It isn't fair to expect Mets ace Matt Harvey to immediately return to his dominant self in the first year after his Tommy John surgery. Pitchers tend to struggle with the command of their pitches as they shake the rust off. The excellent NY Post writer Kevin Kernan wrote,
Though Tommy John patients typically recover all of their velocity within a year, those same pitchers tend to struggle with their command up to 24 months after surgery. It is therefore reasonable to expect regression from the 2.27 ERA Harvey posted over 26 starts in 2013.
ESPN's Stephania Bell added,
A pitcher's effectiveness immediately upon his return to the mound post-Tommy John surgery can be less predictable, though, as some initially struggle with command.
There have been early signs that any potential issue with Harvey's command will be mitigated to some degree. Harvey's command during his bullpen sessions has been excellent, according to teammate Kirk Nieuwenhuis:
"I stood in on his last bullpen here when he was throwing and he missed maybe one pitch over the middle of the plate. I think he threw 25 fastballs and it was just corner, corner, corner. I think people forget a little bit how good he was.’’
Of course, things change once a batter steps into the box. Bullpen sessions cannot be realistically compared to facing a live batter. But this is a good sign for Harvey. A well located fastball is the toughest pitch to hit in the big leagues, and 96 mph heat consistently painted on the corners is lethal.
By ironing out his command issues in 2013, Harvey catapulted him into ace status. Prior to 2013, Harvey would often work up high pitch counts due to shaky command and be forced to exit games early. His walk rate was also well below average at 10.6% in his rookie season. Harvey's development of strong command propelled him into registering a 2.00 Fielding Independent Pitching, the lowest FIP in baseball in 2013 amongst starters by a good margin.
Here are some examples of what Harvey is capable of:
97 mph paint on the inside corner to strike out LHB Lyle Overbay:
98 mph paint on the outside corner to strike out RHB Mark Reynolds:
Well located 90 mph slider to strike out Robinson Cano: