Comparing Matt Harvey's First 15 MLB Starts to Tom Seaver's

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Comparing Matt Harvey's First 15 MLB Starts to Tom Seaver's
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How does current Mets ace Matt Harvey compare to former Mets ace Tom Seaver?

Have you had your fill of Matt Harvey yet?

If so, door's on your left, pal.

Otherwise, sit right down and let's take yet another look at the new Mets ace—by comparing him to a former Mets ace.

Harvey, a right-hander, made his debut for the Mets last year on July 26 as a 23-year-old.

Some 45 years earlier, back on April 13, 1967, a 22-year-old righty pitched in his first major league game for the Mets. His name?

Tom Seaver.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
A Hall of Famer, Seaver was inducted in 1992 with 98.8 percent of the vote—highest all-time.

While it may be jumping the gun just a tad to put Harvey's name in the same sentence as that of a Hall of Famer who's a member of the renowned 300-win club and oh-by-the-way a three-time Cy Young Award winner, it doesn't mean we can't compare how the two hurlers' careers began.

Harvey, who is 4-0 with a ridiculous 1.54 ERA through five outings this year, has now started 15 games as a big leaguer. That's a good early-career benchmark to use for a comparison.

That's a lot of orange, isn't it?

The chart at the right shows how Harvey and Seaver stack up through their first 15 starts:

Of the 10 prominent pitching categories highlighted, Harvey beats out Seaver in seven of them over each pitcher's initial 15 outings.

Obviously, we're comparing a pair of pitchers across two eras separated by almost a half-century, so the numbers have to be considered within context.

For this we can use the metric ERA-, which comes from FanGraphs and adjusts ERA to account for league and park averages so we can better compare pitchers between time periods. The stat is scaled to 100, with each point below being equal to a percent better than average. 

Harvey's 61 ERA- means he is 39 percent better than average in ERA, whereas Seaver's 82 ERA- for the 1967 season was 18 percent better.

Even across eras, Harvey wins.

But back to the chart. The two statistics in Harvey's favor that jump out are hits allowed per nine (H/9) and strikeouts per nine (K/9). In the former, Harvey averaged almost three fewer hits than Seaver over a full game. In the latter, the disparity is even more stark, as Harvey whiffed over five hitters more per nine than Seaver.

Seaver, in case you were wondering, is a member of the 3,000-strikeout club, which has only 16 members. He struck out 3,640—sixth-most all-time—over his 20-year career.

It's worth pointing out, though, that Tom Terrific only topped the 8.0 K/9 mark in three seasons early on (1970-72), and his career rate stands at just 6.8 K/9. In other words, he was a volume strikeout guy.

Where Harvey comes up short, though, is in innings, wins and walks. The first two are connected, since Seaver pitched deeper into games—at 7.3 innings per start, he averaged a full inning more than Harvey's 6.3—and thus was able to earn more victories.

Seaver won three Cy Young Awards in his 20-year career. How many will Harvey earn?

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Seaver, for what it's worth, also completed eight of his first 15 outings—more than half—while Harvey has yet to go the distance.

As for the walk rate, Seaver's 2.4 per nine—a full free pass better than Harvey's 3.4—was a good indicator of his control: He finished with a BB/9 of 2.6.

The Mets, no doubt, would like to see some improvement in that aspect of Harvey's game, and it seems to be coming. After walking 26 in 59.1 innings (3.9 BB/9) as a rookie, Harvey has issued just 10 walks in 35 innings so far in 2013.

That translates to a rate of 2.6 per nine, right in line with Seaver's.

The Mets can only hope Harvey's career can do the same.

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