Reese Kaplan -- Somewhere Matt Harvey is Smiling


If this was a Hollywood script, the Dark Knight of Gotham would mount a furious comeback and take his rightful place back amount the fabulous five rotation of legend. 

Unfortunately reality often does not always unfold with the predictable happy endings of fiction.  This past weekend in San Diego is painful evidence of what happens when he you don’t get to write the script.

First, let’s take Matt Harvey.  With a 5-0 lead going into the 9th inning on Friday night, Manager Mickey Callway made the somewhat surprising decision to bring in the embattled pitcher to close out the game.  I’m sure every Mets fan let out a collective groan (and a few expletives) when they saw the pitching change that was made.

Indeed, that teeth gnashing was music to dentists’ ears when, to his first batter, he served up a gopher ball to ruin the shutout.  He promptly followed that with a walk to the subsequent batter.  Even the on-air announcers openly voiced that if he lost the next batter he was done (and said with a finality that it wasn’t necessarily just his role in the game that would be over).

Instead the scriptwriters set up the heroic surprise with Harvey retiring the next batter on a harmless fly to the outfield for out number one.  He then enticed the next batter into hitting into the inning and game ending double play.

Yes, the damage had been done.  Yes, he was once again ineffective.  However, when the chips were most down, he reached inside himself and did what he used to do – he got out of it.  For me it was the first encouraging thing I’ve seen from Matt Harvey in a couple of years.

In Sunday afternoon's game Harvey was brought in for the final inning in mop-up duty with a 14-2 lead.  He got the first batter on a fly out, the second on a fly out, a double, then the third on a fly out.  It wasn't a 9-pitch strikeout-the-side performance, but it was a scoreless inning and that's all you can hope for -- baby steps, one inning at a time.

Fast forward to the next day when the Mets’ pricy free agent acquisition, Jason Vargas, was set to make his debut for his new team.   Everyone wanted to see which Vargas would show up, the first half All-Star or the second half mediocrity.  For his career he’d been a credible back end starter, but unlike hitters, most pitchers achieve a more consistent route to achieve their final numbers, not the hot and cold streaks that more commonly affect batters. 

Well, surprise, Surprise, SURPRISE – Jason Vargas was neither.  He was flat-out awful.  Now given his limited preparation after breaking a bone in his non-pitching hand, I’m not ready to write him off after one rushed-back start.  Still, once again Sandy Alderson’s, ahem, “talent” for picking the right players once again seemed to rear it’s familiar and ugly head.  The irony, of course, is that what he provided is actually far worse than the man he replaced who got banished to the bullpen who, doubly ironically, earns less money.

Now after a single game no one is suggesting that Vargas is a complete failure nor that Harvey is redeemed and ready to reassume his role in the rotation.  However, instead of going for the more sure things available in free agency like Jake Arrietta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, we indeed see the result of rolling the dice.  Sometimes it comes up snake eyes. 

A lot of folks are clamoring to see either Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman moved into the rotation, but that would weaken an already fragile bullpen.  If you look at the reinforcements in AAA, Corey Oswalt is a starter (despite being used effectively as a long reliever earlier this season), and the other traditional reliever who is doing well – Tim Peterson and his 1.46 ERA – is not on the 40-man roster.  In other words, what you see is what you’re going to get for the foreseeable future. 


For those folks writing the epitath on Adrian Gonzalez's career, I don't know what was more impressive on Sunday's 5-RBI performance -- the hard smacked double to CF or the opposite field HR which shows that there is still power there.  Maybe those many articles about Jay Bruce taking grounders at first struck a nerve, but it was good to see the former Gold Glover contributing.  His batting average is still ugly but he's hit 3 HRs and driven in 17 in 66 ABs.  For those of you with spreadsheets or calculators or an abacus on hand, he's on a pace for over 120 RBIs.  Maybe young Mr. Smith in Las Vegas ought to take notice, too.  


Mack Ade said...

Reese -


A few things...

