What’s the Plan for “Tiring” Matt Harvey?

By Danny Abriano

After Saturday’s loss to Detroit, one in which Matt Harvey clearly wasn’t himself (as evidenced by the 13 hits he allowed in 6.2 innings pitched), the Mets’ ace had the following to say:

"I’m getting pretty tired, but so is everybody.  You have to work through it and you have to deal with it.  It’s a long season. You have to figure out how to get things done.  My performance the last couple of starts has been pretty terrible.  I’ve got to work through it and get better.  Today, I couldn’t a throw a slider for a strike.  I couldn’t really throw it that well at all.  It’s a pitch that I need. The last couple of starts I haven’t had it.  I figure everybody is going to go through a stretch there where you’ve got to battle through some fatigue and some discomfort. It’s a long season — 162 games — and you’ve got to push through it. Right now I’m not doing a good job of doing that, and we’ve got to figure something out…everything is a learning process.  I’ve never been through this before. So, obviously, paying attention to it and figuring out ways to move past it is all part of learning and growing as a ballplayer."

The above quote from Harvey is a lot to digest, but here’s the only thing that matters: If Harvey is healthy, this is something (as he notes) he has to push through.  It’ll be September in six days, and every player is tired – some more than others.

In the case of Harvey, he’s passed a threshold he’s never been to before as far as the total amount of innings he’s pitched.  In 2011, he threw 135.2 combined innings between advanced A and AA.  Last year, he threw 169.1 combined innings between AAA and the majors.  So far this year, Harvey has thrown a total of 178.1 innings for the Mets.

August 24, 2013; Flushing,NY,USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) delivers a pitch against the Detroit Tigers at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It’s typical for pitchers to increase their workload by roughly 30 innings season to season, so it’s likely that Harvey will be capped at somewhere between 200 and 210 innings (he made an innings jump of 34.1 last season).  If Harvey’s innings cap is indeed between 200 and 210, he has less than 32 innings left this season.

Obviously, the health of Harvey is paramount.  However, this isn’t a health thing, it’s a fatigue thing.  A pitcher being tired toward the end of the season isn’t something that’s independent to the Mets or Harvey.  Rather, it’s something that all young pitchers have to go through – building up strength for future seasons while adjusting to the rigors of pitching a full season.

I’m sure there will be alarm bells going off and people calling for the Mets to shut Harvey down.  Frankly, that would be a foolish thing to do.  Harvey needs to go through this in order to be able to be strong at the end of a season during which the team is contending (hopefully in 2014).

Since his complete game shutout against Colorado on August 9th, Harvey’s last three starts have been un-Harvey like:

  • 6 innings pitched, 4 runs on 8 hits
  • 6 innings pitched, 2 runs on 6 hits
  • 6.2 innings pitched, 2 runs on 13 hits

Over those three starts (a combined 18.2 innings), Harvey has struck out only 13 batters.  While it’s difficult for fans to watch Harvey pitch as a mortal, it’s imperative for his development.  As he noted after Saturday’s loss, he’s fatigued and having trouble locating (especially his slider).  Against the Tigers, that combination came back to bite him in a big way.

Still, Harvey must pitch through this.  If he begins to change his mechanics or at any time complains that he’s in pain, the Mets will have to step in.  Until then, a seemingly human version of Harvey should keep taking the mound every time it’s his turn.  It’s imperative both for Harvey’s future and the future of the club.

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