It just so happens that every player that I’ve covered so far, Edwin Encarnacion, RA Dickey, and Josh Hamilton all have nicknames. Well, Robert-Allen Dickey doesn’t, but he has Dickeyface (look at this one too!), which is just as good. But Encarnacion has E5, Hamilton has Hambone, and even I have JW1. Now, the streak has been broken with the Bear/Bull spotlight directed upon Matt Harvey. With the way he’s pitched so far, his nick status needs a change. I’ve heard of several that really don’t do him justice, but should be put out there for community research. There’s Matt ‘Hardcore’ Harvey, which is simple and rolls off the tongue pretty easily. But it also brings up images that can be described with words that end in ‘ingus’ and ‘lation’. Not exactly what you want. Well, *you* might want that, but this is about Matt Harvey. There’s Mattastic, which is just corny. If we are just squishing his name together with other words, why not go with Mattpocolypse or Mattmageddon? Even Matt-howyoulikemenow! has a certain synergy to it. I’ve also seen Heatflame Harv, which just sounds like my dating life… desperate. My choice, I feel, has the upper hand at the moment. Borrowed from the DC Universe, Harvey Two-Face was recently played by Aaron Eckhart in Nolan’s
Prestige, Inception, Batman movies. The association only adds to the flair, and the name has a good ring to it. It’s not like I was going to go with Rocket Racoon, amiright? He’s about as useful as Hawkeye, I mean, at least Black Widow is a good vehicle for bewbs. I mean, seriously… a big green Hulk, an all-powerful mechanized armor suit with gunz flown by a guy with charming sass and sarcasm, the son of Odin, a super soldier, and a dude who shoots arrows… yeah, tell me who doesn’t belong in that sentence. Anyhow, I’m going to go out on a limb and take credit for Harvey’s new nick. So it was said, so it shall be done.
So far in 2013, Matt Harvey is starting right where he left off last season. In 40.1 innings pitched, he has an ERA of 1.56, a FIP of 2.25 and a K/9 10.26 to go along with a 2.68 BB/9. Suffice to say, those are fantasy ace numbers. In response to his excellent production thus far, the fantasy community has been constantly asking two questions; ‘How is he doing this?’ and ‘Is this for real?’ So let’s find the answers.
How is he doing this? Well, let’s look closer at what type of pitcher Matt Harvey is. He has a four-seam fastball that ranges around the mid-90′s, but tops out at 98 MPH, a two-seamer that sits around 91 MPH, a plus-plus slider, an average change-up, along with an average 12-6 curveball. For the most part, Harvey relies mostly on his four-seamer and slider to do most of the heavy lifting.
So let’s talk about his fastball first, which could be labeled as ‘blistering’, cause, you know, it’s so hot. And fiery. Like Michelle Rodriguez. His two fastballs have been thrown 58.2% of the time so far this season, at an average of 94.7 MPH. Let’s take a look-see of what these four-seamers actually look like.
Fastball vs. Andre Ethier
Fastball vs. Mike Stanton
Result– FINISH HIM!
“I have not seen a power right-handed pitcher that throws above 95 miles per hour command his fastball as well as Harvey since Roger Clemens.” – Mitch Williams, former MLB pitcher.
That’s quite the name drop. As you can see from the GIF’s, the fastball is hard and live, with a flat plane, but with precision accuracy, and zips at the plate. Even without any sink or downhill plane, simply being able to command and control such a fast pitch more then makes up for the lack of movement. If you notice in the second GIF, you’ll see Harvey’s bread n’ butter location, which is the high-heat. Based on anecdotal evidence, I’d say he relies on this as an out-pitch about six times out of ten.
For bonus giggles, I’m just going to link you to a GIF, (Which is from my tumblr. Visit it, because, you know, I’m the Bono of fantasy baseball writing, so of course I’m going to promo my stuff until your eyes bleed. Plus, baseball and Jennifer Lawrence GIFs… how can you lose?) Anyhow, what you’ll see in that link is Harvey’s two-seamer, which I don’t focus on too much with this post, but has its own lateral movement that really adds another level for the batter to look for. Justin Ruggiano just has no chance.
Now, onto the slider. The velocity on Harvey’s breaking ball, which he didn’t start throwing until his junior year of college, has increased in velocity, from that point at 84 MPH, to what it is today, an 89 MPH wipeout pitch. Let’s take a look.
Slider vs. Nick Hundley
Slider vs. Brian Dozier
Result– FLAWLESS VICTORY!
His knockout slider is just that. And its pretty freak-like that he didn’t even learn the pitch until the second year of his collegiate career. While the late movement usually has a downward break, the pitch also moves slightly in on left handers and away to right handed batters.
So, to answer, how is he doing this, well, he’s pretty much doing it with his crazy-good fastball and slider combo-punch. In fact, I have just thought of the perfect depiction of said combo-punch.
Matt Harvey’s Fastball and Slider Combo Punch In the Form of Gus Fring
Gus sez, “COME AT ME BRO!”
Is this real? That’s the next question to check off our list, and, to a certain extent, yes, this is real. While I don’t think he can sustain a sub-2 ERA for the rest of the season, that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t be dominating for the next five months. Let’s rewind for a second, since I find the evolution of Harvey quite interesting. If you didn’t know, when first drafted, there were questions about what Harvey actually was. In fact, numerous scouting reports stated that he might be best utilized in the bullpen. And there was good argument for that conclusion. Just three years ago, while he still had premium velocity, Harvey really only had two operating pitches, the fastball and curveball, and didn’t really command either one on a consistent basis. Note that his slider wasn’t even considered part of his repertoire, which is the most intriguing part. Fast forward to the present, what you see now is an entirely new pitcher. On top of the expansion of his pitch arsenal, Harvey’s delivery, a major weakness before his junior year in college, is even cleaner now than it was when he was drafted. He has shown the aptitude to make major adjustments and refine his pitching plan, showing up in his progressively improving command and control, and allowing his stuff play at a starters level.
Looking under the hood, sort-of-speak, there is nothing in the underlying stat’s that shakes my confidence. There are some minor things, which will certainly lead to some regression. For one, his LOB% is at 86.1. That should lower as the season progresses. Not dramatically so, but more runs will score because of that. We’ll also likely see his HR/FB of 5.6% raise up a tick, which will also push Harvey’s ERA/FIP up, but not dramatically so. Also, his SwStr% (Percentage of Strikes that were swung at and missed) of 13.1% would have led the league last season, so that might lower a tad. But again, this is all nitpicking, and won’t necessarily change the dynamic.
Ascending the Mets organizational ladder quickly, I can’t say how lucky you are if you own him. Granted, he was an easy sleeper pick this season, but you’d be lying if you expected him to be this dominant, this fast. Yeah, I’m calling you out son! In redraft leagues, you can sell high, but I think he’ll continue to put up ace-like numbers for the rest of the year. If you do sell, make sure to set the price at Top-25 value. If you intend on keeping Harvey, I would expect, ROS– 12-9/3.29/1.17/168. If you are in a keeper, well then, here’s a pat on your back. Pay no attention to the force for which I’m about to hit you with, for it is filled with my jealous wrath. For the next two seasons, the sky is the limit. Health permitting, I would expect something akin to Clayton Kershaw to happen. Something like 15-10/3.00/1.20/225.
You don’t have to ask anymore. Matt Harvey is for real. And he’s here to stay.
Obvious verdict is obvious.