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Why We Should Not Be Too Quick to Crown Matt Harvey as MLB's Next Great Ace

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Why We Should Not Be Too Quick to Crown Matt Harvey as MLB's Next Great Ace
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Matt Harvey is being dubbed by some as the next great MLB pitcher.

Matt Harvey has no doubt been a great pitcher for the New York Mets.

However, it's too soon to crown Harvey as MLB's next great ace.

Harvey started the season off on a tear, giving Met fans something to cheer about. After all, can you really get excited about John Buck leading your team in home runs?

Harvey is 5-0 this year with a 1.85 ERA, 0.821 WHIP and 84 strikeouts. Nine of his 11 starts have been quality and the Mets are 8-3 in his starts.

In his 21 career starts, Harvey is 8-5 with a 2.23 ERA and 154 strikeouts. He's struck out 10 or more batters five times and allowed two runs or less 17 times.

But there's been a LeBron James-like lovefest from all media outlets every time Harvey pitches. If he does well, it goes even further as if it's the biggest news of the day.

Forget about the fact that he was actually outpitched in a game by another starter (see Tuesday's box score). Or that his team bailed him out of a loss after coming back on the opposing team's bullpen.

Regardless of what is said, there are those who believe that Harvey is the next greatest thing in MLB.

However, I think it's important to compare Harvey to the likes of two other (former) young pitching phenoms—Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Like Harvey, both got off to great starts in their careers. But their careers didn't exactly go the way they planned.

Let's take a look at each.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Kerry Wood was sensational his first few years in MLB.

 

Kerry Wood

Wood got off to a solid start with the Chicago Cubs in 1998. In his first year, he went 13-6 with a 3.40 ERA and 233 strikeouts.

He had his biggest game of the year on May 6 in which he struck out 20 Houston Astros in a 2-0 win for the Cubs.

In his first 21 games (the number of games Harvey has pitched in his big-league career), Wood had a record of 11-6 with a 3.34 ERA and 185 strikeouts.

He struck out 10 or more batters six times and allowed two runs or less 12 times.

 

Mark Prior

Prior was another player who got off to a hot start in his pitching career.

He had a sluggish start in his first year (19 starts in 2002), but really turned it on in 2003.

Through his first 21 starts of his career, Prior was 8-6 with a 3.01 ERA and 166 strikeouts.

In seven of those starts, he reached double figures in strikeouts seven times and allowed two runs or less 16 times.

 

By The Numbers

Let's put it all together:

Player QS ERA SO 2R or less 10+ Ks 7IP+ BB
Matt Harvey 15 2.23 154 17 5 10 43
Kerry Wood 14 3.34 185 12 10 12 45
Mark Prior 15 3.01 166 16 7 6 73

When looking at the numbers, there's a lot of similarities between the three.

Wood was more dominant with strikeouts and getting further into games, while Prior and Harvey showed a little more control.

What does this mean?

Harvey has no doubt had a great start to his career. But one must remember that he too could go the way of Wood and Prior.

Wood ended up with a decent career, making $73 million according to Baseball-Reference.com, but it's nowhere near what many thought he would make after his first season.

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Both Prior and Wood were supposed to be the next great pitchers in baseball. Both were supposed to revitalize the Cubs and help them win a World Series.

But that didn't happen.

 

Takeaways

Harvey has started his career off well, but let's remember he's still 24 years old. He still has a long way before we can call him the next great MLB pitcher.

Remember Tim Lincecum and the three great years he had between 2008-10 for the San Francisco Giants? He was supposed to be the next great pitcher as well and the last two years have shown us he's been anything but that.

Harvey may be the next great pitcher or he may not. But we can't go ahead and dub him that until he's proven a lot more than he already has.

If we're going to give pitchers the title of "great," let's stick with the likes of Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez.

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