Remember way back when, like three years ago, when the Mets “young pitching staff” was all the rage? We talked about how “setup” the Mets were for the future behind the strength of arms Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and of course their back-page-darling, Matt Harvey. While deGrom and Syndergaard seem to have overcome injuries to return to form, the same cannot be said for “The Dark Knight”. While his pitching exploits once made him the King of NYC, it’s been his off-field shenanigans that have grabbed the wrong type of headlines of late. But… with a spark in his first start vs. The Phillies, the inevitable “Is Harvey Back?” headlines and bylines popped up on the pages of print, digital, and telepathic media. (Pssst, if you don’t get your news telepathically in 2018, you’re behind the times.) Wow, if you’re waking up from a coma, you’d be shocked to learn that, A. Matt Harvey stinks (or has stunk) B. Telepathy has gone mainstream. Thanks Uri Geller! That got a bit off track, here’s what I saw in Matt Harvey’s start on Sunday night.
Scouting Report: To say the glory days are behind Harvey, is a kin to saying some people have hands. Pretty obvious at this point. That doesn’t mean the oft-injured Harvey isn’t capable of finding a nice middle ground between ace and hot garbage. The righthander’s first start of the season was encouraging, as he went 5 scoreless against the Phillies allowing two to reach, and striking out 5 in the process. He was heavy on fastball usage in that start, going to the cheese 67.4% of the time. In addition to the four-seamer, and infrequent sinker, he throws a slider about 25%+ of the time, a changeup to varying degrees, and the rare curveball. Today it’s the Sunday Night game against the Washington Nationals, a pretty decent litmus test. BTW, before we start HUGE THANKS to my Co-Host of the Baseball Show Andy Singleton for the video work.
First Inning: Starts out popping 93-94 on the fastball, and induces two groundballs from Eaton and Rendon. Eaton’s easily put away, while Rendon’s groundball on a 94 MPH four-seamer is scorched for a single. Up comes Bryce Harper… Harvey works him fastball down and outside, slider down and away, before missing his spot on the outside, and leaving a 94 MPH four-seamer over the plate for a home run down the line in right.
Next up is Matt Adams, who takes an overthrown fastball way out of the zone for a ball, before Harvey leaves another fastball over the plate, that pitch Adams mashes to right for a double. He retires the side with a sequence of hittable sliders and fastballs.
Summary: Puke face emoji. He’s got the velocity, but there’s nothing to these fastballs, and his location is everywhere.
Stats: 17 pitches, 2 runs, 3 hits, 2B, HR, three groundballs, three flyballs.
Second Inning: Starts the inning off running the count full on Michael Taylor, before Taylor hits a fastball up the middle for a fly-out to Michael Conforto in center. Harvey then gets a weak grounder vs Pedro Severino, before striking out Tanner Roark on the world’s most questionable outside strike.
Summary: Harvey bounces back to set down the bottom of the order, but Taylor, the only threat he saw, was a loud out. Passable inning, got a away with one, on the looking strike three vs Roark.
Stats: 12 pitches, 0 runs, 0 hits, K, one groundball, one flyball.
Third Inning: Jesus, ESPN and these in game interviews and fluff pieces, get back to the game! Sorry, they’ve missed at least 5 of Harvey’s pitches. Don’t they know I have work to do? Harvey starts the inning off with a fly-out off the bat of Adam Eaton, before inducing a grounder from Anthony Rendon. Next comes Bryce Harper the first inning’s hero. He takes a slider for a ball, before hitting a low sinker on the outside corner up the middle for a seeing-eye-single. Not a bad pitch by Harvey, but Harper is locked in.
Up comes Matt Adams, who strikes out on three pitches to end the inning.
Summary: So far Harvey’s pitches fall into three categories, hittable fastballs in the zone, breaking balls that miss the zone badly, and straight fastballs off the plate no one chases. Based on my viewing (I might have missed a few pitches due to A-Rod hob-knobbing with Michael Conforto) that pitch to Adams looks like Harvey’s first swinging strike.
Stats: 15 pitches, 0 runs, 1 hit, K, two groundballs, one flyball.
