With injuries derailing his last three seasons with the New York Mets, Matt Harvey is left fighting for his career in 2018.
For a long time, Matt Harvey was the savior of the New York Mets. The first-round pick with the blazing fastball, unhittable breaking pitches, and the changeup that fell off the table was going to lead the Mets into a new era of contention.
He dominated opposing hitters with his dominating stuff and unflappable focus on the mound. He feared nothing, including a 6-foot-11 teammate who dumped water on him for no reason other than he thought he could, according to Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports.
He was so calm and stoic on the mound, never once breaking nor showing any weakness, that he was christened with the nickname “the Dark Knight.” After pitching to a very solid 2.73 ERA in his 2012 cameo, he dominated in his first full season. He had a 2.27 ERA and made the All-Star team in 2013.
Now, entering 2018, he’s not pitching for accolades; he’s pitching for his life.
Injury has caused the death of many careers and it seems that Harvey could be the next victim. Harvey missed 2014 with Tommy John surgery but was able to pitch to a 2.71 ERA in 2015.
His struggles began in 2016, when his ERA ballooned to 4.86 before he was finally shut down due to injury. He had thoracic outlet syndrome, which only has around a 50% recovery rate.
Last season he struggled with injuries again while pitching to an ugly 6.70 ERA. He gave up one home run every 4.5 innings pitched and at times he couldn’t get anybody out. He especially struggled in his third time through the order, with a 9.61 ERA in those situations.
While some of those struggles were due to injury, his mechanics were also poor for much of the year. His confidence also appeared shot, which was new for Harvey. When he was first up, he had the belief that he could get anybody out, but as his fastball velocity decreased and his breaking pitches lost their sharpness, Harvey lost his confidence as well.
In past years when somebody got on base against him, Harvey would snarl, bear down, and go after the next hitter with more focus. For much of 2017 when somebody got on base against him, Harvey went into a shell and would compound the problem.
With Harvey’s confidence at an all-time low, it’s time for manager Mickey Callaway to get him to forget about the Dark Knight days. Harvey is no longer the pitcher he was when he first came up. He simply isn’t going to blow his fastball past hitters anymore, nor are his breaking pitches sharp enough to generate a ton of swings and misses anymore.
However, if Harvey can accept that he needs to find other ways to get players out, he’ll have success. Callaway did it before with Ubaldo Jimenez, who, like Harvey, lost a lot of velocity on his fastball. Callaway does have one area with which Harvey and him have shared history: struggling in the majors.
Callaway had a career 6.27 ERA, so he has experience with struggling that Harvey can relate to. If Callaway can get Harvey out of his own head and get him to just throw, then Harvey can still be a serviceable pitcher.
The Mets have yet to give up on Harvey, as they refused to trade him last season. They still see a solid pitcher in the 28-year-old despite his recent struggles. Harvey can still help a team, he just isn’t the larger-than-life figure he once was.
The Dark Knight is dead. If Harvey’s ego allows him to let the persona die and just be Matt Harvey, he can be a very good pitcher. If he can’t accept that, he risks becoming one of many “what if” stories over the course of baseball history.
Time for Harvey to pitch for both his career and legacy in 2018.