Oct 21

2012 Mets Player Review: Matt Harvey

MATT HARVEY, RHP 

 PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The expectations of Matt Harvey were minimal for this summer. The Mets’ 2010 first-round pick out of North Carolina – and the seventh choice overall – was to continue his development in the minor leagues. The best-case scenario had him continuing his development at Triple-A Buffalo and join the Mets as a September call-up, when he would make two or three starts to give the big club an idea of whether he would fit into their plans for 2013. Even when the Mets’ rotation started to crumble, the talk was he wasn’t ready and GM Sandy Alderson didn’t want to rush him to the major league level. The scouting report on the 23-year-old Harvey was he had a plus-fastball, good secondary pitches and the ability to keep his composure on the mound. At similar points in their careers, Harvey was rated ahead of Mike Pelfrey, the Mets’ first-round pick in 2005.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Harvey was 7-5 with a 3.68 ERA in 20 starts for the Bisons before the Mets promoted him in late July. Minor league hitters batted .233 against him and he had 112 strikeouts and only 48 walks in 110 innings, numbers that clearly indicated he was overpowering batters. With the Mets’ rotation in shambles, Alderson had no option but to elevate him to see what he could do on the next level. At the time, the Mets were fading and the summer was spiraling out of control. Unable or unwilling to make a midseason acquisition – take your pick – Alderson had to do something to keep the dwindling attention of Mets fans and Harvey was the answer. Harvey pitched 5.1 scoreless innings at Arizona, July 26 to win his major league debut. He struck out 11 and walked three to have Mets fans drooling about the possibilities. However, he was victimized by the Mets’ dismal offense and lost his next three starts – they gave him only four runs in those games – but there was still a lot to like about Harvey’s game, especially his willingness to challenge hitters and his walks-to-strikeouts ratio. Unlike Pelfrey, Harvey possessed a poise and calmness about him. His command was exceptional and his stuff overpowering. He seemed to get a strikeout whenever the situation demanded. Harvey finished his first year at 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He struck out 70 with 26 walks in 59 innings, and batters hit a paltry .200 with a .338 slugging percentage against him. The Mets shut him down after his Sept. 19 start against Philadelphia to conserve his arm.

LOOKING AT 2013: I don’t know if the Mets will conserve his innings next summer the way the Nationals did Stephen Strasburg. Let’s hope not, but if they are inclined to jump on that bandwagon, let’s hope they don’t yank the rug out from under him in September, but perhaps have him skip a start once a month. That would mean six starts and possibly up to 42 innings for the summer. The Mets are counting on him to be in the rotation on Opening Day and develop into a solid, consistent starter. Actually, they are counting on him to become a star. Anything less than that would be a disappointment.

NEXT:  A look at the other pitchers who started games for the 2012 Mets.

Oct 12

I Hope The Nationals Go Down In Flames For Shutting Down Strasburg

We never got a chance to discuss the pros and cons of the Washington Nationals shutting down their ace Stephen Strasburg who they opted not to include on their post season roster. It was a bold move to say the least by Nats GM Mike Rizzo, but was it the right call?

Bob Nightengale of USA Today asked some rival GM’s what their thoughts were, and not only did all of them call it a bad move, but there was a lot of resentment and anger in what they had to say.

After yesterday’s embarrassing 8-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Nats find themselves on the brink of elimination and trail 2-1 in the National League Division Series. But there was no pity for them from rival GM’s who all say the Nationals got what they deserve.

“If we don’t win the World Series, I don’t care who does,” one general manager told USA TODAY Sports, “as long as it’s not those guys.

“They don’t deserve to win it. Not after what they did.”

Said a National League GM: “I hope they go down in flames. I hope it takes another 79 years before they get back to the playoffs. That’s how strongly I feel about it.”

Wow, I guess people are willing to say anything as long as it’s done anonymously, I’d love to know who these GM’s were?

Better yet, I wonder how sandy Alderson would play this if he were in the same situation…

Lets assume “Hell Freezes Over”, “Pigs Fly”, and “Bears Didn’t Shit In The Woods”. Lets assume the Mets clinched a wild card spot next season. Lets further assume Alderson shut’s down an utterly dominating Zack Wheeler who was 17-2 with a 1.76 ERA  because he reached his innings limit. Would you be okay with that?

What really pissed other GM’s off was when Rizzo said no matter what happens, “We’ll be back, we’ll be doing this a couple more times.”

Nightengale said it was the quote “heard round the baseball world”, with general managers and executives making sure everyone saw it.

Who do they think they are, the Yankees? Are the Philadelphia Phillies going to defect from the NL East? Are the Atlanta Braves retiring with Chipper Jones?

What if the Nationals don’t get back during Strasburg’s stay in Washington? What if this is their best chance to ever get to the Series? How do you live with that?

We haven’t heard the last of this as Nightengale also warns that Nationals players, particularly veterans, have grumbled and might sound off more once they depart.

As for my thoughts on all of this?

I’m with that general manager who hopes they go down in flames. I hope they don’t see the post season for the rest of this century and that their drought will forever be known as “The Strasburg Curse”. I have very little tolerance for any general manager who takes competing, winning,  and especially the post season for granted. That’s why I’m always keeping both eyes on Alderson. Until he starts using words like “wild card”, “world series”, and “championships” as part of his regular vocabulary. Those are the only words that will grab my attention.