Fourth Inning: Starts off working away to Howie Kendrick, who takes a slider on the outer corner to rightfield for a single. Next at bat Trea Turner hits a 93 MPH fastball directly at Asdrubal Cabrera at second, who goes to second for the out. The elite speed of Turner sees him beat out the throw to first to break up a quick double play. Bad luck there for Harvey.
With Trea Turner on first, Harvey takes his time, throwing over to first a handful of times trying to keep Turner honest. He gets ahead of Michael Taylor 1-2, before inducing a sharply hit grounder right at Todd Frazier, who bobbles the ball, but makes the throw in time to get the out at first. The bobble might have cost Harvey another double play. Next up is the light-hitting catcher Pedro Severino, who takes two pitches on the outside part of the plate that look like balls, but are graciously called for strikes. Similar to that Roark called strike three in the second, these pitches are head-scratchers. Severino battles back 2-2, before he lines a 94 MPH four-seamer high in the zone to left for an RBI double. Harvey had him on the ropes, but couldn’t finish him, and allows Turner to score. Here comes some relief in the form of the pitcher Tanner Roark. Harvey gets up on Roark 1-2, fooling him with the slider a couple of times (at least someone is…), before Roark hits a weak groundball at Harvey. Who proceeds to boot it for an error. Here comes leadoff hitter Adam Eaton. Harvey gets ahead of Eaton 0-2 with a get-me-over changeup and a slider, before hitting him on the elbow with a 93 MPH fastball. The bases are juiced for Anthony Rendon, dangerous waters for Harvey. The third baseman gets a pitch to hit, as Harvey hangs a slider middle-in, but Rendon can’t capitalize, as he hits it to the warning track for the final out.
Summary: Good news, Harvey is still sitting 94 in the fourth. Bad news, his slider fools no one. The other problem is when Harvey misses, he really misses. So far his four swinging strikes have come vs. Matt Adams in the third, Michael Taylor in the fourth, and two vs. the pitcher Tanner Roark in his 4th inning at bat. That’s the area of Harvey’s game that is so obviously missing, his secondaries are fooling no one, and therefore, he’s not missing bats and collecting the strikeouts we need from the righty.
Stats: 23 pitches, 1 run, 2 hits, error, hit batter, 3 groundballs, 2 flyballs.
Fifth Inning: Up steps Bryce Harper, who is 2-for-2 with a homer already and a single last at bat. A graphic of Harper’s numbers all time vs Harvey flashes on the screen, and it might just illustrate how hard the mighty have fallen. Why? Because coming into tonight Harper had as many hits vs. Harvey in 29 previous at bats, as he has in two appearances tonight. Let’s see if the new narrative continues… Harvey gets up 0-2 on Harper with a slider, followed by a fastball on the outer-half that Bryce fouls back. On the third pitch of the at bat, Harvey leaves a fastball over the middle of the plate and Harper goes the other way for a single.
Matt Adams steps to the plate, who Harvey proceeds to walk on four pitches. With two on, Harvey gets a well timed grounder hit right at Asdrubal Cabrera for an easy double play. Trea Turner is next, and he rips a 91 MPH fastball to left for an RBI single. Michael Taylor gets down 0-2 before, Trea Turner takes second. The next pitch however, he gets a weak groundball to first base, which is terribly misplayed. Fortunately, Trea Turner gets caught in a run down between 3rd and home plate for the inning’s final out.
Summary: Likely Taylor would have been the last batter that Harvey faced, but his final line was saved by Turner’s baserunning mistake. He did get a little unlucky on the play at first, which happened a couple of times today, but it evened out in the end. Espeically when you consider the three run homer Rendon missed by about 10 feet.
Stats: 18 pitches, 1 run, 3 hits, walk, three groundballs, two flyballs.
Final Line: 85 pitches, 57 strikes, 6 swinging strikes, 9 hits, 4 runs, 1 HR, 1 Bb, 2 Ks, ND, Gamescore: 34
Conclusion: At this point Matt Harvey is nothing more than a streamer, not good, but not awful either. I do expect him to improve on his all-time stinker in 2017, but doubt he boasts an ERA under 4 come October. The secondaries are flat or way out of the zone, the fastball looks hittable, even with velo and some movement, and he’s too likely to leave that four-seamer over the plate. The best illustration of how far Harvey has fallen are those Harper at bats.