With the Oakland A’s signing Matt Harvey to a Minor League deal on Wednesday, some might wonder why. The A’s have already been working on a reclamation project with Homer Bailey this season, and with Harvey, they are working on another one. The main question is if he fits the mold.
Harvey was one of the best pitchers in the National League from 2012-15. He was also one of the worst pitchers for the Angels this season before his release. Best case scenario appears to be what Harvey was with the Reds last season. How does he get back to there?
This season, Harvey has gone away from his four-seam fastball, throwing it 14 percent less. Some of this may be for good reason, as it has a career low velocity average of 93.68 miles per hour, but it fell to an average of 92 in his last outings. This is consistent with all of his offerings, as his curve, slider, and change are all down a full mile per hour.
With his fastball usage down, his curve is up near nine percent. The tricky part is that opposing hitters are pounding both his curve and fastball. He has a remarkable .821 slugging percentage against the curve. The number goes down to .588 slugging against his fastball.
With the Reds in 2018, Harvey was his best down the stretch in August and September. In his 10 games between the two months, Harvey had a SO/W ratio of five. His ERA was right about his average with the Reds around 4.50. He was missing bats. Ironically most of this was due to elevated curveball usage. His whiff rate for his curve were 13.33 percent in August and 27.91 percent in September. However, the same offering has a whiff rate of just 11.64 percent in 2019.
Harvey’s movement is not that much different in 2019 as it was in the successful months of 2018. His velocity drop off should not be too impactful on the curve.
Basically, Harvey has a major issue. He is working with the same stuff that was successful for him last season. He has also seen a major velocity drop in his fastball. With the drop in his fastball, Harvey only has a six and seven mile per hour drop off between his change and slider, respectively. He now only has a nine mile per hour drop off between his fastball and curve. His splits were a little better when his fastball worked back up to 95 in September last season.
With his current velocity splits, Harvey looks like a risk as a reclamation project. However, that risk is limited as a Minor League deal. Just don’t expect for him to make a difference down the stretch for the A’s.