Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey and longevity

Last Thursday night, Mets right-handed pitcher Matt Harvey did everything right. In his first start of the 2013 season, Harvey overpowered hitters with his fastball, dazzled with his slider, and kept them off balance with his changeup. Using these pitches in the right situations proved effective as Harvey allowed only one hit while striking out ten batters, and only giving up two walks. Harvey’s performance reminded Mets fans just how good the Mets staff will be in a couple of years. However, there can’t be a conversation about Harvey without mentioning Zack Wheeler.  Since the Carlos Beltran trade in 2011 that brought Wheeler to the Mets, Harvey and Wheeler have been considered the future of the franchise.

We know that Wheeler and Harvey are similar pitchers. They have a similar repertoire: fastball, changeup, slider, and curveball. Along with that repertoire they can pack in the heat. Both are known to throw in the mid to upper 90’s, and Harvey is known to rack up strikeouts, Wheeler is expected to rack up a lot of strikeouts as well.

It may be unfair to compare two pitchers simply because Harvey has already made 11 Major League starts, whereas Wheeler has yet to throw a single pitch in the majors. What we do know is that Wheeler and Harvey have similar tools, yet present them differently through their mechanics.

As we can see above, Harvey has a delivery that is very easy to watch. It’s pretty fluid – there isn’t any herky-jerky motion in it. He doesn’t sway from one side to the other to generate more velocity. His delivery is very simple: it’s a forward motion that drives the ball towards the plate. Harvey’s delivery is textbook, indicating that he will have some longevity in his career. Although injuries are unpredictable, a clean delivery certainly helps keep a pitcher off the disabled list.

Wheeler’s mechanics are not as clean as Harvey’s. What really raises some concern is that he has an inverted W when he pitches. As you can see above, he points his elbows up when he delivers to gain more velocity. Guys like Stephen Strasburg and Mark Prior use this type of delivery. Although Strasburg and Prior have had success, they both have had serious arm injuries. In Prior’s case, it ended his career as a starter. That doesn’t mean that Wheeler is going to get injured and never pitch again, but the Mets should monitor his pitch counts and mechanics.

In baseball, longevity is the name of the game. Whoever, can pitch effectively for a long period of time is going to have the best career. Harvey seems to have a motion that won’t warrant too many injuries, and in return he might be able to pitch for a very long time. Some adjustment to Wheeler’s mechanics or some serious precautions need to be taken to prevent injuries. If the Mets can keep Wheeler and Harvey on the mound, the future will be bright in Flushing.

4 comments for “Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey and longevity

  1. April 7, 2013 at 11:34 am

    I wonder if the Giants knew that might be, or is, a problem with Wheeler down the road when we traded them Beltran. Wheeler’s got great raw stuff, but if his mechanics are going to end his career after a few years… well, Beltran looked pretty damn good last year and is only 35.

    • Joe Vasile
      April 7, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      Well, for one, Beltran was with the Cards last year, the Giants only got about a month out of Beltran before he got hurt and never played for them again. Second, the Giants had toyed with Wheeler’s mechanics to try and get rid of the inverted W, but upon trade to the Mets, they let him abandon these changes and go back to his high school mechanics. The reason for this is that the change in mechanics was thought to be the reason for Wheeler’s control problems. Upon the switch, Wheeler’s walk rate decreased, but we’ll see if that was at the expense of his future health.

  2. JimO
    April 7, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Very nice article. Short and to the point. Good analogy to Prior….let’s hope Mets are working within the organization to monitor all aspects of Wheeler’s pitching regime.

  3. Metsense
    April 9, 2013 at 7:41 am

    Spencer, thanks for teaching me something today. It was appreciated.

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