Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Matt Harvey (32) throws in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
After a fairly successful Reds debut, Matt Harvey will make his second start with his new squad Wednesday afternoon. We will take a look at whether or not you should take anything away from his most recent start or if you should expect continued struggles.
Harvey will face a Giants team that sits just one game over .500, but trails the Diamondbacks by only 3.5 games in what now looks like a much more mediocre NL West than most expected — in part due to countless injuries within the division. As a result of San Francisco’s injuries, rookie Andrew Suarez finds himself in the starting rotation. We will also take a look at his performance and what to expect moving forward.
Cincinnati Reds (+144) at San Francisco Giants (-159) | O/U: 8.5
Matt Harvey (0-2, 6.10 ERA) vs. Andrew Suarez (1-2, 4.57 ERA)
3:45 p.m. ET
Happy Harvey Day: Some of you probably know that I’ve loved fading Harvey over the past few years. Well, my stance has not changed after his first start with the Reds. Yes, he didn’t allow a run, but he pitched against a depleted Dodgers team that has looked lifeless of late. His stuff still looked flat, and he lasted only four innings.
Don’t forget that he threw five shutout innings against the Phillies in his first start of the year. In between that first start and his last, opposing batters have absolutely abused the former Met. This is still the same pitcher who has the third-highest ERA (6.55) among all starters (min. 100 innings) since the start of last season — trailing only Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman.
I did see some excitement on Twitter about Harvey touching 96 mph against the Dodgers, but I’m sure he had extra adrenaline for his first start with a new team. He still averaged only about 93 mph on his fastball — spot on with his season splits. Take a look at the reduced average speed on his four-seamer by year since he entered the league in 2012:
However, his diminished velocity is just the beginning of his issues. Just listen to Carlos Pena for the opinion of a former big leaguer on why Harvey has struggled so much.
Look no further than his 2018 Hard Hit Percentage of 41.4% — the 15th-highest among all pitchers (min. 30 innings). Happy Harvey Day fades will continue for as long as the Reds keep him in the rotation. Considering Cincy’s pitching problems, I’m hoping that means we will have many more. —Stuckey
Road-weary: Today’s game will mark the end of a seven-game West Coast road trip for the Reds. Harvey has made 22 career starts on at least the fifth game of an extended road trip. His teams have gone just 6-16 in those games, losing bettors -11.2 units. Harvey has lost his last six starts in this spot — with opponents averaging eight runs per game. — Evan Abrams
Rookie Regression: Suarez will also pitch in this game. The rookie starter has gotten off to a pretty nifty start with the G-Men, even if his 4.57 ERA doesn’t look all that great. While not a strikeout machine in the minors, Suarez did get his fair share of swings and misses. His impressive 9.55 K/9 may be a tad high, but shouldn’t fall off the rails.
On the other hand, his home-run rate should see some correction. Right now, 24% of the fly balls he’s allowed have left the park, which have contributed to a 2.08 HR/9 rate. Considering he never had that problem on the farm, I’m going to chalk it up to some bad luck and assume that number will come down significantly. Plus, he pitches at a home park that is not hitter-friendly. — Michael Leboff
Fantasy Focus: Andrew McCutchen has been smoking the ball recently. You should certainly consider him as a strong DFS play for the afternoon slate. He owns a recent batted-ball distance of 37 feet farther than his 12-month average, as well as an exit velocity of 4 mph higher.
Take a look at this Fantasy Labs pro trend: Players with a distance differential of more than 35 feet have historically yielded a DraftKings plus/minus of +1.08. Also, players hitting the ball at least 3 mph harder have a plus/minus of +0.69. When players meet both criteria, that plus/minus jumps to +1.24.
That spells trouble for Harvey, who’s been allowing balls to be hit farther. Harvey has a recent batted-ball distance differential of +45, in addition to an exit velocity differential of +4 mph. Pitchers who’ve allowed a batted-ball differential of at least 45 feet farther have posted a putrid DraftKings plus/minus of -4.88. Pitchers with a similar recent exit-velocity differential haven’t performed well either at -2.03. When both come into play? Again, we get -4.88.
Cutch is 4-for-9 with a homer in his career vs. the former 2010 first-round draft pick. Also, look out for Buster Posey, who has gone 5-for-8 with a bomb against Harvey. — Mark Gallant
Easy Breezy Overs: The forecast calls for heavy swirling winds blowing straight out of the park — with average speeds projected at 10-15 mph. Since 2016, games in San Francisco with wind blowing out at 5 mph or greater have gone over the total at a 58.3% clip. This season, the over is 10-3 in this spot, cashing by an average of 3.6 runs per game. — Evan Abrams
Stats via FanGraphs and Baseball Reference