Call me Charlie Brown and give me back my football.
What if this version of Matt Harvey, reboot No. 12358, is good? What if he’s reinvented himself, once again, away from a power pitcher and away from a finesse pitcher and into just a guy who gets outs. What if that’s enough?
No one knew what to expect from Harvey in 2018. Some crossed their fingers for a return to former glory. Some wrote him off. I shrugged, because I had no idea. I assumed he would be bad because it’s the Mets and good things don’t happen to the Mets, but I didn’t really know. Maybe he’d find new life as a reliever, but we probably would never find out because the front office relies on star power and name recognition more than it does on talent. So there he was, with actual stars like Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard and Spin Rate King Seth Lugo and Maybe This Time He’ll Stay Healthy (He Won’t) Steven Matz, in the rotation. Failure felt inevitable.
On Tuesday night, Harvey looked like a pitcher again. Not a guy coming back from Tommy John Surgery or Thoracic Outlet Syndrome or a stress fracture or a broken heart. He was just a pitcher.
Harvey lasted just five innings against the Phillies, in the bitter cold and rain and wind. That was fine. He gave up just one hit, which was good. He held the division rivals scoreless, which was even better. There were no 100 mph fastballs; Harvey sat 90-92 and touched 93 on a few pitches. He threw his fourseamer almost 64% of the time, 55 of 86 total pitches. The slider made up the rest of the outing, with a few curves and sinkers thrown in for good measure. Hitters swung and missed on nine pitches, which may not sound like a lot, but Harvey induced more whiffs than that in just four games last year. Eight outs of 15, good for 58.3% of his total, came on the fly ball; in 2017, Harvey put up a 33.8 FB%. Avoiding ground balls seems like a good idea with Asdrubal Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez manning the right side of the infield.
It was one start, just five innings. The season is long and things happen and Lucy is still going to pull away my football. Sometimes a good outcome is just a fluke. But sometimes it’s real.
“He’s got that look in his eye back like when he was dominant,” Travis d’Arnaud told reporters after Harvey’s start Tuesday. Dominant means something different these days. Dominant means five good innings, not fighting for the ball in Game 5 of the World Series. Dominant means a blank runs column on the scoreboard, not coming inches from a perfect game. Dominant means being okay. The Mets don’t need Harvey to be an ace. They already have one. Two, in fact. They don’t need him to be the Dark Knight. They just need him to be okay. And maybe, after all this time, he can be.
Photo credit: Wendell Cruz – USA Today Sports