How to Strike Out Bryce Harper, Part 3 of 3: Picking The Brain of The Mets’ Matt Harvey
Last season, I worked on a story that never came to fruition. That story was this: Only a handful of Minor League pitchers could one day tell their grandkids that they struck out teenage Bryce Harper phenom twice in one ballgame. Three of these hurlers, like Harper, just happened to be elite prospects as well. And each member of that trio, also like Harper (Nationals), were and still are in National League organizations – Jesse Biddle (Phillies), Drew Pomeranz (Rockies) and Matt Harvey (Mets) — meaning that one, two or all three could provide intriguing hitter-pitcher battles for years to come.
I spoke with each of these pitchers in 2012, before Pomeranz and Harvey joined Harper in the Majors. (Biddle, the No. 1 prospect in Philadelphia’s system at the end of ’12 and baseball’s fourth best LHP entering ’13, will likely begin next spring at Double-A Reading and is the only Minor Leaguer left.) For the first time, I will share those how-to-strike-out-Harper discussions with readers.
Part 1 on Wednesday: Picking The Brain of The Phillies’ Jesse Biddle (Class A Matchup)
Part 2 on Thursday: Picking The Brain of The Rockies’ Drew Pomeranz (Double-A Matchup)
Part 3 on Friday: Picking The Brain of The Mets’ Matt Harvey (Double-A/Triple-A Matchup)
Background: Right-handed starting pitcher Matt Harvey struck out Harper twice swinging – on seven total pitches and induced one Harper groundout on July 28, 2011. (Video highlights here.) Harvey was then pitching for the Double-A affiliate of the New York Mets, Binghamton, and against Nationals’ affiliate Harrisburg, which hosted the game. Harvey, another top prospect, was drafted six slots after top pick Harper in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. In their all-time matchup, including two more Ks in three hitless bats with both at Triple on April 20, 2012, Harper is 0-for-6 with four strikeouts against Harvey. Both earned their first Major League callups during the ’12 season and are expected to spend the entirety of ’13 there.
Harvey on his plan of attack: “You got to keep the ball down – a lot of power hitters like the ball up – and just go after him like you do every other guy in the lineup. You just got to concentrate on making your pitch, hitting your spot and keeping the ball down. He’s a tremendous athlete, he’s a great hitter – I mean, he’s on his way to being great. You can’t really think about that when you’re on the mound. You just have to execute your pitches and go about it the same way as anybody else. I’m not saying that trying to knock him because he’s a tremendous player, but he’s somebody that, maybe throughout the game, you get extra locked in and try to execute your pitches a little better. Go after him, maybe a little more attention to whatever pitch it is you’re going to throw and put all you have into each pitch. It’s always fun to face a guy from the same draft and especially someone of his caliber as high of a prospect as he is. It gets your adrenaline pumping a little extra.”
On his ’11 pitch selection: “I couldn’t tell you what I threw him, but I struck him out his first two at-bats – on a curveball in the first at-bat – and then he hit a pretty hard ground ball to first his third at-bat.”
On the so-called ‘Harper hype':“It’s really something you can’t avoid. If you try to do that, it’s going to stump you up. Try and block all that out because if you let that affect you, then you’re not going to perform to the best of your abilities. I’m sure it goes the same way with him. I’m sure he’s doing the best he can to block all that stuff out and just play the game… It was one of those games where I blocked out everything. I was able to really concentrate, and it was one of my better games throughout all of last season.”
On Harper’s future: “I saw him in Spring Training [in '12] – I think I walked him – and I saw a big adjustment from him as a hitter and a player compared to last year, and he’s got much more of an approach and he looks a lot more comfortable in the box. He’s going to be a great player.”