Matt Harvey Diagnosed with Torn UCL

Sometimes, baseball is just cruel.


A couple of years ago, Stephen Strasburg was the best young pitcher we’d seen in a very long time, and then his elbow gave out. Matt Harvey was the best young pitcher we’d seen since Strasburg, and now it looks like his elbow might end up requiring surgery too. I have no personal affinity towards the Mets, but as a fan of baseball, this sucks. The game does not need any more “what if” stories. We already have one Mark Prior; we don’t need to start a fraternity.

Smart people of the future: Figure out how to keep great young pitchers healthy, please.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

79 Responses to “Matt Harvey Diagnosed with Torn UCL”

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  1. Also, Francisco Liriano in 2006.

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    • Mets boy says:

      This is a worse feeling then Carlos Beltran striking out looking in the NLCS.

      It’s really hard being a Met fan.

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      • Zen Madman says:

        At least then there was “wait until next year.” Next year just got darker for the Mets.

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      • Hitler But Sadder says:

        Did your comment on ESPN’s article about this very topic not generate the response you craved? Word of the wise: diversify, diversify, diversify…..

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      • vivalajeter says:

        I’d have to think that Beltran’s strikeout was worse, as the entire franchise might have gone in a different direction if he hit a liner into the gap. In a parallel universe:

        Beltran hits a game winning double, and the Mets head to the World Series (which they sweep, like the Cards wound up doing).

        Heading into September, 2007 as the defending World Champions, they have enough swagger to coast into the playoffs rather than choking down the stretch. Maybe they win it all, maybe they don’t, but they head into 2008 without the stigma as chokers.

        They head into September, 2008 without the questions of whether they’ll choke again. It’s not even a thought. So they confidently head to the playoffs for the third year in a row.

        They open Citi Field in 2009 as a powerhouse team that went to the playoffs three times in a row, with 1-3 championships, rather than a team coming off of three horrible finishes. The stadium is packed every night and the high payroll can be sustained, so they don’t become the laughing stock that they’ve become.

        Also, Madoff never gets caught in the parallel universe.

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    • JS7 says:

      It doesn’t matter which team you’re a fan of, this is just terrible news for baseball in general.

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      • Balthazar says:

        Agreed. It ‘seems’ as though pitchers throwing max effort nearly every pitch break down faster than ever, but attrition is always high. The attrition rate of even the best prospects while still in the minors masks the overall injury situation. Still when it’s a high talent young guy already having success at the major league level, it hurts as a fan, no matter the player or team.

        The rarity of guys whose arm/body can endure the grind is thrown more than ever into relief. For every Jose Fernandez, there’s a half dozen guys on rehab, many of whom take years to make it back to a semblance of themselves. I love Bundy, and Hultzen; and Beachy; Harvey’s been great. The odds are just stacked against most arms holding up. : (

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        • Anon21 says:

          I don’t quite get your ref to Fernandez in the last paragraph. You seem to be holding him up as some sort of paragon of durability, when in fact he has thrown fewer than 300 professional innings.

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        • TapRat says:

          I’m guessing he meant Felix Hernandez.

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  2. dtpollitt says:

    This is just a loss for baseball as a whole. Hopefully he makes a swift and full recovery.

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  3. Dan says:


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  4. Pirates Hurdles says:

    Absolutely sucks, but at least TJ isn’t a death sentence by any means. Bummer for all of MLB.

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  5. bdhudson says:

    Paging Jeff Sullivan to bring us a long series of Harvey slider gifs. A memorial service of sorts.

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  6. gregory says:

    potential solution: pitchers must throw underhand.

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    • James says:

      That would take care of Barry Bonds holding the career and single season HR records too! Two birds with one stone!

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  7. Grant says:


    luckily my fantasy season was already over, but I still love him as a person. Get well soon.

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    • MrKnowNothing says:

      thank goodness your fantasy season ended before this happened.

      +58 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Fastpiece says:

      You’re a fucking douche

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        • Scraps says:

          Why do so many people think everybody is fascinated — or even minimally interested — by their fantasy baseball teams? Why? I can’t understand it. Seriously, what drives people to mention it, except for the people involved with the same league? I know that most people remain silent on fantasy baseball when discussing real baseball — thank you, most of you — but pretty much every day some people bring up a piece of information in their fantasy league, and you can be sure that if some exasperated people shot it down every time, there will be more of it. Lots more.

          Even when Matt Harvey has dismaying news, incredulously some person has to say “luckily my fantasy season was already over”. (Grant was hardly the worst one, by the way; just the latest.)

          It’s just…. argh!

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        • Richie says:

          Why do so many people think it’s so important to discuss only “real baseball”? I cannot conjure up any moral measure by which non-fantasy baseball interest is somehow superior to fantasy baseball interest. Either way, it’s just a game. Whichever way you like.

