#59 - BRYAN HARVEY, P
In our top 100 Angels list compiled after the 2005 season, Bryan was ranked 32nd greatest Angel (LINK). After the 2008 season we published a Top 100 Angels list and ranked Bryan #43. He was also ranked #43 in our 2011 book "Top 50 Angels - the 50 Greatest Angels from the first 50 seasons" (Amazon LINK).
Bryan Harvey was a relief pitcher literally scouted out of a beer league softball game. What was a scout doing at a beer league softball game? Word had it that a pitcher there could throw a hundred miles an hour and word traveled to a guy with a radar gun. He came as advertised and signed as an amateur free agent in August of 1984, a 21-year-old living the dream.
Bryan got a cup of coffee in 1987 and early in the 1988 season was brought up and put into games. He quickly jumped into high leverage situations and by the end of the season was the team's closer. He went 7-5 in 50 games, pitched 76 innings, had an ERA+ of 182 and came in second place in the Rookie of the Year voting behind Oakland's Walt Weiss. He was perhaps the brightest spot in the '88 team, a dark year for the Angels.
The 1989 Angels would have won the AL Wild Card had it existed then and this great Angels team had Harvey in his prime as its closer. At this point in his development, Harvey was shaping up to be the first truly dominant consistent power closer in club history. Harvey had 25 Saves in 55 IP with 78 strikeouts. While his 12.8 K/9 was off the charts, but his walk rate of 6.7 BB per 9 IP was the lodestone keeping him from greatness. He got better, much better, in 1990. With a lower walk rate of 4.9 per 9 he lowered his ERA to 3.22 and struck out 82 of the 267 batters he faced. Things were shaping up.
Bryan Harvey was a fan favorite from the instant that he took the mound. With a wildly out of fashion Fu Manchu mustache and a good 'ol boy demeanor that seemed to take major late-inning heroics with all the pressure of getting the car washed, there was plenty to cheer for besides these stats.
If Anaheim liked him at this point in his career, they were about to fall in love with him. In 1991, Bryan Harvey improved his game so much that he had one of the best relief seasons in club history. He was an American League All Star, got Cy Young and MVP votes in a season that saw him save 46 games. His walk rate, previously an achilles heel, shrank to an amazing 1.9 BB per 9 IP and his K rate reached a career high of 5.94. He struck out 101 of 309 batters faced had a 1.60 ERA and a 257 ERA+.
Put it this way - if the Angels had had a 1991 Bryan Harvey in the bullpen in 2010, 11 or 12 they would have taken the division handily. MVP indeed.
Harvey had a lousy 1992 with some injuries and - by then one of the higher-salaried members of the club, was left unprotected on the post-1992 expansion draft. The Marlins grabbed him and it paid off for them as he repeated the 1991 heroics for the Florida Marlins in 1993. His forkball finally took its toll and after a few injured years, including a free agent signing with the Angels for whom he would never take the field again. But he wouldn't need to - he was already a Top 100 Angel.