Matt Harvey and the battle of the heart and the head

Matt Harvey made his return from the DL last Saturday and to the surprise of almost no one, he was pounded. The reason it wasn’t a surprise is that minor leaguers were lighting him up in his too brief rehab assignment. If minor leaguers were hitting him, how was he going to get major league hitters out? In a less predictable occurrence, Harvey asked to pitch on short rest and the Mets were going to oblige him. However, the threat of rain caused the Mets to refrain from their original plan and instead pitch him tonight on standard rest.

My opinion was that the chance to face a weaker lineup in the Phillies would have more of a chance of resulting in a good outing for Harvey than a start on normal rest against the Reds. And that at this point in time, there’s so little downside to another Harvey injury that whatever risk may have been by pitching on short rest wasn’t anything over which to lose any sleep.

In our hearts, we all want Harvey to be the guy he was in 2013 and 2015. But we have to acknowledge that the chance of seeing that guy again is slim. He wasn’t good in 2016 and he wasn’t good in 2017 and now he has had three major injuries as the result of pitching. Baseball-wise, nothing would make me happier than to see Harvey on the mound intimidating batters with 98 mph heat. But at this point that seems as likely as the Publisher’s Clearing House people knocking on my door with an oversized check.

Ideally, we’d see velocity, movement and location when Harvey pitches. Instead we got a guy who was either nibbling or throwing meatballs over the heart of the plate. Let’s look at two charts from Harvey’s last start. This first image shows his overall pitch location:

While he may not have thrown any pitches over the direct heart of the plate, there are no shortage of offerings in the middle third of the zone, whether you slice the strike zone horizontally or vertically. Additionally, I count 25 pitches that were not in the strike zone. Now, let’s look at a chart of pitches that the batter took and the umpire made the call:

There were 20 pitches in the top half of the zone from the first chart and we see from the second chart that batters swung at 17 of those. And since we know the results of the game weren’t pretty, Harvey was not blowing guys away by pitching upstairs.

There are two other things interesting from this chart. One is that Harvey threw 13 pitches in the strike zone that batters did not offer at and five of these were called balls. And these were not pitches right on the edge, either. When you’re not dominating hitters, it hurts to have 38% of your strikes called balls.

The second thing that stands out is that Harvey did not have much luck in getting batters to chase pitches out of the zone. We see from the first chart that he threw 25 pitches out of the zone and batters swung at just five of those. Back in 2013, Harvey had a 35.8 O-Swing% and this year it’s 28.5% and in this last game it was just 20%.

Harvey needs more velocity, he needs better location and he needs more calls from the umpire. Perhaps once he makes progress on these fronts, he’ll start to get more swings out of the zone. You wouldn’t want to wager on the results tonight being much different than what they were five days ago, when he allowed 7 ER in 2 IP. Maybe he goes an inning or two more and maybe he gives up one or two runs fewer.

I’ll be pulling for him because he was a wonderful pitcher and I want to see that guy again. Even if that’s the heart talking more than the head.

11 comments for “Matt Harvey and the battle of the heart and the head

  1. Fletcher Rabbit
    September 7, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Sorry Charlie, but Matt Harvey was a bum when he pitched like Koufax, and he is a bum today. This guy is in the Dick Selma / Paul Wilson tradition: a great “talent” who proclaims himself a Hall of Famer before his debut. I don’t care if he goes to the Skankees and wins a half dozen Cy Youngs. He was a bum; he is a bum; he will always be a bum. Good riddance, Matt!

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

  2. September 7, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Curious about the umpire’s bad decisions. Clearly Harvey isn’t right, but that’s a lot of no-calls on pitches in the zone. Wonder if there’s a specific reason why?

    • Pete In Iowa
      September 7, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      The reason why Mike is that the home plate umpire routinely misses dozens of calls in every game.
      I’d be willing to wager that the Astros starter in the same game a numerous missed calls — both ways, BTW — as well.

    • September 7, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      The article I wrote on the stirke zone last month cited a survey that showed in 3-plus years’ worth of games that “pitches that were within two inches, either way, of the corners of the plate, the umpires got the call wrong 31.7 percent of the time – nearly one of every three pitches!”

      In this game the ump did a pretty good job calling pitches of Harvey outside of the strike zone – only calling one pitch a strike. His misses were mostly in the zone. As to Pete from NJ’s claim about the other pitcher – it might have been even worse than Harvey’s. There were five pitches inside the zone called balls and four more that appeared on the edge/corner of the strike zone called balls. But he got three close pitches outside the zone called strikes.

      Two things: One, it’s really, really hard to call balls and strikes. Two, these charts are very good but they shouldn’t be considered perfect.

  3. Pete from NJ
    September 7, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    So the question is: will the Mets tender a contract to Harvey for next year. I would say yes. The FO will throw the dice and see what what happens. Compared to Harvey’s paycheck the open market pitchers would have to that much better than his projections for next year.

    So let the fellow pitch this September. Let him heal this off season and hope, yes hope for a come back.

  4. Eraff
    September 7, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    I don’t believe Harvey will answer many questions prior to next year…I’m interested in his Starts to see that he’s healthy—that may include more velocity or better movement/location on all pitches.

    Even with the over-inflated hype, the reality is that Matt Harvey was a Great Pitcher…his first 70 starts or so were flat out amazing! He had every and any tool an MLB Pitcher could ever want. Arm, Execution, Brain and Attack.

    You don’t like him??..fine. Call him a Bum???–you’re a mindless monkee.

    • Jimmy P
      September 7, 2017 at 2:04 pm

      He was so very great, pitching for weak teams.

      It’s all been sad. For me, at least. To see someone who was that bad falter to injury and, possibly, and to a much lesser degree, a lack of focus.

      I’d have a hard time non-tendering him.

      The Mets will make an offer. They always do. Seriously, do we know of Sandy non-tendering players?

      • September 7, 2017 at 2:25 pm

        Justin Turner and Jordany Valdespin jump immediately to mind.

        • Jimmy P
          September 7, 2017 at 4:40 pm

          He’s been GM for 7 years. It’s just not been a common practice.

          And under-utilized, IMO.

          Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis. Sandy holds on and tries to get something/anything from an asset . . . and sometimes it backfires.

          • September 7, 2017 at 5:12 pm

            Here’s what I was able to cobble together for Alderson non-tenders:

            John Maine
            Sean Green
            Chris Carter
            Manny Acosta
            Mike Baxter
            Ronny Paulino
            Mike Pelfrey
            Ramon Ramirez
            Andres Torres
            Scott Atchison
            Jeremy Hefner
            Omar Quintanilla
            Justin Turner
            Jordany Valdespin
            Eric Young Jr.

        • Eraff
          September 7, 2017 at 4:47 pm

          ok,,,so Sandy’s batting .500!!!….but his Ops Sucks????

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