The curious case of Tigers’ Nick Maton who gets ‘reset’ in the finale against Guardians

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Detroit Tigers infielder Nick “Wolfie” Maton to start 2023. He’s gone from a walk-off hero and leading the team in home runs to hitting just .163 and getting a “reset” versus the Cleveland Guardians in the series finale at Progressive Field this afternoon. The book on Maton is that he’s a crusher of fastballs and whiffer against offspeed and the numbers bear that out.

Key Points

  • The Tigers traded for Maton, along with Matt Vierling and Donny Sands in exchange for Gregory Soto this past offseason
  • Maton is a hitter that does “control the strike zone” ranking in the 70th percentile for BB rate
  • Maton is 26 years old and only has a total of 334 MLB at-bats.
  • Manager A.J. Hinch spoke about Maton’s struggles prior to the finale with the Guardians.
Nick Maton

Nick Maton by the numbers in 2023

I know he’s trying to prove to everybody that he can handle all pitches, and sometimes by doing that you end up swinging at too many of them…

– Detroit Tigers Manager A.J. Hinch

Maton has played pretty good defense while moving between second, third, and shortstop some in the ever-fluid defensive alignments Hinch employs. He’s committed three errors (two in one forgettable inning against the St. Louis Cardinals) in 53 total chances this season. But his bat is the bigger concern.

  • For 2023, Maton is slashing .163/.254/.337
  • He has an 11.4% barrel rate and a 38.6% hard-hit rate.
  • He is striking out nearly 30% of his at-bats, which speaks to what Hinch said about proving he can handle any pitch and swinging at too many of them.
  • However, he does have an 11% walk rate, which proves he does understand the strike zone and how to command it.

The clear difference for Maton is his ability to handle anything that is off-speed. Against fastballs, he has a wOBA of .357, and SLG of .517, with only a 17.2% whiff rate and a run value on four-seam fastballs of 2, which is pretty good. Yet, against anything offspeed, he has a 58.3% whiff rate and is put away 35% of the time on these pitches. The numbers are roughly the same for breaking balls: 47% whiff rate and 28.4% put-away rate on breaking balls; his run value created on anything that breaks or is off-speed is all in the negative numbers.

His ability to adjust to off-speed and breaking pitches will determine his success and future with the MLB club. And, it doesn’t necessarily need to be contact, but the ability to lay off and take close off-speed or breaking pitches in order to hunt fastballs.

The bottom line

“Wolfie” Maton is a seemingly great clubhouse guy for the Tigers, who has been a part of a winning team in Philadelphia. He’s young and can still adjust, especially given the minuscule amount of MLB at-bats he’s had thus far in his career. His “water-off-a-duck’s-back” attitude in the field and at the plate will seemingly serve him well, but he has to adjust at the plate to break the platoon situation he currently finds himself in.

Written by Teddy Jackson

Writer for the best sports city in the world. General optimist with an analytical eye. “It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” -Sherlock Holmes

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