As Matt Harvey prepares to take the mound Thursday night in Atlanta, he is a very different pitcher than he was just a few years ago -- one who finds himself fighting for a rotation spot. What has changed in how Harvey pitches and what can he do -- if anything -- to succeed in this new incarnation?
Thoracic outlet syndrome, a career-ender for many, first and foremost has drained Harvey's once-formidable velocity. His average fastball came in at or near 97 mph in 2013 and 2015 and is below 93 in his three starts thus far in 2018. The cold weather may be a factor, though, and it's not much of a stretch to see him reaching the 94 he averaged in 2017. His other pitches have slowed as well -- slider, changeup, and curveball have all dropped two or more miles per hour since 2015.
Many pitchers survive and even thrive with a velocity along the lines of what Harvey is currently throwing, but his performance is still a long ways off from his days as an ace. He's struggling to fool batters, with swing rates well below his peak and contact rates well above. His swinging strike rate has dropped almost 3 percent from his 2015 mark, though it is up slightly from last year...