No one could have seen this coming. Seven months ago Matt Harvey stood tall on the mound in the World Series and we all saw the second coming of Tom Terrific. The four-pitch righty with the high 90’s fastball, quarterback swagger, and bulldog tenacity had all the ingredients of an ace pitcher. He successfully bounced back from Tommy John surgery to have a very good 2015 season and playoffs. In spring training there was talk of Harvey, now unfettered by innings limits and no longer hesitant to throw sliders, competing for the Cy Young award. Every fifth day was #harveyday and we expected to not only win, but to win in style.
Fast forward to now and we’re looking at a struggling pitcher battling through mediocre starts, punctuated by an awful one last night. His mechanics have been dissected, his innings load from last year has been analyzed and his confidence has to be shot. It’s in his body language. You see the hang dog look where there was once an arrogant glare.
Maybe it’s a hangover from last season. Maybe the kidney issue and shortened spring training left him unprepared and he’s fatigued. Maybe it’s something off in his delivery. Surely it’s become a mental struggle now as well. He’s lost a tick of velocity, but he’s still humming fastballs in the mid-90s and his secondary pitches are moving. He has certainly struggled with his location, leaving far too many pitches in the fat part of the plate.
The answer might not be apparent, but there is one easy thing the Mets can do for Harvey. Skip his next start in the rotation – no matter how hard he protests. Let him rest a bit and clear his head. Logan Verrett or Sean Gilmartin can take his turn.
Harvey will eventually bounce back. He’s too good not to. Will it be this year though is the big question. And if not, how long can the Mets carry him in the rotation?
To Jacob deGrom‘s credit, he’s been able to battle through his own diminished velocity, keeping the ball low and getting big outs that strand runners. He too looks like he might be hungover from last year. Factor in Bartolo Colon‘s age, and Steven Matz innings limitations, and perhaps it’s time to consider a six-man rotation for a while. Other than Noah Syndergaard and occasionally Colon, these guys can’t seem to get past six or seven innings.
It’s a long season, but this first quarter has not been the walk in the park many of us thought it would be. What was supposed to be a dominant staff is not firing on all cylinders. We need our alpha dog back.