Only two years ago, the idea of Matt Harvey earning a demotion to the bullpen would have seemed as crazy as, I don’t know, the idea of a porn star suing the president. Back then, in simpler times, Harvey was the Mets’ ace, coming off a season in which he posted a 2.71 ERA and struck out nearly a batter an inning. He was one of the most famous pitchers in baseball and one of the best.
Then came a bad 2016 and a worse 2017, followed by a poor start to 2018. And now… Mets manager Mickey Callaway won’t promise that Harvey will make his next start.
“We haven’t made that determination yet,” Callaway said following Harvey’s six-inning, six-run outing Thursday, according to ESPN. “We’ll see moving forward. I’m not sure what we’re going to do.”
Harvey currently sports a 6.00 ERA through four starts this season. His fastball velocity is down to a career-low 92.5 miles per hour, his strikeout rate remains well below what it was in his prime, and for the second straight year he’s allowed home runs at an alarming rate. And yes, it’s dangerous to read too much into just a few starts in April. But since the start of last season (113 2/3 innings), he’s got a 6.57 ERA and 6.47 FIP, with 84 strikeouts in 113 2/3 innings. There’s a pretty substantial body of evidence that Harvey is now a bad pitcher.
With Jason Vargas on his way back from the disabled list and Zack Wheeler pitching well, the Mets will soon have to make a decision. And Harvey might very well be the odd man out.
Harvey, however, does not seem to see it that way. Via Newsday:
“I’m a starting pitcher. I’ve always been a starting pitcher,” Harvey said when asked if he would be comfortable going to the bullpen. “I showed I can get people out still in the fifth, sixth inning when my pitch count gets up. So I’m a starting pitcher.”
The problem, Matt, is that pitching deep into the game doesn’t do you much good when you allow a ton of runs in the process. Six innings, six runs is a bad start.
It’s a little sad, in a way, to see Harvey reduced to this, in part due to persistent injury issues. He’ll be a free agent after this season, and instead of landing the $200 million contract he once looked destined for, he’ll wind up with a cheap, short-term deal. But that’s the way it goes sometimes. When your ERA as a starter is about 6.00, you simply don’t last long.