After returning from Tommy John surgery last year and going 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 188 strikeouts, Matt Harvey, many people assumed, was back to his normal self.
Well, this year, he hasn’t been. Harvey has struggled mightily, going 3-6 with a 5.77 ERA.
Why has he struggled so much?
“Harvey had a really strong year last year, but he’s still getting to know this new arm, this new body and all those kind of things,” MLB broadcaster Ron Darling said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Before surgery, you go into a little bit of a slump. You know how to make the adjustments. Sometimes after surgery, it takes a little longer for that to happen. . . . I don’t think it’s going to take until the All-Star break, but it could for Matt. These are the kind of slumps that only a player of his great ability could get in the middle of.”
While Harvey’s struggles could be related to his surgery, it could also be related to his weight. Listed as 6-4, 217 pounds, Harvey is noticeably bigger than he was in previous years and is fading in later innings.
Isn’t it safe to say that conditioning is part of this?
“The conditioning definitely plays a factor,” said Darling, who pitched for the Mets from 1983 to 1991. “I will say in my day I certainly enjoyed my time on the town and never put on an ounce of weight, so you can do both. I think after the Tommy John surgery, he really wanted to get himself in a position where he was bigger, thicker and stronger to take the pounding that a starting pitcher will take over the course of his career. Sometimes when you get bigger, stronger and thicker, that is not necessarily better. I think the ability to have that whiplike velocity or release is just as important as size. In 2013, he was as lean as you can get, and that was his best time in the major leagues. I would err on that side if I were him.”
In other news, Darling addressed Josh Donaldson’s recent comments about the unwritten rules of baseball. Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP, said the game needs to do a better job go policing pitchers who go head-hunting.
“Listen, I’m a big fan of Josh Donaldson, but he’s an American League player, so he doesn’t watch when National League pitchers come up,” Darling said. “There was a time when others played, and in my time, that if you were to hit one of their players, you would have your tower buzzed as a pitcher when you came to the plate – and you knew it was going to happen. They wouldn’t hit you because they knew you were an out. Those things used to routinely happen. They don’t happen anymore.
“But I understand what Josh is saying,” Darling continued. “I think any pitcher, chicken-expletive if they go after hitters because the hitters are hitting them hard. That’s not cool. I think you should learn how to pitch better to get people out. But throwing at anybody’s head or any of that kind of stuff, it’s a free-for-all because people don’t know how to do it, they don’t know when to do it, and that’s why you get the arbitrariness of people throwing at certain players.”