Best Mets Of All-Time: No. 33 Matt Harvey
Right now, we are talking about whether Matt Harvey is able to be able to be an effective Major League pitcher again after he has struggled due to TOS. However, starting back in 2012, we talked about Harvey as the next great Mets pitcher, one who was fairly drawing comparisons to Tom Seaver, one who could lead the Mets to their next World Series.
Harvey dazzled right from the beginning. In his Major League debut he flashed a slider like we’ve never seen, and he set a new Mets record by striking out 11 batters in his debut. In that start, we saw someone who could be the next great pitcher in the game and in Mets history:
That first season was just a glimpse. The 2013 season was the stuff of legends. In 2013, Harvey captivated Mets fans, New York, and eventually all of baseball.
Starting with the numbers, his 2.01 FIP led the league. It is important to keep in mind that was better than Clayton Kershaw, who was back then in his prime and legitimately in the conversation as one of the best pitchers in baseball history (he still is). Between his greatness and the fact the game was being held at Citi Field, Harvey started the All-Star Game pitching two scoreless innings.
There are just so many great stories from that 2013 season. There was the “Harvey’s Better!” chants directed at Stephen Strasburg. There was the bloody nose game(s). There was the almost perfect game spoiled by Ruben Tejada not playing an Alex Rios grounder properly. To sum up how the Mets were then, Harvey didn’t even get the win despite allowing that one infield single over nine innings while striking out 12 because the Mets couldn’t score until the 10th inning.
That 2013 season remains one of the best in Mets history by any pitcher. At the time it happened, his FIP was the third best in team history, and his WHIP was the best ever. He was subsequently passed in both by Jacob deGrom. His K/BB is the best out of any non strike shortened season in team history. To put it succinctly, Harvey was absolutely dominant and pitching at a level only deGrom, Dwight Gooden, and Seaver could replicate.
Unfortunately, Harvey’s season ended with him needing Tommy John surgery. He resisted initially but eventually opted for the surgery. He pushed to pitch in 2014, but he would instead be held back and was ready to go in 2015.
Once again, Harvey taking the mound represented hope for the Mets franchise. While there may have been some early trepidation from fans, he quickly assuaged them by shutting out the Nationals over six innings in his first start of the season. It was the beginning of a strange and great year for Harvey and the Mets.
With this being the Mets and Scott Boras being Scott Boras, it was not one without controversy. First, there as Harvey uncomfortable with the six man rotation. Then, it was Boras trying to enforce previously agreed upon innings limits only for the Mets to get amnesia and try to prod Harvey to pitch anyway.
So Harvey continued to pitch, and he pitched more than anyone else has in their return from Tommy John surgery. He pitched and picked up the win the day the Mets clinched the National League East. He pitched and won a pivotal Game 3 of the NLDS. He pitched a great game against the Cubs to open the NLCS:
Over 7.2 innings, he allowed two earned on four hits and two walks while striking out nine. In that start, he set the tone. The Mets pitching was going to dominate the Cubs, and the Mets were going to sweep their way to the World Series.
In Game 1, even with Yoenis Cespedes completely misplaying a routine Alcides Escobar fly ball into an inside the park homer, he pitched well enough for the Mets to win, and they almost did that coming within a Jeurys Familia blown save and Bartolo Colon 14th inning meltdown of doing that. When Harvey took the mound again in Game 5, he gave everything he had to keep the Mets alive:
This was the moment Mets fans foresaw in 2013, and Harvey delivered with the type of game you expect from an ace. He pitched like an all-time great pitcher. At that time in history, it certainly seemed like Harvey was that and/or was going to be that.
Little did we know at the time that was going to be it for the 2015 Mets, their World Series window, and Harvey’s career. Things were just not right for Harvey in 2016. We eventually found out he suffered from TOS. That began a sad downward turn in his career, and it eventually led to his being traded to the Reds for Devin Mesoraco. In his limited time with the Reds, Harvey pitched well giving us all hope he has one more act in his career.
Before the TOS, Harvey was all over the Mets top 10 lists for pitchers. As it stands, he is still in the top 10 in BB/9, K/9, and K/BB. While not an official category, he is among the Mets leaders in giving a fan base hope and providing them with huge moments. Overall, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 33.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky
25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy
29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza
32. Jon Matlack