My column a few weeks back was about Matt Harvey and the fact that, right now, he is not an ace and has not pitched like one. In nine starts this season, he is 3-6 with a 5.77 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. He has allowed 80 base runners in 48.2innings of work.
It is no longer a celebration, when he pitches. #HarveyDay! No longer are Mets fans showing up at CitiField dressed up as Batman because the Dark Knight of Gotham is taking the mound to help save the day. So, it is no longer a celebration “right now” when Harvey takes the mound and we are no longer heading to Twitter to tweet out #Harvey Day.
But, that does not mean that it is time to give up on Harvey and turn our backs on the right-hander. It also does not mean that this start will define him for the rest of this season — or the rest of his career.
Yes, it is alarming that he can’t find a way to grind through starts like his teammate Jacob deGrom. Harvey does not have his A-plus stuff right now and his velocity is down, but his velocity is good enough to be effective even if he is not dominant. Even with his struggles on Saturday against Milwaukee in which he threw 100 pitches in five innings of work, deGrom has thrown to a 3.07 ERA this season. He has battled and showed you some grit and the ability to pitch and get outs even when he does not have his best stuff.
We have yet to see that trait materialize with Harvey and that is the most disappointing and eye-opening revelation during the nine starts for Harvey during the 2016 season. But this is not from a lack of work. This is not a case where Harvey needed to be humbled in order to become the ace. This is certainly not Harvey being handed too much too soon and not truly earning on the mound all the accolades that were thrown his way.
He started the 2013 All-Star Game out at CitField for the National League. In 2012, he pitched to a 2.73 ERA in 10 starts. In 2013, Harvey pitched to a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts. After undergoing Tommy John surgery and taking 2014 off, he pitched to a 2.71 ERA in 2015.
After all the uproar last fall about how he would be handled and his innings limit when the question was raised by his agent Scott Boras, he continued to pitch and threw an additional 26 innings and pitched to an ERA that was a tad over 3.
So we are now dealing with the here and now and a pitcher that is searching for confidence and positive results. Maybe this has everything to do with the fact that he threw over the expected amount of innings after his first full season back from surgery.
We can all speculate about the correlation, but nobody knows for sure. The Mets were right to keep him in the starting rotation and have him pitching next down in Washington. You can’t try and build confidence and basically bench a player. You can’t send him to the disabled list either as Harvey continues to bemoan the fact that he is healthy, but he just does not feel right out there.
Harvey is a really good pitcher when he does have his full arsenal of pitches and has shown to be anything but that when he does not. So, we are left with is a pitcher that continues to search for an answer that is proving to be very difficult to find. Very much like hitters when they used to step into the batter’s box against Harvey.
The only one that can figure out this riddle is Harvey himself.