on May 10. He was given three more games and released on May 18.

This could be a similar trajectory for Matzek, who could become a free agent at the end of the season. Once Matzek returns, if he does not have competitive stuff, the Braves could move on from him early to either give relievers like Kerr an extended shot or to target a reliever through a trade to strengthen the pen.

Of course, even if the Braves let go of Matzek in the coming months, he'll always be a Brave thanks to his outstanding performance in the 2021 playoffs which brought the Braves their first championship since 1995.

Before joining the Braves in 2020, Matzek hadn't pitched since 2015, as he spent years trying to overcome the yips. The Braves gave him a chance in 2020 and he quickly became an integral part of the bullpen.

He was possibly the best of the Night Shift in the 2021 postseason. His 12.47% cWPA was the highest among pitchers in the 2021 NLCS, no thanks to one of the gutsiest outings you will ever see in Game 6, where the lefty struck out three straight after coming into the game with runners on 2B and 3B.

Mookie Betts, who was the final strikeout, said this year that the Braves reliever was impossible to hit. If that version of Tyler Matzek can return, the Braves are in luck but only time will tell.

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