1. Leave Lugo and Gsellman in the pen. This is working and, if any of you ever pitched, you know a good arm can only take so much of this starter to reliever and back crap.

2. Between Vargas and Harvey... that is a lot of money being spent for this kind of failure. I would give Vargas two or three more starts and, if that does not work, I would turn to either Oswalt or Flexen.

3. I am very happy with the results of Gonzalez on first. I know the Mets would love to find a way to get both Nimmo and Lagares into the game, but I would leave first to A-Gon and Flores.

Thomas Brennan said...

Vargas and Vegas - the two are almost synonymous.

Well-taken point - if the Mets coughed up some more ducats, we could have had Reed and Lynn instead of Swarzak and Vargas, and really been rocking and rolling right now (maybe 21-5) - budgets are made to be broken!!!!!!!!!!!!

TexasGusCC said...

Tom, Lynn would require giving up the 46th pick and that would be tough. Also, Reed wanted to sign in the middle of the country and turned down better offers, or so we hear.

Mack, Gonzalez’ bat is slow, let’s face it. Nothing gets pulled unless it’s on the ground. Plus, the better players are on the bench. I don’t care about one day. I can’t disregard a month based on one day, and I’ve seen it in other walks of life. Gonzalez is done.

Mack Ade said...

Texas -

I go back to my original statements on Gonzalez.

Let's give him 100 at bats (has 66 now) and see what we have.

Thomas Brennan said...

Anyone have any idea when Swarzak will be back???

Thomas Brennan said...

TexasGus, if we drafted better, we could afford to give up a 46th pick once in a while to be better now. But we largely don't draft better. I just wonder if Reed could have been swayed - he had a good experience here, and could have postponed his Midwest desire to try for a world championship in NY.

Mike Freire said...

I think Vargas will be OK, as in close to his career numbers once he gets up to speed.

Matt is a tougher question.....is it decreased production due to physical limitations or is it all attitude (or a combo)? He could be a weapon out of the pen, but that's likely up to him. I don't see how he goes back to the rotation, short of a complete implosion of the other rotation members.

Reese Kaplan said...

If his agent was smart he would sit him down and say, "Matt, baby, don't ya see? If you ace the bullpen gig, then you double your chances as a free agent next year!"

Anonymous said...

Incisive title to the piece, as one obviously shouldn't smile as mates fail. This shall be an Oswalt season in time. I think he might be prepared enough to make a good go of it.

Thomas Brennan said...

Mike, maybe Harvey still revs up a few MPH, whether or not he is emotionally down or up.

bill metsiac said...

No RPs in Vegas? Jacob Rhame and "Mr hot and cold" Robles are there, and at some point Swarzak will return. That's plenty of reinforcement if Lugo or Gsellman is needed as a starter.

I agree with Mack about AGon. He's been hitting the ball hard despite his BA, and playing a fine 1B.And that's where the traffic jam is forming. He, Wilmer, and now Bruce at the ML level, with Smith and Alonso knocking at the door have me thinking a trade must be coming by July.

To me, the logical one is Bruce. He has value, is signed to a reasonable contract, and is blocking Nimmo and Lagares.

I like Bruce, but he's expendable and can bring quality in returnr

Reese Kaplan said...

Actually, Bill, the bullpen arm in Vegas most worthy of promotion is Tim Peterson. Much like the unheralded Paul Sewald before him, all he does is get people out. Last season in AA something clicked for him (he attributed it to the pitching coach when I talked to him). His numbers for the season were spectacular -- 5-3, 1.14 ERA, an insane 0.77 WHIP and a better than 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio. He is in pitching hell this year in Las Vegas and making it look easy -- 0-0, 1.46 ERA, 0.879 WHIP and a 4.2 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio. That's the guy you want to promote. Just because Rhame and Robles are on the 40-man roster, Peterson is getting shafted.

bill metsiac said...

Peterson may well be the most deserving, but as you pointed out, his promotion would require cutting someone from the 40. Who is deserving of that?

Reese Kaplan said...

Robles, Reyes.

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