Mets: Proving Matt Harvey Has Been the New York Mets Best Player This Season
The title is largely inconsequential and could easily evolve into a debate over the relative value of pitchers and position players, but who cares? Is that not part of what makes sports—specifically stat-oriented sports like baseball—so beautiful?
The player of the year debate provides a small silver lining amid another frustrating and postseason-less year.
It’s finding any excuse to have principally meaningless discussions about our very own two all-world players.
It’s pitting two equally valuable franchise pieces against one-another while having the good fortune of enjoying both.
It is the sole pleasure—rather than exasperation—Mets fans can glean and embrace amid a serious debate over two homegrown stars.
Mets fans have reason to believe their team is just a few measured and prudent moves away from contention, and it begins with what predictably became a two-man race for the aforementioned title. The table below should help illustrate just how superb both players have been this season.
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Is it possible that Harvey and Wright are somehow even underappreciated to some extent? We are talking about two players who are arguably the National League’s best players at their respective positions.
We can debate who is the more valuable—and while we’re at it, the very semantics of the word ‘valuable’ —member of the team beyond this season ad nauseum. Justifiable arguments can easily be made for both players based on their countless merits.
This discussion is about 2013 performance.
Is it David Wright —the team captain and unrelenting organizational cornerstone since his debut in 2004? Or could it be Matt Harvey who has emerged as the unquestionable staff ace for what the Mets hope to be many more years to come?
The fact is, the Mets are going nowhere in the future without both players performing at the levels that we have grown accustomed to.
But who had the stronger 2013?
For the article's purposes, I had to choose just one.
As a fan, though, there is plenty of comfort in knowing that the New York Mets face no such dilemma.
The Case for David Wright
The argument for Wright’s season over Harvey’s stems from the makeup of the Mets current roster.
In terms of run scoring and run prevention, the Mets rank in the middle of the National League pack in both categories this year.
His statistics speak for themselves, but proponents may still cite Wright’s supporting cast as an impediment to production.
Despite an extraordinarily unexpected career year by Marlon Byrd, Wright has swung the Mets' strongest bat while being the beneficiary of very little lineup protection. How much of a hindrance—if any—this was to Wright’s offensive output is up for debate. But you would be hard-pressed to find a player more individually responsible for a respectable everyday lineup than David Wright.
With 5.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Wright has accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Mets' total non-pitching WAR in 2013. This measure of value in not exclusively a function of his bat either.
Wright ranks seventh among all third baseman according to FanGraph’s fielding metric. Increasingly impressive, Wright's credentials are bolstered by registering as the number one most valuable baserunner at the hot corner.
While Wright managed—prior to injuring his hamstring—to shoulder an otherwise dreadful offense and make it average, the team’s pitching has been equally middling overall in 2013. And yet, not even Harvey can claim full credit for a pitching staff that has settled in to post a 3.32 ERA—good for fourth in the league—since the All-Star Break.
It was not too long ago that Wright had fans and analysts alike scratching their heads and wondering whether the third basemen would ever be able to return to his bygone glory.
For the second consecutive season, an exceptionally productive 2013 has helped ease concerns regarding a frustrating run of mediocrity that culminated through Wright's 2011 campaign.
In Wright, the Mets possess a perennial MVP candidate who helped pull them to within a game of the 2006 World Series. The numbers do not lie.
The past, combined with the Mets' overall struggles as a franchise, make it is easy to understand why so many may be overlooking the fact that Wright has actually returned to his former position of prominence.
Make no mistake—David Wright is very much back.
The Case for Matt Harvey
Even for a team devoid of much star power at all, supplanting David Wright as the best player in Queens would be an impressive feat. Since 2005, Wright ranks fourth in all of baseball with 47.5 wins above replacement (WAR).
Pick any pitching category, and you can safely assume that Harvey is at, or near the top, of the major-league leaderboard.
Dating back to his major-league debut, Harvey has made a habit out of dominating opposing hitters.
How about some more obscure points of note on Harvey's absurd 2013?
Harvey became the youngest player to start the All-Star Game since another former Met accomplished it in 1988—Dwight Gooden.
Despite his dazzling numbers, Harvey has the misfortune of 12 no-decisions.
He's even flirted with Mets history, taking three no-hit bids into the seventh inning this year.
Who Gets the Nod?
Wright’s numbers—in a traditional baseball sense—may not jump off the page like Harvey’s, but the debate is not so simple.
Should we consider the fact that Harvey has been surrounded by solid starting pitching?
Behind Harvey, the Mets have two ultra-talented young flamethrowers in Zack Wheeler (3.43) and Jenrry Mejia (2.30). Veteran Dillon Gee trails only Jose Fernandez and Clayton Kershaw with a 2.27 ERA since May 30.
Is the pressure to produce on a regular basis elevated for Wright?
The Mets captain relied predominantly on the likes of Byrd (.288/.336/.523) and Daniel Murphy (.275/.307/.397) to supplement his offense. Does this make his season that much more spectacular?
A few elements are at the forefront of my decision to anoint Matt Harvey the Mets' best player in 2013.
The plain fact that Harvey has pitched at a Cy Young level this season renders anything short of MVP numbers a comparative reach. The award is admittedly relative to the full field of pitchers in a given year—so a perfect means of comparison to an everyday player it is not.
But do Wright’s superb numbers compare favorably to Cy Young-worthy production?
An inherently relative statistic like WAR provides a very strong index of a ballplayer's worth, and accordingly the answer is yes. According to FanGraphs, Wright (5.7 WAR) has been the third-most valuable position player in the National League, though he is unlikely to generate much MVP discussion.
Wright, however, is still unable to match Harvey’s sheer dominance. The Mets ace leads all major-league pitchers with a WAR of 5.9.
It is difficult to say where Wright’s numbers would have ended up had he finished the year healthy. After all, Harvey is facing an innings restriction as well as the first 162-game schedule of his young career. Regression is conceivable.
Both players are superstars in every sense of the word.
But Harvey has—quite simply—been the most dominant pitcher in baseball this season and it’s an impossible fact to ignore.
Frankly, it is probably best to try not to imagine where the 2013 Mets would be without either one of them.
If the franchise hopes to begin a run of perennial contention in 2014, the majority of the burden will fall on the eagerly embracing backs of Wright and Harvey.
This is unlikely to be the last time Mets fans will debate the better player. And, well—that is a truly beautiful thing.
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