Despite all the negative viewpoints regarding the World Baseball Classic after Edwin Diaz’s season-ending injury, I still think the tournament is great. Not only do players get a chance to play for their country, but the atmosphere at the ballpark is also incredible. There’s a chance for players to show they have something left to offer, too.
Some former Mets entered the WBC with that on their mind. One was Yoenis Cespedes, but it didn’t work out well for him. The other was Matt Harvey, who did potentially turn some heads during his time with Team Italy.
Entering Friday’s action, Harvey’s seven innings are tied with Roenis Elias for the fourth-most of any hurler in the WBC this year. His 1.29 ERA ranked as the 11th-best mark, while his 0.71 WHIP is once again tied with Elias, but for 13th overall.
All of that was eye-opening. The one glaring omission from his game, though, was his patented velocity. Once able to push it into the upper 90s, Matt Harvey topped out at 91 mph. His fastball mostly lived between 89 and 91 mph. Velocity is important in today’s MLB, but it’s not everything, ya know.
Harvey, who is about to turn 34 years old, told Jon Heyman of the New York Post that he wants another shot in the big leagues. And honestly, I think he deserves one.
He last appeared in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles in 2021, twirling a 6.27 ERA in 127.2 innings. He was in Baltimore’s minor-league system for the entirety of 2022, posting a 3.71 ERA in 70.1 innings after serving a suspension.
That velocity may come back, and it may be gone forever. But what Harvey talked about with Heyman was his ability to put a ball wherever he wants right now. Here’s a piece of Heyman’s article:
He doesn’t have 100 mph anymore. But he still can be effective says Italy’s pitching coach Mike Borzello, the longtime Yankees and Dodgers coach and master game strategist for the historic 2016 Cubs. Harvey has a four-seamer, a two-seamer, curveball, slider, changeup and cutter.
“He has enough of a pitch mix to attack a hitter’s weaknesses,” Borzello said. “He can throw anything at any time. No reason he can’t do what Zack Greinke is doing. Same pitch mix. Same velocity, same pitch ability.”
In case you’re wondering, Greinke is 39 years old as he prepares for yet another season with the Kansas City Royals. His average fastball velocity back in 2008 was 94.7 mph. In 2022, that number was down to 89.2 mph. It hasn’t been higher than 90 mph since 2017. Between 2018 and 2022, Greinke has racked up 791.1 innings with a 3.49 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.
Harvey has been through a lot, and I’m just talking about his baseball journey. Tommy John Surgery and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome are enough to derail any player’s career. The fact that he’s still throwing and has been seeing success (even if it’s minor) is amazing. Before those injuries, he had a God-given ability to throw hard. When it’s taken away, it takes a while to learn how to execute differently on the mound.
Think about how CC Sabathia went through some struggles from 2013-15 as his velocity declined. He figured out how to become a different pitcher and enjoyed a few more years of production before retiring.
Does Harvey have anything left in the tank? That’s anybody’s guess right now. Coming home to re-sign with the Mets would be a good story, but I just don’t see that happening. I think he’s done enough to show he deserves a shot somewhere, and he’ll probably get it. I hope he does.
And who knows, maybe reinventing himself will elongate his career more than anyone is expecting. I mean, after Oliver Perez was released by the Mets, did you think his MLB career would last another decade? Yea, me neither.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Matt Harvey. I’ll be rooting for him to get that final chance he desires.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.