Story Of Strikeouts

From Elias: Matt Harvey struck out eight batters against the Reds on Thursday, bringing his total to 34 in his five major-league games. The only pitchers who debuted in the major leagues with the Mets and had that many strikeouts in their first five starts are Nolan Ryan (39) and Dwight Gooden (36).

Harvey was also the first player in the modern era to collect two hits while totaling double-digit strikeouts in his MLB debut. He has held batters to a ridiculous .191 AVG through his first 30 MLB innings / 5 starts. I figured we needed a little positivity around here.

First off, I should explain that I am in the group of people that questions why Harvey was called up so quickly. There is no doubt in my mind he has an impressive repertoire of pitches and he pitches with a nice level of maturity. However, in a season that was basically given up on by the Administration, why force up Harvey when he could have got a little more seasoning in the minors?

Putting my feelings on the early call up aside, Harvey has done his best to prove that he belongs in the MLB in a short amount of time. His command over his fastball is admirable – with him being able to vary not only the movement, but the velocity. He topped out at 98.5 MPH so far this season while his average sits at 94.2 MPH. Blistering heat. His other pitches sit comfortably in the 80’s (87.8 MPH slider, 82.9 curveball, and 85.7 change-up.)

So why am I mentioning all this? Simple. Harvey has the potential to be a front-end starter, and one of the reasons he has really impressed me so far is his ability to rack up strikeouts. He totaled 112 Ks in 110.0 IP in AAA before coming up to the Show, where he has totaled the aforementioned 34 in 30 innings.

Velocity does not always mean instant domination – nor does it lead to easy strikeouts. Mike Pelfrey threw, on average, 92 MPH with his fastball in 2010 (the 15 win season)  and struck out only 113 in 204 innings – both career highs. (By the way, best wishes to Pelf in his road to recovery.) Of course, not every fastball at 92 MPH is the same.

Keeping track of strikeouts will always be important in my opinion. Being able to get strikeouts is the difference between being stuck on 2-2 counts with the opposition fouling off pitch after pitch – it is the difference between striking fear into a hitter and letting them feel like they have some hope at the plate. Being able to punch out a hitter in a tough situation is huge – not only does a strikeout keep the ball out of play, but it builds momentum for the pitcher on the mound at the time.

In short, the strikeout is a huge part of a game for a pitcher. You do not ever stumble across 8+ strikeouts – there is definitely skill involved, even in a bad outing. Harvey’s electric fastball looks like it will be a successful out pitch for years to come, albeit in a small sample. I believe that being able to strike out batters with consistency can make the difference between a #2 and a #1 in some instances. Aces are pictured to be a model of consistency, dominance, and confidence.

Keep track of the strikeouts that Harvey is racking up. I am not saying that he will be unsuccessful without striking out eight batters a game, but I think his success will often be accompanied by a high strikeout rate. Every one of Harvey’s pitches is dangerous enough to pick up a strikeout – which gives me hope for his future, at the very least.