At this point in the 2016 season, the Mets’ Matt Harvey has been a shell of his former self. The hard-throwing righty has struggled with command of his pitches, and has lacked confidence on the mound. So far Harvey is 3-7 and sports a 6.08 ERA after another horrendous start on Tuesday. His manager, Terry Collins, spoke after the game and stated, “We’ve got to think what’s not just best for Matt, but what’s best for us moving forward.” Are the Mets concerned with his health? Is the club ready to put him on the disabled list? Is it related to a non-performance issue? Nobody knows exactly what’s wrong with Gotham’s favorite pitcher of 2015, but here’s what we do know:
- 27.4% of the pitches hit off Matt Harvey have been classified as line drives – up 3% from his previous career high of 24.5% in 2012.
- His home run-to-fly ball-ratio has swollen from a previous of high of 9.8% last season to 10.4% this season.
- Batters are also putting hard hit balls in play at a rate of 29.8%.
- Harvey throws his two-seam fastball just 4.0% of the time in 2016, compared to 14.9% of the time in 2015. 12.8% of his pitches have been changeups – a career high up from 12.4% in 2015.
- Though his fastball regularly touched 96 mph over the first three innings Tuesday night, his velocity is down on every type of pitch, and hitters have shown less restraint in swinging at pitches inside and outside of the strike zone.
Increased hitter success and an elevated swing rate show that opposing hitters are seeing the ball better out of his hand. The right-hander leaves too many pitches in hitter’s power zones, as evidenced by the back-to-back home runs allowed on hanging changeups Tuesday night.
Does Matt Harvey have a dead arm? Is his elbow deteriorating, or already re-injured? Can his lack of success be attributed to something as simple as a lack of chewing tobacco?
Without diving into the psyche of Matt Harvey, or performing a medical examination, we can only conclude that opposing teams have figured out the former Mets’ ace. Quite simply, Harvey has not met expectations after a dominant 2015 campaign. After embracing the role of Gotham’s hero, Harvey’s leatherjacket, tough-guy attitude only frustrates Mets fans expecting more of the stud pitcher whom demanded a raise in the offseason.
When asked about his struggles Tuesday night, Harvey responded that the best thing for him is “…to go out there and keep trying to figure this thing out.” What can the Mets do? I don’t think the Mets are ready to explore trade offers for Harvey. All parties still believe he can return to his dominant form. The most likely scenario is sending Harvey to the disabled list, or skipping his next start. This would allow him to rest for an extended period of time, throw simulated games as needed, and step out of the limelight without the pressure of being Gotham’s hero.
In the meantime, the Mets could give more starts to Logan Verrett, the 25 year-old righty who is 2-1 in three starts this season with the club. Verrett will be a valuable asset down the stretch, and now is the time to evaluate his potential contribution as a back-end starter. The conclusion of this post would not be complete without posing the question: “When will the Dark Knight return?”
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs