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Early-Season Numbers

Tonight your still-winless recapper takes on the question all of us are suddenly forced to take on: What’s wrong with Matt Harvey [1]?

To be sure, it’s April. If you’re panicking in April, you’re either new to this or ought to broaden your interests. Walking across Brooklyn on a beautiful day, Joshua and I had a long discussion about small sample sizes and the 2016 Mets. My kid is sound in terms of numeracy (particularly compared with me) and admires and craves logic, yet he’s also 13 and so is developing a teen predilection for alerting the populace to imminent apocalypses. These two impulses don’t play nicely together, and there wasn’t much I could do except shrug and say we’d see.

Harvey had sounded invulnerable on MLB At Bat, but when we got home he got dented, then dinged, and finally driven from the game, leaving the Mets trying to make up a sobering deficit and falling short. The loss kept them below .500 and created a boom market in worried Harvey analysis.

What’s wrong? Dan Warthen [2] thinks it’s a mechanical flaw [3] and says they’re working on it. He sees that flaw as most pronounced in the stretch. The Indians’ postgame comments also focused on the two faces of Harvey: from the windup (bestial) and from the stretch (beatable).

Maybe … but even when Harvey was in his full windup and blitzing through the lineup, the velocity on the fastball wasn’t there. Harvey was sitting at 92 to 93 and hitting 94, instead of 95 to 96 and hitting 97. He befuddled the Indians once through the order and then got whacked, with Jose Ramirez and old friend Juan Uribe [4] and annoyingly competent Jason Kipnis [5] and Mike Napoli [6] and Yan Gomes [7] doing rude things that caused neck strain and mound-kicking.

And the velocity hasn’t been there all spring.

So what does that mean? Maybe it’s a hangover from 2015 being so happily extended — Jacob deGrom [8]‘s velocity has also been lacking in the early going. (Though for now please save your concerns for deGrom the person instead of deGrom the pitcher [9].) If that’s the case, the smart money says the missing velocity should report for duty, late but much welcomed.

I sure hope the smart money’s right. Because pitchers break, in ways big and small. If this were one of those ubiquitous GEICO ads, right about now someone would say it’s what they do. Having a staff of young fireballers who are also students of their craft is surpassingly rare; having such a staff stay consistently healthy is rarer still.

At least the bats are showing signs of escaping their spring torpor, which is probably just a narrative lover’s way of saying the cosmic random-number generator has been more favorable of late. Yoenis Cespedes [10]‘s eighth-inning home run off Bryan Shaw [11] wasn’t quite in the same bat-flip-worthy pantheon as his NLDS vaporization of an Alex Wood [12] fastball, but it was still a mighty thing; Neil Walker [13]‘s home run to the other field two batters later didn’t have quite the same thunder and panache but still added up to 421 feet of good news.

But the Mets still came up short [14], so enough with the good news. The scenarios for a second straight glorious orange and blue season all begin with dominant starting pitching; if that’s not in the offing, the scenarios are rather less glorious.

Again, though, it’s April. All we can do is what I reluctantly recommended to Joshua: shrug and say that we’ll see.