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        • Anon21 says:

          Richie: There’s a great website (or what I’ve been told is a great website) right here in the Fangraphs media empire dedicated to fantasy baseball discussion. Fangraphs main page is for real baseball discussion. So I think it’s legitimate for people to be annoyed by fantasy stuff intruding into Fangraphs threads.

          And even for fantasy people, is it at all interesting to hear about some specific move made or misfortune suffered by someone in a league you’re not even in? I thought most fantasy discussion was about different players and their advantages or drawbacks as they apply to most or all fantasy players.

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        • Ace2000 says:

          While I agree with the general sentiment around here that no one gives a crap about the ramifications for Grant’s fantasy team, I also think it’s worth mentioning that David Appelman originally started FanGraphs as a way to analyze his fantasy baseball teams. So let’s not be too condescending to our fantasy friends.

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      • Balthazar says:

        Grant, bro . . . talking about yourself in the context of miserable news for somebody else is just crass. It isn’t your fantasy team, that’s such a deal—it’s YOU sticking your ‘me’ in the middle. There’ll be a time and a thread for your fantasy discussion, such as ‘How Do the Mets Replace Harvey’ which is bound to come. Regardless, we don’t need a helping of your’ Thank goodness I had an insurance policy on my wife when she was brutally murdered’ sensibility. Stifle yourself, bro.

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    • Richie says:

      “Lighten up, Francis(es)” of Fangraphs. Grant said nothing along the lines of ‘who cares other than how it affects my fantasy team’. Nothing there worth ‘-‘ing at all, unless you’re taking a moral ego trip.

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    • Ante GALIC says:

      He’s still not on the ‘droppable player’ list!!! Dang, wanted to drop him for Estrada and now I have to wait!!

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  8. ALEastbound says:

    Might as well get it over with now. What top young pitcher isn’t ultimately destined for this procedure?

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  9. cass says:

    Not to mention Gio.

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  10. Bip says:

    As sad as it is to say, he should probably get TJ as soon as possible, as long as the Mets are not in contention. Mike Petriello looked at the track record of players playing through partially torn elbow ligaments. It seems like the best choice would be to get it out of the way and make sure he is healthy when the Mets are in a better position to compete.

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    • Za says:

      He should get the surgery and find Bartolo Colon’s doctors to bathe his UCL in stem cells.

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    • Kip Wells says:

      Not every player bounces back from TJ surgery. I think we should leave this decision up to the medical professionals.

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  11. Mark Prior never had a torn UCL. Liriano is the more cautionary tale.

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  12. stevenam says:

    How can it be that seemingly every young pitcher, or a very high percentage of them anyhow, has a significant arm injury these days despite, or perhaps because of, the supposedly protective approach that is taken to their innings and pitch counts? Were Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Warren Spahn, etc. etc. etc. really such freaks of nature that they could stay healthy AND throw complete games on a regular basis throughout their careers? Is it overuse in college, or perhaps under-use at some point? With all the technology that exists today, pitchers are, it seems, less healthy than they were back when pitchers pitched. And pitched. And pitched.

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    • Wobatus says:

      I was thinking about this. That Mets staff in 1969 had Seaver, Koosman, Ryan, and none had severe injuries (Koosman did miss some time in the early ’70s but never a full season). May just be selective memory. We forget the guys who got injured and never came back.

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    • Pirates Hurdles says:

      IMO, its partly memory/selection bias, you are naming a handful of all time greats who didn’t get hurt (thus they are remembered as such). There are ace pitchers today that don’t end up injured. Its a low frequency just like it always has been.

      The other part is the surgery itself, in the old days a pitcher had no choice but to rehab and pitch with pain. So it was retire or adapt with worse stuff. Today its a high success rate option that is much preferred to the unknowns of rehab/altering mechanics/etc.

      The one thing we seem to now know is that there is no blueprint for avoiding injury. Its probably more nature than nurture.

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      • MH says:

        This. This is what I always say in reply to the above arguments. Using past eras as evidence is a huge selection bias. The question isn’t how pitchers who were abused managed, it’s how many pitchers might have been saved by being protected or by having access to more advanced medical procedures. If pitchers threw 250-300 innings a year now, some would probably still survive. But many, many more wouldn’t.

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      • JayT says:

        I think there is also the culture change to go away from pitching to contact and instead trying to strike people out. My guess way back when most pitchers weren’t throwing as hard as they could, and even when they were throwing as hard as they could, most weren’t throwing as hard as an average current-day MLB pitcher. That extra speed means more stress on the arm. Sure, the current-day pitchers have stronger arms, so they probably can withstand more stress, but I wonder if it is enough.

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      • Scraps says:

        Yes. On the one hand, Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver. On the other hand, Mark Fidrych and Gary Nolan.

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    • olethros says:

      We all know the exceptions. How many guys flamed out after a few years without getting generationally famous? Exhibit A: Sandy Koufax.

