By Mike Addvensky
Some New York Mets fans might not want to hear this, but Matt Harvey does not deserve to stay in the starting rotation if he continues to pitch like he has this season.
There was a time when Harvey was considered to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. Over the past few seasons, he has struggled to get through five innings of work. It’s time for the Mets to come to the realization that we are never again going to see the Dark Knight be the dominant pitcher that he was in 2013.
It’s not like Harvey has been awful so far this season, but he certainly has not been good. He lasted just five innings in each of his first three starts. Harvey did not allow any runs in his first start of the year, as he gave up just one hit and had five strikeouts in a 2-0 Mets victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. He did not do as well against the Nationals, as he gave up a home run to Bryce Harper and allowed four earned runs on nine hits overall. Harvey then struggled again in his most recent start, which came on Saturdays night against the Milwaukee Brewers. An early three-hun homer by Jonathan Villar put the Mets in an early hole. A couple of innings later, Jett Bandy also took Harvey deep.
Right now, Harvey is the weak link in what has been an otherwise solid Mets starting rotation. Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are both coming off of their best starts of the season. After a rough first outing, Steven Matz has bounced back and looks like he is beginning to figure it out. Even Zack Wheeler has gotten off to a good start. Wheeler changed his delivery in the offseason, and this has seemingly made a difference for him. The way he’s pitched so far, Harvey is the fifth starter in this rotation.
The Mets are going to have a decision to make soon when left-hander Jason Vargas returns from the disabled list. Last month, Vargas had surgery to remove the hamate bone in his right hand. He is expected to pitch in a minor league rehab game on Sunday, meaning that he could return to the Mets as soon as next week. At that point, general manager Sandy Alderson and manager Mickey Callaway will have to figure out who to remove from the starting rotation.
Unless he really starts to turn it around, there is no reason why Harvey should not be the odd man out in the rotation. He has not shown the Mets that he can go deep into a game so far this season. The last time Harvey pitched six innings in a game was on May 28 of last year against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That was a few weeks before he landed on the disabled list and ended up having surgery due to a stress fracture in his scapula.
Harvey had shoulder issues during the 2016 season, and it was discovered that he had thoracic outlet syndrome. He had season-ending shoulder surgery in July of 2016 to fix the issue. Since then, Harvey really has not looked like the same pitcher. His velocity has been down and his control is not what it used to be.
No one really knows what Harvey would be out of the bullpen, but it’s getting tough to watch him as a starter. Hitters do not fear him like they did in 2013. He just does not throw as hard as he used to and does not seem to have a lot of confidence. Especially considering that Harvey has failed to go deep into games over the past year, he might be better suited in a role where he only has to pitch a couple of innings at a time. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman are both great examples of starters who have thrived in the bullpen for the Mets. It might be time to see if the Mets can salvage anything out of Harvey by moving him to the bullpen.
Had Wheeler not pitched well in his first two starts after getting recalled from Triple-A, Harvey’s immediate future in the rotation might not even be a topic of discussion right now. However, Wheeler has been impressive so far. You have to go with the guys that will give you the best chance to win every day. As of right now, Harvey is just holding the team back.