Struggling Mets pitcher Matt Harvey recently threw a “secret” mound session after getting rocked by the Nationals in his last start.
Do you know why that session was a really bad idea?
It seems everyone has a theory regarding why Matt Harvey is pitching poorly this season. None of these people — save one — based their reasons on science, anatomy, kinesiology, or physiology. As a result, the theories run the gamut from Harvey spending too much time on his shoe collection, to being out of shape, to having lack of deception, to pitching too much in 2015, to every cockamamie idea in between. With so much nonsense being tossed about by people who have little knowledge of the human body and how it works, it’s no wonder that one of the top solutions presented was to set Harvey’s uniform and belongings on fire.
Such is the case in a sport too slow and hardheaded to consider outsiders, such as scientists. Everyone in MLB knows better — never mind the ever-rising number of pitching injuries occurring.
In search of the key to Harvey’s success, the Mets had their star-crossed hurler pitch a “simulated game” this past Saturday, with coach Tom Goodwin and teammate Matt Reynolds taking turns as the simulated batters.
Two days after experiencing the worst outing of his professional career, embattled Mets star Matt Harvey returned to the mound at Citi Field Saturday to try to remedy his mechanical issues during a 25-minute simulated game. …
The session was meant to be veiled in secrecy from the media, as Mets officials tried closing off the field to reporters while Harvey put in his extra work on the mound. Afterward, the 27-year-old right-hander declined to speak to reporters.
What part of the above jumped out at you? I hope you’re going to say the first two words: “Two days …”, because that’s what hit me like a fastball to the jaw.
Matt Harvey’s last start was Thursday, June 19. He threw 61 pitches in only 2 2/3 innings of a shellacking against the Nats. Because you are reading this blog, you care about the health of pitchers and therefore you know the ASMI Rest and Recovery guidelines by heart (if not, no worries, that’s why they’re on this website — go there now to look at them). After throwing 61 pitches, a pitcher needs a minimum of THREE DAYS REST.
So let’s do some quick math: Thursday was the pitching day; Friday would be day one of rest, so that’s 1 + … oh, wait, Harvey threw on Saturday, May 21. So that’s pitching on ONE day of rest.
Now do you know why this simulated game was such a bad idea, secret or not? Because “rest” means “no pitching.” Not from a mound. Not long-toss. Not “playing catch.” It means NO THROWING, and especially no throwing from a mound. Why? Because the human body requires a specific amount of time to recover from stressful activity. It’s a biology thing, a chemical thing. There are rest and recovery periods for weight lifting, running, and all kinds of athletic activities. We are lucky that a slew of scientists pored over mountains of research to figure out the recovery guidelines. It’s too bad that MLB pitchers and pitching coaches pretend they don’t exist (yet, MLB publishes them on their own website aimed at youth pitchers — a case of “do as I say, not as I do?” Ironic, eh?).
Maybe MLBers think that they’re superhuman, and therefore their bodies don’t apply to whatever those silly researchers discovered. After all, MLBers NEVER get hurt. Oh, wait …
This isn’t really news; most former pro pitchers are well aware that it’s almost a religious practice to throw a bullpen two days after a start. Baseball beat writers don’t bat an eye when they see starters tossing a side session less than 48 hours after hurling 100+ pitches in a game. Somehow, some way, no one cares or worries that the human body is going through a recovery process, and that process is being disrupted. That soreness, inflammation, and minor tears resulting from the previous outing should still be healing, but instead are being aggravated. And yet people wonder why MLB pitchers can’t stay healthy.
I don’t mean to pick on Matt Harvey — just about every single MLB pitcher (and likely, most minor leaguers) ignores the rest and recovery guidelines. I don’t know why. I don’t have any idea what is to be gained by stopping the healing process. To “stay sharp”? If so, at least wait until day three or four to throw a bullpen session. It’s still not enough rest after a 100-pitch outing but at least you’re giving your body a little more time to heal. Remarkably, most pitchers refrain from throwing the day before a start — yet that’s the safest day to do it out of the three or four in between.
So what’s the point? To let amateur pitchers, coaches, and parents of pitchers know that there are rest and recovery guidelines, and they should be followed, and that you shouldn’t always emulate what MLBers do, because sometimes (often?) it’s wrong. Getting proper rest and recovery is the single most effective and controllable way to pitch at your peak performance every time out.
Oh, and if you want to see what Matt Harvey should have been working on in that secret, dangerous side session, click here.