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    • JeremyR says:

      That’s because all the pitchers you remember from the old days were the guys who didn’t have their career end after 2-3 seasons.

      And there were some that managed to hang on for 10 years pitching in pain. But mostly pitchers without rubber arms just left baseball

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  13. adohaj says:

    outlaw sliders?

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  14. Al says:

    We need to get these damn gibbons something to occupy them.

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  15. Steve says:

    Someone already posted about Jeff Sullivan’s slider gifs. Ugh. Sucks for baseball. 2014, the return of the submarine style pitcher.

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  16. jdbolick says:

    Don’t forget Bundy.

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  17. Richie says:

    How was Earl Weaver’s record with young pitchers? Was his rule young pitchers ALWAYS!ALWAYS!ALWAYS! start in the bullpen? Maybe the solution is you flat out don’t start till age 24/25, and maybe the research key to that lies in Weaver’s teams.

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  18. jdbolick says:

    While Matt Harvey’s 18.5% slider frequency isn’t particularly alarming, I did notice that his 89.9mph slider velocity was the highest among qualified pitchers. I wonder how much more taxing it is on the elbow to throw that pitch at such an extreme speed. And to terrify Giants fans, Madison Bumgarner not only has the third highest slider velocity at 87.5mph, but is leading the league by throwing his slider a staggering 39.4% of the time. Only Ervin Santana and Yu Darvish are over 30%, and Bumgarner also led the league with 39.0% last season.

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    • Ken says:

      Some say that Bumgarner throws more of a cutter that looks like a slider.

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      • davisnc says:

        Including that most important constituent part of “some,” i.e., Madison Bumgarner himself.

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      • Bip says:

        The low vertical “rise” of the pitch would suggest it is more of a hard slider. However, the relatively small difference in velocity between that and his fastball, and his low arm slot (which tends to produce less rise in general) suggests it is more of a cutter.

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  19. Brett says:

    Paging Kyle Boddy

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  20. UncleCharlie says:

    A sad day for all of baseball my ass. This is not a tragedy. A very talented, lucky kid is going to have a setback in his MLB career, where he has already had a chance many can only dream of. He will be fully healthy again at age 26 and ready to go. Also, while no one would wish injury on a rival team’s player, I don’t think Phillies, Braves, or Nats fans are crying in their beers over this. Plus, isn’t some kid going to get an opportunity he wouldn’t have otherwise had? It’s professional sports, players get paid a lot of money and players get hurt. At least in baseball the injuries aren’t usually of the lifelong debilitating variety like they are in boxing and football.

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    • TKDC says:

      As a Braves fan, I can say two things: First, it is sad when anyone gets hurt, but from a baseball fan’s perspective if you aren’t upset about one of the very best players possibly being out for a year or more, you view baseball differently than me. Second, the Mets suck this year and will suck next year, with or without Harvey.

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  21. RY says:

    I know it can’t be the sole reason, but in my mind, it really does seem like, as the use of sliders has risen, so has the pitcher injuries.

    Also, an interesting question to raise is: Are human arms really built to throw 95+ mph consistently? Repeatedly throwing a projectile as hard as possible isn’t exactly something human evolution accounted for. It seems Nolan Ryan is just about the only pitcher who might have appeared in The Origin of Species.

    jdbolick made a great point about the hard sliders. As a Giants fan who’s watched Bumgarner closely, I’ve been terrified since day one.

    I’d love to see a list of all pitchers who’ve had Tommy John, and how many of them threw sliders and at what rate.

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  22. Daniel T says:

    I can’t believe all you guys are forgetting Brandon Beachy going through this last year…He had the best numbers of all at the time. 2.00 era. opp avg. 173

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  23. WormFace says:

    This is terrible news. The Mets can never catch a break. Hope Harvey comes back and pitches effectively in 2015.

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  24. Nick says:

    “Smart people of the future: Figure out how to keep great young pitchers healthy, please.”

    The time has come for bionic arms.

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  25. Adam says:

    This may be controversial, but what about teaching young pitchers to focus LESS on strikeouts? Maintaining a K/9 at 9.0 MAXIMUM. Pitchers over that level have tended to have serious arm trouble. Maybe focusing on getting one K per inning and then pitching to induce weak contact should be prized over mowing people down. After all, a ground ball out only takes one pitch. A K requires at least 3.

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    • Richie says:

      Been proven that pitching to contact doesn’t save on pitches. (on effort, maybe; don’t know that they tried to estimate that nor how they’d do so) The ball goes through, you lose the out and start all over on the next hitter. And the more you pitch to contact as opposed to getting them to miss the ball altogether, the more hard contact you get. Line drives, long fly balls.

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    • Hunter says:

      It’s not so much about emphasizing or de emphasizing K’s, it’s that pitches heavily correlated with K’s are also heavily correlated with elbow problems.

      If some pitcher could get 13Ks per 9 throwing fastballs, sinkers, and change ups, he’d probably be fine.

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