One of the minor flaws New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey showed during his ten major league starts last season was the amount of strikeouts he had. No, he didn’t have too few strikeouts; if anything, he had too many, which is an issue that Harvey should try to work on during his second professional season.
The issue isn’t necessarily that Harvey’s strikeout rate is too high. He struck out 70 batters in 59 innings last year, and if Harvey were able to keep up that pace throughout an entire season it would be quite an accomplishment. However, the issue isn’t how many batters Harvey strikes out, it’s that every batter he faces he tries to strike out, which believe it or not, can be a problem.
The next step in Harvey’s development is knowing when to go for a strikeout and knowing when to just get an out. There are times when a pitcher needs a strikeout, and Harvey has the stuff capable of getting a strikeout when he really needs it. But the rest of the time, Harvey needs to focus on just getting the batter out, by any means necessary.
When Harvey tries to strikeout every batter he faces, his pitch count rises in a hurry, which we saw last year. Instead of at bats lasting four or five pitches, they can get up to eight or nine pitches, if not more; and an increased pitch count means a shorter outing. If the Mets expect to win this year, they’re going to need to get a lot of innings out of Harvey, at least 200, and they’re not going to get that if he surpasses 100 pitches before the end of the 5th inning every time out, which happened on several occasions last year. To pitch as many innings as possible, Harvey will have to learn how to be more efficient and economical with his pitches.
For a pitcher like Harvey, taking away the instinct to go for the strikeout every at bat is going to take some getting used to, but it’s something he’s going to have to learn how to do in order to take that next step as a pitcher, and help the Mets win in 2013.