(May 9, 2013)
If you haven’t watched the Mets this season, you haven’t missed much.
Mired in 4th place in the NL East, Terry Collins’s crew has stumbled to a 13-17 start, and given the overall offensive deficiencies, are a pretty safe bet to drown by July 1. With the exception of David Wright the offense is anemic, ranking 15th in runs scored (-3 run differential) and 27th in team average. Daniel Murphy is a decent 6 or 7 hitter on a good team and Lucas Duda remains all-or-nothing. 1B Ike Davis is off to yet another confounding start, apparently forgetting yet again that the season begins in April. John Buck, the other true, offensive bright spot along with Wright, already has trade written all over his catcher’s gear, a pretty safe bet to be jettisoned by summer’s end for younger, cheaper talent.
While I actually really like Citi Field, it remains a wave of empty metal, unhappy fans revolting against with empty promises, empty pockets and unfulfilled expectations.
Can’t blame them, it’s been a while.
But every once in a while, the new stadium oozes energy and juice, excitement and intrigue. A delicious and intoxicating combination of raw power and presence, and it’s right in the middle of the diamond, in clear view for the entire baseball world to marvel.
His name is Matt Harvey, and he is simply awesome.
How awesome? Try these numbers on for size:
7 starts, 49 1/3 IP, 58 K’s/12 BB, 22 H, and 7 ER allowed. His WHIP is less than 3/4 of 1 and his BAA is a ridiculous .133.
Sure, he’s lined up against some softies thus far, but that’s not the point. Like Doc Gooden and Tom Seaver before that, Matt Harvey is streaking across the New York baseball landscape like a comet on HGH.
The easy part is declaring absolute greatness for the kid, yet, in a way, it’s reckless and unfair. Too many people ignore the journey and the process and instead get bogged down with debates about all-time status and legacies. There’s time for that, trust me.
However, I have no idea if Harvey’s arm and shoulder holds up for the long haul, or if his body betrays him, much like it did Kerry Wood or the late Mark Fidrych in the 70′s in Motown.
Before attempting to quantify why Harvey is the real deal, here’s a little taste as to how other notable aces fared in their first full season in the bigs.
Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals (1961) 27 starts, 13-12, 3.24, 166 K/211 1/3 IP, 1.443 WHIP
Tom Seaver, New York Mets (1967) 34 starts, 16-13, 2.76 ERA, 170 K/251 IP, 1.203 WHIP
Roger Clemens, Boston Red Sox (1984) 20 starts. 9-4, 4.32 ERA, 126 K/133 1/3 IP, 1.313 WHIP
Pedro Martinez, Montreal Expos (1994) 23 starts, 11-5, 3.42 ERA, 142 K/144 2/3 IP, 1.106 WHIP
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers (2006) 30 starts, 17-9, 3.63 ERA, 124 K/186 IP, 1.328 WHIP
It’s obvious Harvey resides in pretty good company thus far, but why? What makes him so dominant, so fast? Why is he so good?
Start with the repertoire.
The kid packs some heavy artillery and unlike most young pitchers has confidence in every single pitch. The ability to reach so deeply into such an assortment of tricks at any point during a given AB prevents opposing hitters from developing a “book” on Harvey. His pitch patterns are seemingly impossible to predict, which turns average stuff into good stuff, good stuff into terrific stuff and terrific stuff into terrifyingly-filthy stuff.
That’s where it starts, and its complimented by poise, presence and any other characteristic that makes scouts drool even though they are unable to quantify the intangibles when they file their reports. Trust me, he has ‘em.
Thru 7 starts, Harvey’s average fastball clocks in at 94.7 MPH and his slider is trending toward 90 MPH, which by the way, is Randy Johnson territory. That’s rare. Also, unlike Stephen Strasburg who relies on just 3 pitches, Harvey, brings 4 elite pitches to the table. He throws a hard change, averaging 86.4 MPH and effectively uses his curve to alter planes and speeds, dipping the equalizer down to 82.1 MPH.
He has a repeatable delivery and is mechanically sound, limiting walks and allowing him to command the upper and lower portion of the strike zone with amazing precision.
Remember, as good as Doc was, he also had plenty of run support in the early days with Hernandez, Straw and eventually in 1985, Gary Carter. If Harvey played with those teams, he’d probably win 25 games this season.
When it comes to greatness, trust your eyes, and your instincts.
If Matt Harvey isn’t great, quite frankly, the word doesn’t exist.
Is he really THIS good? Actually, he’s probably better.
Stay healthy kid, and enjoy the journey, Mets fans.
You deserve it.