10:16 am Aug. 17, 2012
In his five starts with the New York Mets, Matt Harvey has provided a great deal for fans to get excited about. But Thursday night's performance in an 8-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds was a whole new level of encouraging.
Let's start with the raw results: Harvey pitched 7 2/3 innings, easily the deepest he'd gone into a major league game. Yet he did so on just 89 pitches, which is the second-fewest he's thrown in his five starts, with the only lower total coming in just five innings during his third start, when he was knocked around by the Padres.
Harvey has four pitches: a fastball, a slider, a changeup and a curveball, usually in that order of command. Well, Thursday night, he threw all four, and consistently for strikes. The result was a single walk, down from five in his last outing, and eight strikeouts.
He is a pitching prospect. There is nothing definitive about what he will be. But with Harvey, the questions are different. Usually, a pitcher who arrives in the major leagues is groping for the combination of his pitches that will allow him to succeed at this level. With Harvey, there's no real question about whether or how his repertoire translates to success. The only questions are how often he can find this combination, like he did in his debut, his second performance, and last night, along with the question every pitcher faces about staying healthy.
To get a better sense of what that means, practically, here's the list of the top starting 15 pitchers in strikeout rates for their rookie seasons, in order: Kerry Wood, Stephen Strasburg, Dwight Gooden, Mark Prior, Hideo Nomo, Yu Darvish, Matt Harvey, Bobby Witt, Cole Hamels, Jose DeLeon, Tom Griffin, Dan Wheeler, Tim Lincecum, Michael Pineda, Jordan Zimmermann.
That list obviously offers a wide variety of outcomes, but even the worst of them involve a long major league career. Only injuries derailed some of those pitchers; there's no example of the league figuring any of these pitchers out. If pitchers came up striking out hitters like Matt Harvey has, they stuck around for a long time.
So don't expect Matt Harvey to fizzle. Just remember that the always present threat of injury is with Harvey as it is with any pitching prospect. And as long as he's healthy, enjoy the ride.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Yankees were just a few innings from a sweep of the Texas Rangers, their primary competitor for best record in the American League, before an uncharacteristic bullpen failure helped the Rangers to a 10-6 victory.
Derek Lowe thinks it will be strange when he opposes the Boston Red Sox this weekend.
Brandon Jacobs sure likes to talk about the Jets.
Howard Beck notes that a month after Jeremy Lin left town, the Knicks still haven't explained their decision to let Lin go.
Eager for a Dane Richards replacement, the Red Bulls may have found one in Lloyd Sam.