Matt Harvey threw his first complete game shutout of his young career on August 7th at Citi Field as the New York Mets beat the reeling Colorado Rockies 5-0. Those who have been following Harvey’s trajectory to stardom in Major League Baseball know he has had a more dominant performance early this year: on May 7th he hurled 9 scoreless innings, allowing only one hit, no walks, while striking out 12 in a no decision versus the Minnesota Twins.
This Mets flame thrower subdued the Colorado hitters in a more modest display of dominance Wednesday night: “The Dark Knight of Gotham” faced 30 batters, struck out six, surrendered four singles, walked none, and induced a career high 14 ground ball outs, including a double play.
It is the seventh time the Mets young ace has gone at least 7 innings without walking a batter. As a rookie, Harvey allowed 26 batters on base via the walk in 59.1 innings pitched. In spite of it being his sophomore season, he has walked only 29 hitters in 159.2 innings pitched—just three more base on balls in 100.1 extra IP in comparison to last year. That is a pace of 1.63 base on balls per 9 innings pitched, 4th best in the National League, to accompany his league’s highest SO per 9 IP (10.03).
The “Real Deal” was economical in disposing of the Rockies as he threw 78 of 106 pitches for strikes, tying his best ratio of strikes to pitch count in 33 career starts. The previous time Matt Harvey threw 78 strikes and 28 balls, on May 17th at Wrigley Field, it required a greater deal of effort to get 22 outs (7.1 IP).
Harvey is a top contender for the National League’s Cy Young Award along with the ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw. Currently, the Mets young pitcher leads the league with 178 strikeouts and a very low 0.86 walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP). He also leads all MLB starters with an exceptional ratio of 1.30 strikeouts per hits plus walks. Despite missing a start before the All-Star break, Harvey is third in innings pitched. He also has the third fewest hits per 9 IP with 6.09.
Now that Harvey has amassed enough career starts for a full season, let’s see where he stacks up against other young phenoms who got off to blazing starts through their first 33 pitching performances. Being a member of the New York Metropolitans, Harvey has been likened to Tom Seaver and to Dwight Gooden, so it’s a given to include them in the comparison.
In terms of rising stars, only Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals closely mirrors the dominance of Harvey with regards to his mastery of power and finesse at such an early stage in his career. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, who won Rookie of the Year in 2006 and the Cy Young Award in 2011, does not come close to the numbers put up by Harvey through his first 33 starts. Neither does Tim Lincecum, who won consecutive Cy Young Awards in 2008 (his sophomore year) and 2009 (his third season) for the San Francisco Giants.
Mike Mussina was an accomplished pitcher who started his career with the Baltimore Orioles and had similar stats in his first two seasons as Matt Harvey, except with far fewer strikeouts. Mussina’s pinpoint control and consistency earned him 270 career wins. I included the “Moose” together with “Doc” Gooden, “Tom Terrific” and Stephen Strasburg in comparing their stats to Matt Harvey after each of their first 33 career starts. This select group is ranked by a Pitching Performance Score (PPS) I derived to evaluate starters and relievers. The calculations for standard MLB stats and my @JPsportstats are provided in the notes below the numbers.
Highlighted in yellow are the best stats among these pitchers over their first 33 starts. [Note: Seaver’s relief appearance after his 25th start in ’67 was omitted.]
Harvey topped the group in five statistical categories, including ERA, IPHW (reciprocal of WHIP) and PPS (explained below). Gooden led in four categories, highlighted by four shutouts and an impressive 292 SO. Like Harvey, Strasburg led in five areas, which includes win percentage (not as noteworthy as other categories since it is, in part, a reflection of run support).
*Heads up…Next paragraph is nerdy but worth covering…it’s just three sentences*
[Strasburg edged out Harvey (1.122 to 1.120) in a key category referred to as DOminant Coefficient or DOC: it is a weighted combination of SO per IP (25%), SO per H + W (25%), and IP per H + W (50%). Another important statistic is Cumulative earned Run Average or CRA: it is referred to as DERIP and fully explained in the post from July 1, 2011 titled Closers: Comparison of Different Eras and ERAs. Pitching Performance Score or PPS is a product of DOC * CRA.]
Mussina and Seaver led in two categories and were tied with the most innings pitched (242.2). What is really impressive about Mussina is that he did so with 11 fewer complete games than Seaver.
As the stats clearly illustrate, Matt Harvey is in exceptional company. He has already exceeded early expectations set by the Mets organization, and by Mets fans like me. Harvey appears to be unperturbed by the spotlight of the Big Apple. He is the quintessential competitor: a bulldog with talent, purpose and the intent to win every time he takes to the mound. The future is looking bright for the rising star and for the New York Metropolitans.
[Click on stats to view enlarged image in new window.]
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