Was Jose Valverde throwing spitballs last night?

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I was alerted to this video via Twitter by … Dallas Latos?  Who I guess is Reds pitcher Mat Latos’ wife.  She has a blog at MLB saying so anyway. I sorta don’t care. The point of this post is the video, not who’s sending it around. And the point of the video is that it appears to show Jose Valverde doctoring up the baseball.

There are two videos, actually, one in slow motion one at full speed. They show Valverde taking the ball, put it in his glove, raising his pitching hand high in the air — classic magician’s misdirection move! — clearly working up some spit in his mouth and then bringing the glove with the ball to his face and hocking a loogie into the glove. Like, you can see the jaw muscles move and stuff.

First, video in slow motion:

Here it is at full speed:

The videos may be taken down by MLB soon. So below are a couple of captured stills. They don’t totally get it all, but know that the first one catches him in mid spit-creation:

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For the record, this came before the 1-2 pitch to Devin Mesoraco. The pitch resulted in a swinging strike. According to Brooks Baseball, the pitch was a fastball. It also had more rotation on it then the other three pitches he threw.

I’m not the vice president of major league baseball in charge of on-field affairs, so I can’t make any definitive ruling here and I’ll leave it as it stands. Two thoughts, though:

  • If it was a spitball, can anyone tell me why Valverde would even bother with Angel Hernandez behind the plate calling everything within a mile of the dish a strike? and
  • If it wasn’t a spitball, how awesome is it that Mat Latos’ wife is on Twitter stirring up crap? That would be epic, yes?

Have at it, everyone.

Matthew Stafford audibles with “Kershaw! Kershaw!”

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Last night the Detroit Lions played the New York Giants. During the game Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford called an audible. The call itself referenced Stafford’s childhood friend and high school baseball teammate, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. From the Freep:

Matthew Stafford stepped to the line of scrimmage late in the third quarter and surveyed the Giants defense.

With five pass rushers across the front and three Giants cornerbacks showing a press-man look, Stafford looked at his two receivers to the left and invoked the name of his childhood friend, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

“Give me Kershaw here, Kershaw,” Stafford said, repeating his friend’s name two more times as he spun around at the line of scrimmage.

The audible did not result in a pick-4 to Aaron Altherr. It called for a run up the middle. And it worked nicely, gaining eight yards.

You may suggest the results of other starting pitcher-themed audibles in the comments. I’ll start: “Harvey! Harvey!” is where the QB fakes a handoff, drops back, looks deep and then his arm falls completely off. Damndest thing.

Matt Harvey has a 13.19 ERA since coming back from the disabled list

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Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.

Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.

Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.

Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.

Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.