Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fantasy Funkhouser: The 8 Steps of Grieving with the Loss of Matt Harvey on Your Dynasty Team

The night is darkness just before the dawn. Sweet dreams, Dark Knight. (GETTY)

One of the breakout stars of the 2013 season has been extinguished. The force that was Matt Harvey is likely no more until the Spring of 2015 at the earliest. The 24-year-old star pitcher for the New York Metropolitans was diagnosed with a partial tear of his UCL in his throwing elbow. This injury almost always leads to Tommy John surgery.

It's devastating news for anyone that is a fan of baseball, or for the purposes of this article a Harvey fantasy owner. More specifically an owner of his in a dynasty league. One tweet is all it took from dreams of owning the next Justin Verlander to utter devestation. Baseball does this to many a young pitchers, sadly, there's always the threat of an injury like this looming. Every instance of a budding superstar losing a year or two of his career is always cruel. Particularly situations like this where seemingly all of the key elements were in place. Harvey was a collegiate pitcher, had been brought along carefully, not over worked in his professional career, and even on an innings count this year set to take him to 205 innings pitched providing 2014 as his first limit free season as a Met. This injury is quite Strasburgian.

Really what baseball as a whole can take away from this is for all the monitoring, science, preparation, and expert opinions from people who know better than anyone else; there is no right answer when it comes to avoiding elbow damage in pitchers. Sure, there are things that obviously hurt it, but if you had to create an ideal scenario it for a pitcher that would succeed that throws high velocity pitches, it's Harvey. Ultimately, even under the most cautious eye and expensive care, we are all looking at an individuals make-up. His ligaments and his genetics that make Justin Verlanders and that make a lot of other pitchers.

I own Matt Harvey in a dynasty league, and I was looking forward to what the future had in store for us.

As news broke Monday afternoon, I was distraught, so I figured I'd walk you through the 8 Steps of Grieving I went through after hearing the news.

1. VERIFICATION

I initially heard rumblings of this on Twitter. Well, Twitter can be a lying whore some times, so I kept digging. Using Twitter I looked for more legit Tweeters. I sent some traffic to ESPN, Yahoo!, CBSSports, and MLB.com. Sure enough the Harvey news slowly started populating. This was a brutal blow.

2. WEB MD

Okay, so Harvey is injured, but everywhere people are saying it's a partial UCL tear. There's been no decision on surgery yet. Time to see what this means. Well, it's ultimately not good. This is typically a precursor to Tommy John, but there has been one outlier to at least being productive and staving off surgery, and that was Adam Wainwright. While Wainwright is the best case scenario, barring anything unprescedented from Harvey, it's worth noting that after his partial-tear in 2004, Wainwright wasn't a full-time starting pitcher until 2007, and after back to back 6+ WAR seasons, he blew out his elbow in 2011.

3. SLIGHT HOPE

So, why can't Harvey be the exception? Why can't he avoid surgery, rehab all off-season and come back the same next year? This ... is hard to talk yourself into. Harvey had the highest average velocity on his fastball in all of baseball. He threw his slider a lot. Despite all of the things that made Harvey such an unlikely candidate, or I guess a more hopefuly to avoid candidate, for major surgery he also had some hallmarks of a guy destined for it. There's still hope, until he says he's having the surgery, but that will be determined some point before the end of September.

4. THIS YEAR'S FANTASY TEAM

Something that kind of lessens the blow is that Harvey was going to be shut down. Probably not for another month, but it was coming. So if you have him on your fantasy team, you were probably envisioning a playoff run without him and planning accordingly. To have him just wiped out like this is a little sooner than expected, and obviously leaves more bad taste in your mouth as you try to swallow the news.

5. NEXT YEAR'S FANTASY TEAM

Here's the real kick in the balls part of this whole thing from a fantasy perspective. If you had him in a dynasty league, here's a guy that you were happy to own for the next 8-10 years. Sure, his velocity would have gone down over time, but he has a legit 4 pitch arsenal that he can throw in all four quadrants of the strike zone to righties or lefties. What he was doing so far this year and last year wasn't a fluke. He wasn't getting lucky. This was all backed up by the eye test and statistics. He led all pitchers in WAR and has a smaller FIP than his already miniscule 2.27 ERA. This injury, no matter how you dice it, isgoing to count for a year of Harvey's career being taken away. If he somehow avoids TJS, then you have to bring him back next year and just hope for the best. Maybe try to trade him in a year or two if he looks back to his old self. But if things play out like they likely will, then he'll be out all of 2014, and keeping him in a league where you only have so many keepers just isn't an option.

6. DEPRESSION

That's the sad part of everything. A lot of hopes, dreams, and expectations are gone. If he was just sore and the Mets shut him down prematurely, then yes, that would not be great for 2013, but losing him for all of 2014 is unfair.

7. ACCEPTANCE

Injuries like this will happen to pitchers and continue to happen. I enjoyed every start I got out of Harvey this year (except against the Marlins). He gave more good than any injury could take away, and as a fan of his, I personally would like him to just get the surgery and come back strong in 2015.

8. REALIZING THIS SUCKS FOR EVERYONE

Ultimately, Harvey has greater responsibilities than my dynasty team. He has responsibilities to himself, his friends and family, the Mets, New York City, and many, many more. Everyone lost some excitement in their lives by not getting to see Harvey pitch for the rest of this season and potentially 2014. He's a rock star, and although this is a set back, it's by no means a career altering injury. If there's one thing that has come out of these Tommy John surgeries is that people are able to recover from it better than ever. Look at Wainwright or Strasburg or Jordan Zimmermann. The science of coming back from TJS is as good as the procedure itself. I wish Harvey the best.

Where's my Laphroaig?

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