The New York Mets Matt Harvey had a magnificent 2018 debut. So did former Bartolo Colon in Texas. Harvey may just have taken a play from the 44-year-old’s playbook.
Matt Harvey was spectacular in his 2018 debut for the New York Mets. Harvey went out and threw five stellar innings, allowing just three baserunners on a lone hit, a lone walk and an error in a clean 86-pitch effort.
Also making his season debut for the Texas Rangers at the age of 44, in his 21st season as a Major League pitcher was former Mets hurler Bartolo Colon, who pitched six solid innings, giving up one run.
Harvey took a play right from Colon’s playbook. He hit his spots, was efficient and got batters out by staying ahead of them all night with his fastball.
The Dark Knight he isn’t, but Harvey harkened shades of “Big Sexy,” with his poise and precision on the mound. Harvey proved he still can bring it, just with less velocity.
In form, function, and outcome, hopefully, this is a harbinger of things to come.
Last season was a nightmare for Harvey, who pitched to a 6.70 ERA while spending time on the disabled list. Down the stretch Harvey literally made batters look like Ted Williams in 1941 – they hit .406 against him over his final six appearances as he pitched to an 11.28 ERA during that span.
Yet Harvey’s fastball registered a swift 94 miles per hour on the radar gun last season on average and maxed out at 98. Batters tagged it at .330 clip and walloped it over the fence 15 times.
Almost all of that damage was done when he was behind in the count, as batters still hit under .250 when Harvey was in either a neutral or favorable count. For example, through a 1-0 count, batters hit .307, while 0-1 they hit .226, at 2-1 they hit .361, 1-2 they hit .190.
In Harvey’s first outing of 2018, the radar gun showed a far different pitcher.
Harvey’s fastest pitch was 93.4 miles per hour while his fastball averaged a pedestrian 91.6. Hardly the stuff of comic book heroes. It didn’t need to be. Harvey went to the heater 67 percent of the time, for 58 of his 85 pitches, and batters were 1-for-15 off of it.
He was ahead of hitters all night and was constantly in pitcher’s counts, giving up just that one lone walk.
Harvey, hopefully, proved to himself and showed us that success as a pitcher is not solely about what his fastball registers on the radar gun, but rather about precision and location.
Bartolo Colon has been proving that for years. But, people forget the struggles Colon endured after his Cy Young season in 2005 when he won 21 games and pitched to a 3.48 ERA in the juiced ball era.
From 2006-09 Colon went 14-21 with a 5.18 ERA and 1.51 WHIP while averaging less than 15 starts per season. He even sat out 2010 and was thought to be done.
Since making the New York Yankees as a non-roster spring training invite in 2011, Colon resurrected himself. He has won 87 games and made two All-Star teams since, while the average velocity on his fastball continues to decline and he continues to throw it with almost unprecedented frequency.
Miraculously, he is still getting batters out in his mid-40s.
In his Texas debut, Colon threw his fastball over 80 percent of the time, averaging a shade over 87 MPH and topping out at 91 MPH. Yet he got hitters out just as did he as a Met, with a similar arsenal of cutting and diving fastballs that would nary break a pane of glass.
After he lost a couple of miles off his fastball, Colon needed to adjust both his mentality and pitching style. Like Harvey, Colon came to the majors as a fireballer, but age and injuries robbed him of the velocity he had but the not the movement. Colon learned to rely upon movement and staying ahead of hitters to rescue his career from a virtual abyss.
Colon throws almost solely fastballs, two-and-four-seamers. He just hits his spots. They cut, dart and dive, and while paling in comparison to his peers on the radar gun they marvel as he gets hitters out with it.
Harvey can do the same with the combination of his fastball and slider, using his heater to stay ahead of hitters, and both pitches to get hitters out as he did in his first start of 2018.
No, Harvey isn’t 38, as was Colon when he resurrected his career, and on certain nights he still hits 95 on the gun. That said, like Colon, his once spectacular career has reached a crossroads and taken a sharp decline.
His 2018 debut proved that Harvey doesn’t need to throw hard like he used to, and Matt Harvey is better suited being a precision pitcher than overthrowing. Like Colon, he needs to realize that he isn’t the same pitcher, but still can get hitters out if he stays ahead and uses the tools he does have.
That’s just what he did when he took the mound for the first time in 2018. Albeit, it is just one start but if he can build upon that, like Colon, Harvey can rescue his career from the doldrums.
Matt Harvey may no longer be the Dark Knight, but “Little Sexy” would be just fine for Met fans.