We begin our 2013 Season in Review series with RHP Matt Harvey.
A former top-50 prospect, who had dominated during a ten start major league stint in 2012, Harvey headed into the 2013 season poised to succeed. Sure, most did not predict that he’d replicate the 2.73 ERA or 10.6 SO/9 from his rookie year, but a dependable, high strikeout number three or even number two starter was not out of the question. Needless to say, he was a whole lot more than that.
How Matt Harvey did on the mound in 2013: Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Zach Grienke, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Carpenter, or Pedro Martinez; that is the complete list of pitchers to pitch in as many innings as Matt Harvey did this year and post a lower earned run average. He was lights out from the first pitch, striking out 10 and allowing only one hit over seven shutout innings in his first start of the year. Through four starts, Harvey had an unreal 4-0 record, 0.93 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 29 innings. He reached the pinnacle of dominance on May 12th, when he shut down a terribly over-matched White Sox lineup. Through nine unrelenting shutout innings, Harvey surrendered only one hit (a weak infield single), walked none, struck out 12, allowed only one line drive, and earned a game score of 97, the highest ever by a Met.
With rare exception, the rest of the season was no worse, as the league was left hung out to dry against Harvey’s filthy stuff. He exuded power, throwing the fastest fastball, slider and curve in baseball. His fastball, which touched 100 MPH at times, was the second most valuable pitch in baseball, according to fangraphs, and his slider, well, did this.
His dastardly stuff translated into enough success that he became the undisputed ace of the Mets staff and was named by Bruce Bochy as the starting pitcher for the N.L. All-Star team. Harvey rounded out his season with a 9-5 record, 2.27 ERA, 191 K’s (9.6 K/9), and 31 BB (1.6 BB/9), and a .931 WHIP over 26 starts and 178.1 innings. His 2.00 FIP (Fielding independent pitching) is the eighth best in the entire history of baseball, and his 6.1 fWAR ranks fifth among major league pitchers this season.
As every Met fan knows, however, Harvey did not finish the year on the mound. His season ended on August 26th, when the Mets announced that he had strained the UCL in his elbow, and would miss the remainder of the season and possibly part or all of 2014.
Areas To Improve Upon: Its difficult to offer advice to a player who, at 24, spent most of the season as the frontrunner for the N.L. Cy Young award, but of course Harvey will spend the winter focused on improving one thing: health. Harvey has opted to rehab his injury, which ordinarily requires Tommy John surgery. Its a tall task that few pitchers accomplish, so Harvey will have his work cut out for him.
Projected Role in 2014: Should Harvey succeed in rehabbing his elbow injury, he will return to his role of staff ace for the club next year. Although I doubt that he would serve in the same workhorse capacity as the Mets will certainly monitor his innnings properly. Should his rehab fail – and it very well might – than Harvey will no likely have no role with the club next season as he will spend most, if not all of 2014 on the disabled list.
Contract Status and Trade Rumors: Most of the players on this Mets roster appears to have been reduced to trade chips for Alderson to leverage into a big-ticket name this offseason, but Harvey is one of the few exceptions. Alderson has reiterated time and time and again that young pitching will be the backbone of future Mets clubs, and trading away a 25 year old starter coming off a 6 WAR season would be proverbial suicide.
Contract talks, however, is more of an urgent and biting subject. Although all potential talks have undoubtedly been put on hold since the injury, Harvey said in an interview around the All-Star Break that he had aims at becoming the first 200 million dollar pitcher. Nothing in Alderson’s past moves or statements give any indication that he would ever be willing to hand out this much money to a player, particularly a pitcher. Everything changed with the injury, of course, so any future extension for Harvey, who currently earns near the major league minimum, is dependent on the success of his recovery.