2018 RATING: 5.20
2017 RATING: 3.02
2018 PERFORMANCE: 5-5, 4.15 ERA, 19 G, 14 GS, 50 SO, 1.269 WHIP
2018 SALARY: LEAGUE MINIMUM
2019 STATUS: PRE-ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE
When Matt Koch was assigned to Reno 1 week before Opening Day 2018, he may not have envisioned the amount of big league time he would actually see. Koch made his 1st appearance with the Dbacks on April 7th in St. Louis where he pitched a couple of good innings late in the game, striking out 3 without giving up a hit or walk. From there Koch was placed into the starting rotation replacing Taijuan Walker who left his April 14th start early after complaining of elbow tightness. Walker would shortly be lost to TJ surgery.
Koch’s 2nd 2018 appearance and 1st as a starter came on April 20th in San Diego. Koch managed to pitch a good game going 6 innings striking out 4 while allowing only 2 hits, one of them a solo HR, in a no decision start for Koch but a Dback’s loss. Koch again started in April on the 26th in Philly where he would record his 1st 2018 win, but watch his hit count go way up to 6 hits allowed in 6 innings pitched.
The beginning of May looked as Koch was going to get knocked down a peg or two with his next two starts scheduled against a couple of big names in Kershaw and Verlander. Koch, with help from the offense, handled the Dodgers and even more so the Astros, with both of these games resulting in home field wins for the Dbacks. Here’s a fun-fact: Matt Koch became the 1st pitcher to face MVPs in consecutive starts since 1947. At this point of the season Koch is 2-0 in 4 starts.
The rest of May was shaky at best for Matt Koch since clearly opposing batters have him figured out - Koch gave up a tremendous amount of hits in his last 4 starts of May going 1-3 and allowing 17 runs on 30 hits. In two of these four starts Koch could not manage to strikeout a single batter.
Koch’s 1st start in June came at home against the Marlins and Koch was on fire throwing his best stuff. Maybe it was the (minors) team he was facing, either way Koch went 7 innings striking out 6, allowing 0 runs. Looking better, but not for long. Koch would go on to start 3 more games in June and the opposing teams would continue to rough him up. Similar to his end of May starts, Koch was unable to keep his hit count low and gave up 18 hits in his remaining 3 starts in June. Finally, after his final start in June, Koch was optioned back to Reno in anticipation of Shelby Miller’s return.
Koch returned to the Dbacks (bullpen) in July and made two appearances, in both he threw just 1 inning each game. Koch was once again given a starting opportunity, this time in September against Colorado after Buccholz was scratched. The Rockies pounded Koch for the entirety of the first 3 innings in that start, it was BRUTAL. The rest of the season Matt Koch would only make two more appearances, once in long relief and once more as a starter.
Overall, Koch slightly exceeded my expectations as an early season replacement call-up for Walker, less so during his spot starts in September. On the bright side, Koch started 14 games in 2018 when nobody expect he would, and the Dbacks managed to win 8 of those games. Though Koch pitched less out of the pen, he proved a more reliable bullpen piece than others.
Expect the 28 year old Koch to compete for a starting rotation spot in 2019, and if that falls through, a long inning relief role in the bullpen.