Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Mets RHP Matt Harvey is "at a 10 with being pissed off" about his move to the bullpen, and views it as somewhere he can get his "sh*t" together.
While he's out there, though -- whether it's short-term or long-term -- will it lead to increased velocity and actual success?
Harvey hasn't been the same since he pitched through Thoracic Outlet syndrome in 2016 (when he couldn't feel his fingers) and returned from surgery for the issue in 2017 -- a return he later said he might have rushed.
The 29-year-old Harvey's stuff looked good in Spring Training, with him inducing swings-and-misses with much more regularity than he did in 2016 and 2017, as his fastball touched 95 MPH and his secondary offerings were sharp.
Since his first start of the season, though, Harvey has gotten hit hard -- allowing 14 runs on 23 hits while walking three and striking out 12 in three starts over 16 innings.
The good so far from Harvey? His strikeout rate is up, his walk rate (1.71 per 9) is way down, and his xFIP is 3.63.
The bad? His swinging strike percentage is nearly identical to what it was in 2017 and his hard hit rate has skyrocketed.
If Harvey's velocity ticks up in the bullpen, though, it could be a huge boost for him.
Most pitchers see an increase in velocity when moving from the rotation to the bullpen, partially because they only need their energy for shorter bursts.
And Harvey can look to two of his teammates and another Dave Eiland disciple if he wants some hope...
Lugo tossed 101.1 innings in 2017, with all but one of his appearances coming as a starter. And while doing so, his fastball averaged 91.1 MPH, with his slider averaging 85.6 MPH, his curve averaging 76.3 MPH, and his changeup averaging 84.4 MPH.
Since his move to the bullpen this season, Lugo's fastball has ticked up nearly 2 1/2 miles per hour, and is now averaging 93.4 -- with Lugo often reaching back to hit 95, 96, and 97. His slider, curve, and changeup are up roughly two miles per hour each. Lugo's average fastball velocity in 2016 (when roughly half of his appearances came in relief) was 92.2.
Along with the uptick in velocity has been a huge rise in the swinging strikes Lugo is inducing. His 11.2 swinging strike percentage this season is the highest of his career, and a stark increase over the 8.6 it was in 2017.
The eye-popping thing to look at regarding Gsellman's move to the bullpen this season is his swinging strike percentage, which is 13.9 percent -- an enormous increase over the 7.4 percent it was in 2017 and the 9.1 percent it was in 2016.
Gsellman, who has been relying heavily on his sinker for many of those swings-and-misses, has also seen an increase in velocity, though it's not nearly the increase Lugo has seen.
After his fastball averaged 92.7 MPH in 2017, it's at 93.4 so far this season. His average slider velocity is actually down a bit, while his curve (81.7 MPH) and changeup (87.7 MPH) are each up 1.5 MPH on average.
One of the best rotation-to-bullpen success stories in recent memory has been Davis, whose full move to the bullpen happened with the Royals in 2014 -- while current Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland was working in the same capacity for Kansas City.
After moving to the 'pen -- during the season when he turned 29 years old -- Davis' average fastball velocity was 95.7 MPH. That was an increase from the 92.1 MPH it averaged in 2013.
Along with the increased fastball velocity, Davis scrapped his slider and changeup, and started using a cutter. Meanwhile, his curve -- which he continued to throw roughly 20 percent of the time -- saw an increase in average velocity from 81.7 MPH to 84.6 MPH. His swinging strike percentage went up from 7.3 percent to 14.3 percent.
Four seasons after moving to the bullpen, Davis inked a three-year deal with the Rockies worth $52 million.
What does this mean for Harvey?
Harvey's fastball has averaged 92.5 MPH this season, down from the 93.8 it averaged in 2017. In 2015, the last time Harvey was dominant with regularity, his fastball averaged 95.9. Harvey's average slider velocity is also down (87.4 MPH after being 88.6 in 2017), while his average curve and changeup velocities are nearly identical to what they were last season.
That Harvey's average fastball velocity has dipped even more from where it was in 2017 is a huge concern, though part of it may have to do with the poor weather conditions he's been pitching in.
If the above is the case, it's not crazy to think Harvey may be able to reach 95 MPH with his fastball with regularity in the bullpen, while reaching back for more when needed.
It seems that The Dark Knight as we once knew him is never coming back. But maybe he can fully reinvent himself in the bullpen If he buys in, and if he lets Eiland and Mets manager Mickey Callaway give him the help they're offering. If not, this may be the final chapter of his Mets career.