Sep 20

Harvey Scintillating In Finale; Mets Blow It Late

As the zeroes piled up, this thought surfaced: Matt Harvey and Cole Hamels in an old fashioned pitcher’s duel. If the Phillies weren’t the only ones with a postseason pulse there would have been real electricity in the air.

HARVEY: Something special. (AP)

As it is, it was something to look forward to.

Harvey gave up a homer to Jimmy Rollins on the game’s fifth pitch, but was lockdown after that, not giving up a hit and striking out seven in seven innings. As we’ve grown accustomed to Harvey’s strong pitching, he probably has grown used to how the game unraveled as the Mets scored two runs – a club-record 15th straight game in which they’ve scored three or fewer runs – and the bullpen imploded again.

This time, it was the heretofore impressive Josh Edgin giving up a game-winning homer to Ryan Howard.

Continue reading

Sep 19

Mets Matters: Ike Davis Responds To Report; Shutting Down Matt Harvey

Not surprisingly, Ike Davis and the Mets responded to the published report the team was considering shopping him.

Davis said his myriad of batting stances is indicative of being able to accept coaching and refuted the notion he’s a late-night party guy. Also, Terry Collins said there’s nobody “in that clubhouse,’’ who can’t get traded.

Of course, the Mets would never admit to actively shopping Davis, even if it were true, as to diminish his trade value.

Davis might have countless stances but what is in question has been his approach, which was first one of patience but has regressed. Davis says he’s fine physically, which makes this a problem of concentration.

Davis is on a 142-strikeout pace, which is considerable given his production. That he’s closing in on 30 homers shows all-or-nothing results.

I like Davis, but he’s really one of the few marketable players they have and if dealing him makes him better, than so be it.

In other Mets’ items:

* Matt Harvey will make his final start of the season tonight against the Phillies. It is clear Harvey is an asset they want to protect. If protecting is something they want to do next season, then here’s hoping they have a better plan than the one the Nationals had with Stephen Strasburg.

You shouldn’t just shut down a pitcher, but taper him gradually. Perhaps slot him so he’ll miss one start a month.

With Harvey out, the Mets will start prospects Jeremy Hefner (tomorrow), and possibly Jeurys Familia and Collin McHugh. Incidentally, R.A. Dickey will make his final home start this weekend, and get starts in Atlanta and Miami the final week.

* The Mets are one more loss from a fourth straight losing season and the magic number for their postseason elimination is down to four. That’s in case you were still wondering.

* The Mets are a dismal 4-22 at Citi Field since the All-Star break and have scored three or fewer runs in their last 14 home games.

* The shortest deal a team can sign with a minor league affiliate is two years, which is what the Mets did with Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League. Ideally, the Mets want a team in the Eastern Time zone, which is what they had in Buffalo and before that, Norfolk. However, those ties were cut – according to those cities – because the Mets didn’t do much to promote their affiliates. One can expect more of the same in Las Vegas as they search for another affiliate.

 

Sep 13

Liking Matt Harvey More And More

Matt Harvey was not in a good mood when he was pulled last night with the bases loaded and nobody out in the sixth. In what might have been the best outing from a Mets’ reliever all season, Robert Carson bailed him out by getting two infield pop-ups and a fly ball.

Harvey gave up a run in five-plus innings – enough to win most games – but was clearly steamed in the dugout. He wasn’t much into handshakes and back pats, but his anger wasn’t directed at the Mets’ listless offense – 13 straight home games now scoring three or less runs and the tenth time they’ve been shutout – but at himself.

You see, Harvey is a perfectionist and last night he wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t impressed with striking out ten hitters. He would rather pitch to contact to reduce his pitch count and work longer into games.

“The biggest thing is going deeper into games and figuring it out a lot sooner, and not pressing to go for the strikeout all the time,” said Harvey. “I have to get early contact, like I’ve said before. That’s the biggest thing I’m going to work on.”

Harvey has a dominating fastball, but said his best pitch last night was his change-up. He wasn’t happy with his curveball and claimed his slider had little bite. Those are the pitches that will generate weak or awkward swings and get groundballs and pop-ups. That’s what will limit his pitch count. And, hopefully this year will be the last where he’s on an innings limit.

Manager Terry Collins said Harvey will get one more start and marveled at his maturation level at an early age.

“He’s been so impressive,” Collins said. “We’ve got something special. We’ve got something really special.”

If the Mets are inclined to keep Harvey on an innings count again next season, I hope they are paying attention to how poorly Washington handled the same issue with Stephen Strasburg. To announce it early was counterproductive. Davey Johnson, who doesn’t agree with the limit, said Strasburg’s heart wasn’t in his last start, knowing that would be it for him.

Strasburg hates it too, saying he feels he’s abandoning his teammates. You figure Harvey feels the same way.

If the Mets are going to limit Harvey’s innings next season, there’s a gradual way to achieve that goal. They can skip the occasional start or back it up to where he makes one less start a month. Over the course of the season, that’s six starts. And, they can be juggled around off-days as to give him more rest.

The only problem with that theory, is that Johan Santana is again coming off an injury and the Mets should be inclined to give him more rest.