Matt Harvey doesn’t throw harder than every other pitcher in baseball, though it is pretty close. Matt Harvey doesn’t have the best stuff of any pitcher in baseball, thought it is pretty close. Matt Harvey doesn’t have the lowest walk rate of any pitcher in baseball, but it is pretty close.
Many pitchers have big time velocity. Many pitchers have terrific control, others have great command. It is possible to have one without the other – pitchers who are able to hit the strikezone with regularity but don’t hit their spot quite as often, resulting in hard hit balls and stuff that doesn’t show up in a raw strikeout-to-walk ratio.
In a single at bat today, Matt Harvey demonstrated the value of all three – working together to against one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters.
Ordinarily, a Marlins/Mets getaway day game in August is pretty much the pinnacle of non-essential viewing. Put Matt Harvey on the hill for the rebuilding Mets and “must see MLB.tv” instantly results. Put Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton at the plate and there is a chance for magic.
In the fourth inning of today’s matinee at Marlins Park, Giancarlo Stanton stepped in against Harvey with one out and nobody on in a scoreless game. The perfect situation for Harvey to attack the Marlins slugger and attack he did.
Despite being called a ball, that is a terrific pitch from Harvey. At 97 mph, there isn’t a lot Giancarlo Stanton can do with a fastball down and in. Harvey didn’t miss by much but the count ran 1-0 regardless.
Rather than come back with another fastball (as he did in their first encounter of the day), Harvey opts for a slider low and away. He bounces it for ball two. 2-0 to Giancarlo Stanton, a batter the Mets handled well this series but obviously one of the more fearsome hitters in baseball. What would Harvey do???
YIKES. Harvey (and catcher John Buck) go right back to the fastball down and in, this time painting the inside corner. Stanton offers but harmlessly waves over the top-shelf fastball.
As an uninformed outsider, there are not sufficient words to describe my astonishment over Matt Harvey’s execution of this key pitch. Stanton has smashed fastballs during throughout his career, pounding out a .414 wOBA against the heat according to ESPN Stats & Info (compared to .377 overall.) Stanton has hit five home runs on fastballs in this location over since the start of the 2010 season, ranking him in the top 30 among right-handed hitters.
Matt Harvey knows this. Matt Harvey doens’t care. He’s Matt Harvey!
Matt Harvey’s level of concern with Stanton’s ability to hit fastballs hard is so low that he comes back and throws another heater with the count 2-1. This pitch isn’t particularly “good” outside of its overriding traits. It all but bisects the plate, as middle/middle as it gets. But Matt Harvey fastballs are not like other fastballs, and this offering came in at 97.8 miles per hour.
Even Giancarlo Stanton, geared up as he is, can only pound this fastball into the ground, though he reached base thanks to a throwing error by Mets shortstop Omar Quintanilla.
Harvey and Stanton hooked up again, in a key moment later in the game. With runners on the corners and one out, Stanton came to the plate with the game still tied. Some on twitter suggested this was a time for the Mets to pitch around Stanton, maybe even put him on intentionally. They wouldn’t be the first to pitch around the only good player on the Marlins, who walked 27 times in July (compare that to the 34 walks he drew over his entire rookie season).
Matt Harvey is not the kind of man who pitches around hitters: Giancarlo Stanton or otherwise. He jumped ahead 0-2 in their final meeting of the day, again starting with the fastball inside. The count eventually ran full before Harvey set the big hitter down with a nasty slider down and away.
Matt Harvey’s fastball is an elite pitch. Its average velocity is a shade under 96 mile per hour, tops among starting pitchers this season. It is the pitch that makes his entire game work, setting up his power slider and mind-bending changeup. As Harvey showed in this at bat, it doesn’t need to be perfect to be good. But Matt Harvey is better than good. His ability to not only throw strikes but throw strikes of an obscene or offensively quality is what makes him great.
Stuff. Command. Control. Confidence. Matt Harvey has them all in spades. He’s really the total package, the best young pitcher in the game. In two at bats against one of the most powerful hitters in baseball, Matt Harvey put them all on display.