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The mystery of Matt Harvey’s struggles

By: Tim Palladino

Matt Harvey didn't look like he lost anything last year when he was coming off Tommy John surgery. But this year something is off big time.

Matt Harvey didn’t look like he lost anything last year when he was coming off Tommy John surgery. But this year something is off big time.

Why is Matt Harvey pitching so poorly? The 2015 All-Star didn’t look like he missed a step at all as he came back from a missed 2014 campaign. He had a dominant 2.71 ERA with 188 strikeouts in 189.1 innings and was a crucial part in the Mets’ run to the World Series.

But this year. He does not look anything like the former Cy Young candidate. Harvey is only 4-7, with an inflated 5.37 ERA and only 50 strikeouts in 60.1 innings pitched.

And nobody can put a finger on why.

According to Fangraphs.com, Harvey is mixing up his pitches at the same rate as last year and 2013. His velocity on those pitches are pretty much the same too. So the problem has to be something else, something that you can’t really quantify.

One possibility of what is wrong is that he is struggling to handle the pressure of pitching in New York. Being a baseball player in New York City is different than being one in any other town. Not only is New York a big baseball town, but the Mets are in the forefront ahead of the revered Yankees. Harvey is the big arm in town. He’s one of the biggest sports stars in one of the biggest cities in the world. And with the pressure also comes the fame. He does not have to go look for attention. He can do anything he wants; be put on VIP lists for clubs or parties. Perhaps that provides a distraction. Last year Harvey missed a mandatory pre-playoffs workout after a night out of boozing with friends.

What is interesting about Harvey right now is how he is handling the media. He is regularly hiding behind his teammates. That has led to reports of bad chemistry between he and his teammates. After a crushing loss to the Washington Nationals last week, catcher Kevin Plawecki was sent out in front of the media instead of Harvey. Plawecki was visibly upset when he had to continually answer with the same response to many questions: “you have to ask Matt.” The problem is he has been nowhere to be found.

The issue seems to be something that is impossible to quantify, though, but the root caused of it will never be known. He is not placing his pitches where he should. It is impossible to truly tell if a pitcher’s accuracy is off, especially when he is not throwing a higher number of balls. But whether something is off. He’s getting shelled. Perhaps it is off the field distractions. Maybe it is a locker room issue. Heck, maybe it is as simply as his arm is tired.

It was only back in 2014 that he had Tommy John surgery. Then he pitched all of last year and into November during the team’s run to the World Series. And he pitches a lot of innings. It adds up. Lately he’s been falling apart in the fourth inning, which is a sign his arm is just fatigued.

And for now, he’s in trouble. Despite winning on Memorial Day, he’s not pitching well and being a tired pitcher, who missed practices because he’s out partying the night before and appears to be frustrating his teammates with how he is acting in the clubhouse; that’s not a great combination.

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Tim Palladino

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