In case you missed it, the New York Mets’ Matt Harvey is as good as advertised. He’s putting up historically good numbers, but it isn’t just a stats thing: This kid is a rare treat to watch on the mound, even if you aren’t a pitching enthusiast. He combines the tangible and the intangible in a way few have in recent memory. He’s got bullish drive, a commanding presence and ridiculous, silly looking stuff. Let’s break it down.
Matt Harvey is among the league leaders in average fastball velocity, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Harvey had a dominant day in Atlanta on Tuesday: He struck out 13 batters through seven innings, at one point having struck out six in a row. On days like Tuesday, his fastball sounds like a medicine ball when it hits the catcher’s glove, and its subtle, late movement makes it basically unhittable when he locates it on the fringe of the strike zone. Seasoned hitters are swinging through balls that seem to climb from their letters to their eyes.
The curveball and power slider
Matt Harvey’s hook is flat out ridiculous. It’s a bona-fide “12 to 6” curveball, meaning it appears to drop from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock on its way to the plate. Mets fans might remember the curveball Sid Fernandez threw in the late 1980s. Harvey’s is just as good, and he’s also got a power slider that’s similar to his curveball but with extra mustard.
Matt Harvey stands on the mound like the proverbial king of the hill. He pitches with total conviction on every pitch, regardless of the situation or count, which is often a key to executing in tough situations. When he throws the two-strike hook, he doesn’t just get it up there and hope it works because it’s the pitch he’s supposed to throw — he throws the dang thing, because he thinks it will do its job. This is something that can be cultivated, but to see it in a rookie with his kind of stuff is really impressive.
“I don’t like losing even if I don’t pitch.” ‘Nuff said, yes?
At 6′-4″ and 225 pounds, Matt Harvey has the kind of build that will serve him well as a power pitcher. He’s big and strong but not too beefy, tall but not too lanky and athletic but not overly muscular. He’s reminiscent of guys like Roger Clemens, who get on the mound and look like they can throw it at a buck twenty. He’s got powerful legs and a powerful upper body, a lot from which to generate force — and his mechanics are sound and easily repeated.
Some people have questioned whether Matt Harvey’s intensity will wear him down mentally, especially in light of his poor run support thus far. I think this is a legitimate concern, but if it does come into play, it won’t likely happen for a while. Harvey already seems to exude an impressive, but not disingenuous, degree of professionalism, which will hopefully provide some shock absorption. What does slightly concern me is the fact he’s something of a high-effort pitcher. Some guys seem to throw really hard without much real effort. By his own admission, Harvey puts everything into every pitch. For a strikeout power pitcher with a bit of back tightness in his history, this is something to keep an eye on. If he learns the subtle but important trick of knowing when and how to pace himself, he’ll be able to consistently go deep into games, and his body will hold up longer.
Matt Harvey appears to be, as the saying goes, the real deal. He’s already surprisingly well evolved in his intangibles, he’s got a rare combination of tangible attributes and he throws in a pitcher’s ballpark. The New York Mets have found themselves an ace.