Ever since he broke onto the scene in 2013, Matt Harvey showed flashes of being one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. Nobody can forget the 2015 World Series Game 5 where Harvey dominated the Royals for 8 innings. However, much like in game 5, Harvey often dominates only to lose his feeling to pitch out of nowhere.
Harvey’s 2013 campaign came to a crashing end with the need to get Tommy John surgery. Harvey was at a 2.27 ERA after 26 starts. Despite season-ending surgery, Harvey finished in fourth for the Cy Young award.
Harvey had a rebirth in 2015, his first season back from surgery. He pitched to a 13-8 record and a 2.71 ERA in 29 starts. He was one of the major contributors to the Mets’ World Series run.
Just when it looked like Harvey was healthy and ready to dominate the league, Matt Harvey never really showed up during the 2016 campaign. After struggling his way through 17 starts to a 4-10 record and a 4.86 ERA, he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. Harvey admitted that he was pitching with no feeling in his arm. He underwent season-ending surgery and his 2016 campaign came to an abrupt stop.
Once again, Harvey had shifted to complete dominance to being unable to pitch.
Going into 2017, Matt Harvey is one of the Mets’ biggest question marks. Which Harvey will show up? Will we see the 2015 stud Matt Harvey or the 2016 dreadful Matt Harvey?
The best way to guess which Harvey will show up in 2017 is to look at past pitchers who had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.
Josh Beckett was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in the middle of his 2013 campaign. He was at a 0-5 record with a 5.19 ERA. A similar line to Harvey’s 2016 season. He had his campaign cut short and had the same surgery as Harvey.
Beckett returned in 2014 and pitched to the tune of a 6-6 record with an extremely impressive 2.88 ERA. However, Beckett suffered another injury and ultimately decided to retire at the age of 34.
Clayton Richard was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in 2013. He was at a 2-5 record with a 7.01 ERA. Again, similar to Harvey’s 2016 line.
Richard returned in 2015. In 2015 and 2016 combined, Richard has pitched to a 7-6 record with a 3.52 ERA. Richard has become a valuable major-league piece pitching both out of the bullpen and in the starting rotation.
Chris Young was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in 2013. Young was currently on a minor-league deal with the Nationals. In Washington’s triple A affiliate, Young pitched to a 1-2 record with a 6.81 ERA in 9 starts before surgery.
Young was extremely successful in his comeback from surgery. In 2014, Young pitched for the Mariners and had a 12-9 record with a 3.65 ERA at age 35. In 2015, Young signed with the Royals and became an important part of their rotation. He had an 11-6 record and a 3.06 ERA. Young was also a large part of the Royals 2015 postseason success.
In their years before surgery, Beckett, Richard, and Young all had struggles similar to Harvey in 2016. After surgery, all of them were able to become useful major-league pitchers.
No one truly knows what to expect from Matt Harvey. However, Beckett, Richards, and Young proved that it is possible to have successful comebacks following surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. In 2017, it’s extremely possible that Matt Harvey immediately returns to being a dominant pitcher.