Jun 10

Giants Light Up Dark Knight

Another game, another bunch of homers hit – no, make that crushed – off the Mets’ Matt Harvey.

The Giants looked comfortable in slugging three homers off Harvey and ripping him for seven runs. It was the second time in four starts he was blistered for seven runs.

HARVEY: Ripped again. (AP)

HARVEY: Ripped again. (AP)

Harvey (now 6-4 with a 3.62 ERA) has given up 12 homers and 24 extra-base hits overall in 12 starts. After Harvey was rocked for 11 runs in consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Miami, manager Terry Collins suggested the problem was a dead arm.

Harvey quickly dismissed that stock theory for when a pitcher gets torched a couple of times, which made sense because he was clocked in the mid-90s and including the Marlins game, threw over 100 pitches in back-to-back starts.

So, what’s the problem? Why has Harvey given up eight homers in his last four starts, after giving up eight homers in his previous 26?

First, consider Wednesday was Harvey’s 48th career start, which puts him in the equivalent of his second full season, which is when the real learning takes place. And, don’t forget, the hitters are learning, too.

We also must remember he’s coming off Tommy John surgery and perhaps his arm isn’t what he would want. His breaking pitches, in particular his slider, don’t have the same bite they had in 2013 when he was an All-Star and achieved cult status.

We must also look at his walks. He’s only walked 14, which is a great stat, but it also means his pitches are usually in the strike zone. Although he still throws hard, Harvey must recognize he can’t get by simply throwing heat. It also suggests his pitches, although thrown hard, don’t have the darting movement needed.

Knowing Harvey’s control is exceptional; hitters don’t hang around to fall behind in the count. Harvey has given up three homers on the first pitch (overall hitters are batting .450 off him on the first pitch). He’s also given up five homers after being behind 1-0 in the count.

So, it isn’t just one thing, but several contributing factors to why hitters are lighting up the “Dark Knight.’’

 

Jun 04

Harvey Must Carry Mets

Well, if you want to be called “The Dark Knight,’’ and aspire to be ace of the Mets, then Matt Harvey needed to come up as big as he did in Thursday night’s 6-2 win in Arizona.

The Mets, who limped through May and who are on their way to a June swoon, are looking for Harvey to grab them by the scruff on the neck and shake them awake. Harvey did so, giving up two runs in seven innings with nine strikeouts.

HARVEY: Needs to carry Mets. (Getty)

HARVEY: Needs to carry Mets. (Getty)

Harvey, who entered the game winless in his previous five starts, will be followed by Jon Niese Friday and Bartolo Colon Saturday and Jacob deGrom Sunday. Niese has struggled and Colon has won eight games – seriously, how long will this keep rolling? – so, without a Harvey victory, this had the makings of a dismal trip.

Then San Francisco comes to town next week.

The bullpen choked away back-to-back 1-0 leads by Harvey, but in his last two games he had given up 11 runs – including three homers – in 12 innings. He gave up two more tonight, so that could be a cause of bubbling concern.

Manager Terry Collins theorized of a dead arm, which Harvey rebuffed by clocking in at the high 90s. More to the point, Harvey had looked less than ordinary in his last two starts, and when that happens the Mets look rather ordinary. Actually, worse that ordinary.

“I didn’t feel like I was dead,’’ said Harvey, who struck out 11 in his last start, a one-run loss to Miami. “I felt like I was coming out of my mechanics.’’

In addition to mechanics, and the blown saves by the bullpen, the Mets’ offense has given Harvey all of seven runs in his previous six games. The Mets gave Harvey nothing through the first five innings, then broke it open after he left the game. Each one of his 106 pitches had meaning.

However, when you’re supposed to be the “Dark Knight,’’ there are going to be games when you have to carry your team.

May 29

Extra Rest Not A Factor In Harvey Loss

It is now five straight empty starts and counting for the Mets’ Matt Harvey. We can forget about the “dead arm’’ talk, because a pitcher doesn’t have a tired arm when he tops out at 98 mph., and strikes out 11.

Nonetheless, the Mets are taking precautions with Harvey by going to a six-man rotation, and naturally there is a curiosity as to how he will respond with the extra rest, and despite losing 4-3 tonight to Miami, he pitched well enough to win most starts.

HARVEY: Empty again. (AP)

HARVEY: Empty again. (AP)

After missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery, despite winning his first five decisions this season, his issues are maintaining health and refining mechanics.

