Matt Harvey's early career dominance hasn't just captivated baseball, it's ignited a fanbase more than any pitcher has since the early days of Dwight Gooden at Shea Stadium.
Shea is gone, Gooden is a spectator and the jury is still out on how great Matt Harvey can become, but this much is clear: He's a phenom, capable of the greatest season Met fans have seen since vintage Gooden in the mid-80s.
In fact, it's not ridiculous to dream of Harvey's season eventually matching the accolades of Dwight Gooden's 1985 campaign.
On the heels of the best outing in his 17 career starts, Harvey looks like the best pitcher in baseball. Last evening, against a diminished White Sox lineup, the Met ace was nearly perfect, registering a 97 on the Bill James Game Score scale, coming within a bang-bang play of a perfect game and eliciting comparisons to Justin Verlander (via CBS New York).
Through seven starts this season, Harvey has posted the following numbers: 49.1 IP, 28 H, 12 BB, 58 K, 1.28 ERA, 1.90 FIP. Simply put, he's been untouchable. Tuesday evening was his second near no-hitter of the season. At this rate, expecting to see one this summer isn't ridiculous.
Neither are the comparisons to Gooden. As the former Met great has taken to Twitter to voice his support for the new star of Queens, fans will eventually compare this season to Gooden's 24-4, 1.53 ERA run in the summer of '85.
It's early, but Harvey has shown almost no weakness at the big league level. Comparisons to Verlander, Greinke and Gooden may seem outrageous for a kid that had a good, not great scouting profile coming out of North Carolina. Oddly enough, the scouting report on Gooden coming out of high school was similar.
In order to fairly compare two different pitchers of entirely different eras, context must be applied.
Regardless of how good he is, Matt Harvey, without a full season in the big leagues and coming off a 169-inning campaign in 2012, is not going to touch Gooden's 276.2 IP mark of '85. Due to many less innings, he also won't ring up 268 strikeouts. Furthermore, don't expect 16 complete games out of Harvey in this or any season of his career.
With the Mets in a rebuilding process, it's almost impossible for Harvey to match the 24-4 win-loss record of Gooden. Of course, fewer and fewer fans dwell on win-loss records in 2013. If New York could have scratched a run across during the first nine innings last night, Harvey wouldn't have been given a no decision for his heroic effort.
When looking for a baseline in comparing the Harvey of today to the Gooden of '85, let's look at each of their first seven starts, respectively:
Matt Harvey: 49.1 IP, 4-0, 1.28 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 58 K, .133 BAA
Dwight Gooden: 55 IP, 5-1, 1.31 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 56 K, .167 BAA
Amazingly, you can make the case that Harvey has been better early on this season than Gooden was then. Of course, Gooden threw 100.2 innings of 1.88 ERA baseball from that moment through the All-Star Game.
What gives Harvey the chance to match or exceed Doc is the environment he's pitching in and just how dominant he's been compared to his peers.
When adjusting for park effects and league scoring, Gooden's 1.53 ERA in 1985 equaled out to a 229 ERA+. Using Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index, it rates as the 11th best season in baseball history. Doc wasn't just better than his peers, he was in a different stratosphere.
Amazingly, Harvey's current ERA+ is better than Dwight's was then. If, and it's a big if, Harvey can continue to pitch to an ERA+ of 292, it would go down as the greatest season in baseball history by that metric, surpassing Pedro Martinez's 2000 season in Boston.
In the context of wins, losses, complete games, innings and strikeout volume, Harvey will likely not surpass the year that Gooden had in '1985. To be honest, he'll likely never touch those numbers in any year of his career.
However, that doesn't mean he can match or top what Gooden did in 1985. In fact, if he continues to dominate at this level over the course of a full season, he'll do exactly that.
Harvey's ability and dominance isn't hyperbole, folks. The numbers are backing up what your eyes are telling you: Matt Harvey might just surpass 1985 Doc Gooden.
Can Matt Harvey surpass Dwight Gooden's 1985 season in Mets' history?