Matt Harvey was a popular preseason pick to win the NL Cy Young, but the 27-year-old has struggled mightily through three games, going 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP. He also has just nine strikeouts in 17 and 1/3 innings.
It’s a long season, but Harvey’s early struggles have to be a tad concerning, no?
Peter Gammons doesn’t think so.
“I think Matt will be fine,” the MLB Network analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think maybe – and I think this is a distinct possibility – that he’s . . . never really quite got in a rhythm. I think most power pitchers need a little bit of time to find all of the rhythm that goes into throwing with that kind of velocity.”
Harvey averaged 7.3 and 6.5 strikeouts per game in 2013 and 2015, respectively, this after missing the 2014 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. This year, Harvey is averaging just 3.0 strikeouts per start.
“I think Matt will be fine,” Gammons reiterated. “I’m sure it’s really frustrating for him because he’s so competitive. People take ego for what I take as just that he wants to be great. Justin Verlander, the only thing in life he hates is not being great. Matt, when he’s right, walks to the mound like Verlander.”
Gammons recalls Harvey doing exactly that in Game 1 of the NLCS last October.
“I was upstairs in the Cubs’ box and I was watching Harvey walk to the mound in the bottom of the first,” Gammons said. “A couple of Cubs people said, ‘What are you watching?’ I said I just want to watch Matt Harvey go to the mound.’ I watched him throw his first three warmup throws and I turned to Theo Epstein and I said, ‘I think you’re screwed.’ There was no doubt in my mind.”
Harvey allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out nine in 7 and 2/3 innings in a 4-2 Mets win. He had pinpoint command and feared no one. He pitched with purpose and with attitude.
“Verlander’s been like that in his prime, and there are certain guys who are just special like that,” Gammons said. “That’s why I think Matt will end up getting it back.”
The Mets (5-6) definitely need Harvey to return to form if they hope to get back to the World Series this year. In fact, they need several starters to return to form. Noah Syndergaard, who is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 13 innings, has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball, but the rest of the rotation has been shaky.
The Mets trail the Nationals (9-2) by four games in the NL East.
“It’s amazing,” Gammons said. “The Mets’ pitching is yet to get into gear per se. Obviously Syndergaard has been great and (Steven) Matz was great yesterday (in a 6-0 win over the Indians), but they’ll get there. The one thing you have to look at and understand is Washington is really good, so it’s going to be a very intriguing race for the year.”
Elsewhere in baseball, Gammons discussed the incident at Tropicana Field on Saturday, as a woman was hospitalized after taking a foul ball to the face during the White Sox/Rays game. The ball, hit by Steven Souza, slipped through a gap in the Rays’ protective netting.
Gammons believes MLB will change its netting policy in the coming years.
“They’re going to end up going from dugout-to-dugout, which I think is really good,” he said. “It just happened that there was a flaw in the netting, which was unfortunate. Living in Boston, I’ve heard people complain, ‘Oh, I can’t see the same (with nets).’ Well, I had season tickets behind home plate for 25 years at Fenway Park. There was a screen there. I never felt I ever had trouble seeing anything. I said to one guy who was complaining to me, ‘Let’s say your granddaughter’s at the game and she gets hit and really critically hurt. How do you feel about the netting then?’ I think MLB is really making an effort (to improve safety). I know some teams don’t like it, some fans don’t like it, but in the end, being assured of safety in the game is far more important than a photo op.”