12:03 pm Sep. 20, 2012
The 2012 New York Mets' season may be remembered for the debut of Matt Harvey.
In a year that saw the franchise finally get its first no-hitter while a knuckleball pitcher/author challenged for the league's top pitching honors, that is saying something.
But Harvey's year, punctuated by seven one-hit innings Wednesday night against the Phillies in a (naturally) 3-2 Mets loss, is astonishing.
In just ten starts, and 59 1/3 innings, he was the third most-valuable member of the 2012 Mets' pitching staff. Only Jonathon Niese and R.A. Dickey exceeded Harvey in value, and both have pitched full seasons.
Dickey's excellence allows a better sense of just how dominant Harvey was. Dickey was worth approximately three times what Harvey was, as per Baseball-Reference.com; but Dickey, who has pitched well enough to contend for the National League Cy Young Award, accumulated that value in roughly four times as many innings. In his debut season, Harvey has been considerably more valuable when he's pitched than arguably the circuit's best pitcher.
And don't think there's much chance of Harvey struggling once the league gets, to use the cliche, the book on him. His strikeout rate of 10.9 per nine in his rookie year is sixth-best among debut starters with at least 50 innings. The worst of these pitchers, Hideo Nomo, went on to a very strong career. The others four were Stephen Strasburg, Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Dwight Gooden.
Incidentally, that list contains the only real danger for Harvey, and that is injury. Because were a healthy Harvey to follow this debut season with anything other than sustained excellence, it would be unprecedented in baseball history.
Nor is he doing this with smoke and mirrors. Harvey accomplished these results with a fastball averaging just under 95 miles per hour. His command of a slider at 88.4 miles per hour, a curveball just over 82, and a change at around 86 gives the opposition the impossible task of consistently shifting eye levels and speeds. Best of all, his velocity didn't decline as the season went on; incredibly, it went up. He hit 98 in the seventh inning, against his last batter of the season Wednesday night.
Because of the owners' financial situation, the 2013 Mets probably won't have a lot going for them. Matt Harvey gives fans something to look forward to.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Led by Ichiro Suzuki's seven hits over two games, the Yankees swept a doubleheader from the Blue Jays, 4-2 and 2-1. Winning two a day seems to be the only way to stay ahead of the Orioles, who won the only game they played Wednesday to stay a half game back.
Utter disaster at Red Bull Arena, with the Red Bulls falling to Sporting Kansas City, 2-0, while playing listless soccer in their most important match of the season so far.
When the Giants face the Panthers Thursday night, they'll do it without Hakeem Nicks, one of many injured Giants.