The Mets, Matt Harvey, and his agent Scott Boras are in a bit of a kerfuffle.
In short: Boras believes that Dr. James Andrews, Harvey's surgeon for his Tommy John surgery, gave Harvey a strict 180 innings pitched limit this season. The Mets, however, say that Andrews did not give them a specific number. And Harvey himself says he'll be shut down at 180.
The reason this is important: Harvey is at 166 1/3 innings pitched, meaning, if in fact he will be shut down at 180 innings, he only has 13 2/3 innings left this season, or about two starts. With the Mets making a serious playoff push, this could mean they could be without one of their top pitchers during the final stretch and possibly into the postseason.
Whew. That was a lot, wasn't it?
There are many ways to look at this. But I'm going to say this: evaluating Matt Harvey based only upon innings pitched is not the way to go in this day and age, especially with all the PITCHf/x data we have at our fingertips. Instead, Harvey should be looked upon by pitches thrown, types of pitches thrown and how many of each, and the leverages he's been pitching in.
Not all innings are alike. Some innings could be an eight or ten pitch inning; others can be a twenty or more pitch inning. So, looking at Harvey through pitches thrown instead of innings pitched.
So, without further ado, let's do just that.
Harvey, this season, has thrown 2,459 pitches. Over his 166 1/3 innings, this means that Harvey is averaging just 14.78 pitches per inning, which ranks 74th-fewest among starting pitchers in the Major Leagues, according to teamrankings.com.
In the rankings, Harvey is around some of the best pitchers in the league. Zack Grienke ranks just behind him at 75th. Dallas Keuchel is behind Grienke at 76. And Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, and Max Scherzer come in at Nos. 77, 78, and 79, respectively. Felix Hernandez, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Carlos Carrasco are the pitchers above him.
Basically, he's right around the best of the best. The explanation for this is simple. The more economical a pitcher is, the further they will be able to pitch into games and effectively do so.
Before his surgery in 2013, Harvey again was throwing among the fewest pitches in the big leagues (70th fewest out of 82 qualified starters). So what was the real reason for his UCL tearing and how can the Mets keep him from further damaging their prized righty?
It's really hard to know. It could be due to the volume of off-speed pitches he's throwing. It could be due to leverage and the amount of stress he's pitching through (i.e. a bases loaded situation is more stressful than a bases empty). It could really be anything, luck included, and that's what makes keeping arms healthy a truly imperfect science.
There's one thing that the Mets cannot do. And that's shutting Harvey down through innings pitched. What they should do is monitor him on a start-to-start basis, making sure his fastball velocity is still where it should be, that he's getting the right movement on his pitches, and that he's still being effective. That's the best advice I can give.