“I didn’t feel like I was dead,” a clearly dejected Harvey told reporters. “I just kind of got out of my mechanics. … When you have missed a year and you go out there and battle every time, you’re finding out again what your mechanics are doing.

“For me, I think, mechanics-wise it was a lot better this time. We’ve just got to keep that going and really just stay focused on that.”

It’s a positive that he threw eight innings (105 pitches) tonight for the second time in three starts. One walk is also a positive in a bounce-back start from his four-inning, seven-run disaster last weekend in Pittsburgh that followed consecutive no-decisions in which the bullpen coughed up a 1-0 lead in the late innings.

Harvey worked with an extra day of rest and didn’t seem rusty. He was obviously strong and one walk indicated his command was good.

A fourth-inning slider catching too much of the plate that Justin Bour crushed was his biggest mistake, but had nothing to do with the extra rest. It was simply a bad pitch that could have happened anytime. Unfortunately for Harvey, anytime is always bad time when he’s not getting run support.

He responded fine with the extra day. He pitched well enough to win most starts.

 

Apr 29

Mets In Good Spot With Colon Today

It’s all about winning series at this point and for the Mets today they have another opportunity. You have to be happy Bartolo Colon is going for them today against the Marlins.

The Mets have the chance to go home to face the Nationals in a four-game series with at least a seven-game lead if they put away Miami today. It is why I called Miami a trap series. However, with how the Mets played the past two games it is clear they are focused. Dillon Gee was superb Monday and last night they came from behind to tie.

COLON: Workhorse goes today.

COLON: Workhorse goes today.

That doesn’t happen with teams looking ahead. However, I remain respectful and wary of the Nationals, who were down 9-1 Tuesday, but rallied to beat the Braves. Dying teams don’t do that, so obviously they are focused, also.

Should Colon win he will become the first Mets’ starter to go 5-0 since Pedro Martinez in 2006, not coincidentally, the last time they reached the playoffs. The franchise record is 7-0 by Frank Viola in 1990.

Colon is one of the Mets’ top story lines in April and his start in light of Zack Wheeler’s injury has more than stabilized the rotation. The Mets need another strong start from him on the eve of the Washington series.

Last night’s starter, Rafael Montero, was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas, which was to be expected considering he threw 85 pitches working into the sixth and wouldn’t be available soon.

Replacing him on the roster will be left-handed reliever Jack Leathersich. Subsequently, the Mets will go back to a short bench until David Wright returns from the disabled, which could be as soon as this weekend. Leathersich is a strikeout pitcher, averaging 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

It will be interesting to see what the Mets do when Wright returns and when they want to bring back Montero.

The Mets like having Montero around, but they also like deeper bench. Unfortunately, they can’t have both.

 

Apr 28

Six-Man Rotation Not Practical For Mets

For more than five innings in tonight’s 4-3 loss at Miami, the Mets were treated to a solid performance from Rafael Montero to where the idea could be floated of considering a six-man rotation.

Doing so would give everybody an additional day of rest. Specifically, the real goal would be to give Matt Harvey an additional day and ultimately preserve his workload.

While that objective is worthwhile, why do something to impact all the other starters, while the prudent option would be to stick with – but so far ignored – plan of reducing his innings on a per start basis?

The Mets could have shaved three innings off Harvey’s last start, and two the one before that, which would have given him five to play with in September.

However, could a six-man rotation work for the long term? For something that unconventional to work, it can’t be imposed a month into the season. I suggested something similar in the offseason that would have enabled the rest of the rotation to get into a routine.

At one time teams utilized four-man rotations, which ultimately were expanded to five-man rotations. With teams looking to protect their investments in young pitching, I can see them wanting to reduce the number of starts for their frontline pitchers.

The plus is it saves wear-and-tear. The downside is many rotations are already thin and this makes them thinner. Another downside is the inevitable need for relievers, which subsequently creates a thin bench like the Mets had at the start of the season.

For this to work the entire season would have to be mapped out in advance factoring in off days.

For now, the Mets could keep Montero for the bullpen until David Wright is activated, but I don’t like the idea of going into the Washington series with a short bench.

The game is constantly changing and perhaps someday a six-man rotation could come into play, but it would have to come with an expanded roster. For now, the Mets will have to do what they’ve done all year with their pitching – play it by ear.