We're closing in on 17 months since Matt Harvey was cruelly taken away from Mets fans and the baseball world in late August 2013. It might not feel like it but a lot has changed with the Mets and the National League East since that point. In the baseball world, 17 months is not far away from an eternity and while we've had the pleasure of watching pitchers like Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom establish themselves as big league stalwarts in the interim, it's important to remember that Harvey had himself quite a time in his first big league exposure.
Here's a recap, complete with videos and animated GIFs, of everything Matt Harvey was able to do from his debut in July 2012 until his final start before his elbow gave out in August 2013. Please sit back, enjoy, and try not to drool on your keyboard.
July 26, 2012 – Matt Harvey's Major League Debut
After a few months of intense speculation in 2012, the Mets finally called upon their top prospect who was pitching with Triple-A Buffalo in the International League. Harvey put up solid yet unspectacular numbers in the minors in 2012 with a 3.68 ERA and 112/48 K/BB ratio over 110 innings. It certainly wasn't bad but at the time, it didn't immediately scream "ace". Mere weeks before his big league debut, even, scouts (and/or beat writers) were mixed on what Harvey was going to be when he reached the majors.
So when Matt Harvey showed up in Arizona for his debut, it was quite shocking when we watched this happen:
What? Where did that level of dominance come from? Seriously, he was sitting 95-97 after sitting far lower than that in Triple-A and did you see that slider? Let's break that down a bit for you:
Even the typically cantankerous Keith Law was impressed by that little pitch:
If you want to see what a 70 slider looks like, check out Matt Harvey tonight.— keithlaw (@keithlaw) July 27, 2012
Okay, so maybe it was a fluke. Maybe this was one great game by a talented young pitcher against a big league lineup that wasn't adequately prepared for what they were going to see. It happens sometimes.
Or maybe not. Here's 9 more strikeouts against the Rockies in Harvey's sixth start.
And how about 10 strikeouts against the first place Nationals in his ninth start:
Since we're here, let's also Check In With Kevin to see how Matt's body feels after his final start of the year (he dominated the Phillies in that game, allowing just a solo home run over 7 innings, while walking 3 and striking out 7).
Coming off of his successful debut, the expectations were pretty high heading into 2013 but just how good would Harvey be over a full season? Further, how well would he fare without ace R.A. Dickey, who had been traded to the Blue Jays in the offseason? The answer was: quite well. In fact, it's not just that Harvey quickly took over as the team's ace but he suddenly managed to hone the somewhat minor command issues that he'd shown in the minors and in his debut. That, my friends, resulted in some dominance.
After breezing through spring training, Harvey began his season against the Padres, against whom he'd had his only poor outing in his 2012 debut. Harvey would have no such trouble on this day, getting 10 whiffs.
Not only did Harvey's command tighten up but he also showed four dominating pitches. There was his fastball:
And the changeup:
He had four weapons to dominate with, so it wasn't a surprise when he'd come out with no-hit stuff, just like he did in Minnesota:
And just like he did at Citi Field against the White Sox on the day when he had the bloody nose pictured at the top of this post:
Whether it was against division rivals like the Braves, against whom he whiffed 13 batters in this game...
...or the Nationals, Harvey was up to the task.
Of course, Harvey's dominance wasn't limited to regular season games. Harvey was tabbed to start the All-Star game for the National League at Citi Field and my goodness, was he impressive in his two innings, as he struck out Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Adam Jones.
Harvey even picked up his first career complete game shutout, dominating the Rockies at Citi Field in August.
Hopefully these clips remind you just how great Matt Harvey was before his injury. With that, we welcome him, his tremendous right arm, and the jaw-dropping pitches that it produces back to the major leagues. Mets fans and Major League Baseball as a whole have really missed you.