New York Mets top prospect Zack Wheeler was everybody’s favorite young arm at camp this spring, but Matt Harvey is the phenom who is here now—and here to stay.
At just 24 years old, Harvey is demonstrating supreme poise, command and talent on the bump as the No. 2 starter for the Mets. He has only made 12 starts in his young career—and just two this season—but his electrifying presence has Mets fans putting Wheeler on the backburner until summer (no offense, Zack).
His seven innings of one-hit, shutout ball in his season debut saw him strike out 10 San Diego Padres, and served to put the rest of Major League Baseball on notice. The 6’4” 225-pounds Harvey still has 30-something starts left if he remains healthy, and that is as promising for the Mets as it is frightening for the rest of the league.
After outdueling Philadelphia Phillies star Roy Halladay on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, Harvey is on a roll to start the 2013 campaign. Pay attention for the next six months, because Harvey will have baseball fans wide-eyed until the fall.
Harvey doesn’t talk to the media much. He says what he has to say, but abides mostly by Teddy Roosevelt’s “Speak softly and carry a big stick” mantra. Except in this case, Harvey carries a Howitzer for a right arm.
The Connecticut native caught the attention of Cy Young and three-time All-Star David Price during his season debut. After Harvey’s mastery of the hapless Padres, Price tweeted:
Matt Harvey is my new favorite pitcher outside of current and former teammates!! He's nasty— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) April 4, 2013
That’s quite the shout out for a relatively unaccomplished 24-year-old who doesn’t have a full season’s worth of starts under his belt. But it isn’t as though the praise isn’t unwarranted. Harvey is in the national spotlight for no other reason than his ability on the mound.
His persona is reminiscent of the new captain in town. Maybe some David Wright is rubbing off on him, but Harvey’s unflappable demeanor and down-to-business attitude fit right in with the values of this team.
New York Mets manager Terry Collins said it best when he described Matt Harvey’s gutsy outing against the San Diego Padres (via The New York Daily News’ Peter Botte): “Matt pitched an absolutely, under the circumstances, an unbelievable game. “You walk out and grab that baseball in that kind of weather, it feels like a cue ball. The fact that he commanded his stuff as well as he did is impressive,” said Collins.
It’s hard to step onto the mound in April when the weather feels more like November, but Harvey had no problem surpassing the double-digit strikeout mark against the hapless Padres.
Harvey has been top-notch in marquee games against great teams. He was cold-blooded in his debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who looked as though the playoffs were in their future at one point. He allowed two earned runs in six innings against the Atlanta Braves, one earned in 7.2 innings against the Cincinnati Reds and struck out 10 while surrendering just one earned run in five innings against the National League East champion Washington Nationals.
The righty has proved that he’s not going to falter against the best teams in the league. And he shouldn’t because he has the stuff to hang with the best.
ESPN Stats and Information's Will Cohen laid out some great statistics in an article previewing the showdown between aging Roy Halladay and rising star Matt Harvey. According to Cohen, as well as the included statistics, Harvey "immediately became one of the best strikeout pitchers in the league."
His 30-percent strikeout rate since July 26 blows the doors off anything the New York Mets have become accustomed to as of late, and puts Harvey on a Santana-esque (Dare I say Seaver-esque?) pedestal so early in his career.
Fangraphs provides all the in-depth statistics that a baseball fan would need to come to the conclusion that Harvey is quickly becoming one of the leagues best power pitchers. He throws his fastball over 65 percent of the time, but frequently employs that power slider that is characteristic of the best power pitchers in the game (Clayton Kershaw, Matt Cain and Max Scherzer, anybody?).
Speaking of that slider, Cohen mentions that "of the 29 sliders put in play against Harvey in his career, only five have been classified by Inside Edge as “well-hit” and only four have dropped in for hits. Overall, Harvey has held batters to a .091 batting average in at-bats ending with his slider."
Somewhere along the line, Harvey decided that his opponents didn't have enough to worry about at the dish, so he developed two additional complementary pitches in his curveball and changeup. He won't throw them often, but the mastery of his four-pitch arsenal is a nightmare for opposing batters.
After Monday night's outing against Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies, Matt Harvey has now posted a 2.01 ERA in 31.1 innings against the National League East in his career. His 35 strikeouts over that span put him at 11.17 strikeouts per nine innings against divisional foes.
The one negative aspect of his outings against the National League East is his susceptibility to issue free passes. In 31.1 innings, he's walked 15 batters, but has made up for it with his ability to strand them. Considering his walk total in the five outings, Harvey's 1.02 WHIP is astounding.
Teammates and fans remember outings against divisional rivals longer than any other. Even if you toss the sentimental value out of the window, divisional games mean so much more than games against the NL Central, NL West and American League teams.
Being that the MLB schedule is the way it is, the Mets are going to play nearly half of their games per season against teams in their division. With Harvey taking the hill every fifth game, the Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins will hope to figure him out sooner rather than later.
New York Mets fans don't affectionately reminisce of the mid-1990s glory days brought about thanks to the trio of Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson. That's because no such thing happened. "Generation K" was supposed to be the anchor of the new-millennia Mets, but ended as a debacle of epic proportions.
Pulsipher was mercilessly run into the ground thanks to an inordinately high innings total in the minor leagues followed by an equally high workload in the majors. Wilson was drafted in 1994 and was proclaimed the best of the bunch, but he too succumbed to an arm injury. Isringhausen was traded to the Oakland Athletics after a not so stellar start, but enjoyed a successful career which came full circle when he recorded his 300th and final MLB save with the Mets in 2011.
"Generation K" put the cap on the rough decade following the Mets 1986 World Series title. It left the fans with no hope.
Matt Harvey has ensured that the Mets won't see a "Generation K 2.0"—himself, Zack Wheeler and the young Noah Syndergaard. Instead, through 12 starts, Harvey has solidified himself as one of the leaders of a young starting pitching rotation. And in doing so, has paved the way for his younger counterparts to make a smooth transition to the big league club.