When I asked Scott Boras about struggling Mets right-hander Matt Harvey on Friday, he started talking about a pitcher who had a 6.55 ERA last May 30 before going on the disabled list with neck stiffness.
“If I gave you those numbers, you would have to say that this pitcher is in the dumps,” Boras said. “His career path is altered. He’s changed. He’s someone who is in deep trouble and he’s not the same.
That would be another of Boras’ clients, Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg.
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“I’ve been through this many times with Tommy John pitchers,” Boras said. “I’m just telling you on May 29 of last year, Stephen Strasburg came off a month of May when he had 1-3 record and (10.13) ERA, and his overall ERA was 6.55.”
Strasburg, who spent more than three weeks on the DL and later missed more than a month with a left oblique strain, produced a 1.90 ERA in his final 10 starts and followed that with a 2.80 ERA in his first nine starts this season.
“This Tommy John dynamic carries with it unknowns,” Boras said. “It’s amazing that Harv and Stras pitched against one another (Thursday night). You go back a year ago and who’s who?
“I’m sitting on the phone (then) talking about Strasburg’s career and no one is saying anything to me about Matt Harvey’s brilliance and dominance. Now the roles are reversed, and the reality of it is that there are unknowns in going through the Tommy John scenario.
“Why are there unknowns? Because we had a pitcher from zero to (216) innings after a 17-month rehab. And by the way, I want to be clear. Matt Harvey wanted to pitch. The organization is not at fault.
This Tommy John dynamic carries with it unknowns.
Scott Boras, Matt Harvey's agent
“This is baseball. When an organization is in the playoffs and World Series, the whole thing, unless you’ve got remedies for it long before it happens, this is what you do.”
Boras then pointed to Harvey’s average fastball velocity, which is 94 mph this season, down slightly from 95.2 last season, according to Fangraphs.
Harvey’s swinging-strike percentage is down as well, but also only slightly, from 11.6 percent to 10.7. His ERA is 5.77, but his fielding-independent pitching measure — or expected ERA — is 3.66, not terribly off last year’s 3.05.
All this, even though Harvey hit a new low in his 9-1 loss to the Nationals on Thursday night, allowing nine runs in 2 2/3 innings, six earned.
“His velo is there. It’s definitely there,” Boras said. “When his velo is there, how is the league doing? The league is hitting .208 off him when he throws a 94-mph fastball and above.
“Last night he was throwing 94. But the reality of it is when he mislocates … last night, what did (Daniel) Murphy hit out of the ballpark? A curveball. He hung a curveball.”
Boras would not say it, but the Mets also failed to make a number of plays behind Harvey on Thursday night, particularly on the left side of their infield.
Strasburg has benefited from the Nationals’ improved defense — Washington ranks eighth in the majors in defensive efficiency this season after finishing 21st a year ago. The Mets, on the other hand, have declined from eighth last season to 29th thus far.
Last night he was throwing 94. But the reality of it is when he mislocates … last night, what did (Daniel) Murphy hit out of the ballpark? A curveball. He hung a curveball.
Another question with Harvey, raised in several reports on Friday, is whether the pitcher is in optimal physical condition.
“This guy was at our sports fitness institute for six weeks,” Boras said. “And you know what? His lower half is one of the strongest in baseball of any pitcher. This is not his conditioning, believe me.
“You know why I know it? Look at his fastball velocity. He’s still got his velocity. (The issue is) command.
“We’re dealing with unknowns about why he’s not locating. All I can tell you is that with Tommy John guys there are times they don’t locate. Take a look at Strasburg last year.”