If there was anyone left around major league baseball that wasn’t talking about Matt Harvey‘s, that likely changed after his performance on Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox. The 24-year-old ace of the New York Mets staff turned in a nearly perfect nine inning effort and the buzz he created since being called up last season has never been louder. Being the brightest star in the New York baseball market comes at a price as the media works to figure out just how good Harvey will be even before he throws his next pitch. That’s to be expected and while some may clamor for beat writers and bloggers enjoy Matt Harvey for Matt Harvey, that’s not likely a realistic scenario.
Instead, with every dominating outing the former North Carolina Tarheel turns in, the bar is raised and the comparisons follow. Is he better than fellow 24-year-old phenom Stephen Strasburg? Is he as good as former AL Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander? Does he invoke memories of the all time great New York Mets pitchers Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden? Those questions will be asked more and more as this season progresses and Harvey’s career unfolds in coming years and to me, one of the great things about Harvey is that it doesn’t seem like any of it will distract him.
Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record had a great column this morning explaining how Harvey has already begun to remind fans of Dwight Gooden. In the article Klapisch notes that after Tuesday’s 1-hit no-decision against Chicago former Mets third basemen and current Sox manager, Robin Ventura, likened Harvey to his clubs ace, Justin Verlander.
Even with a no-decision, Harvey made history against Chicago, becoming the first hurler in the last 100 years to rack up 125 Ks while allowing 25 or fewer earned runs in his first 17 career starts. Entering Wednesday night, Harvey led the National League in ERA (1.28), was second in strikeouts, and had a major-league best 0.69 WHIP.
After watching his White Sox barely avoid being no-hit, Robin Ventura likened Harvey to Justin Verlander, calling him, “as dominant as anyone [the Sox] have seen. [Harvey] has velocity, movement and his presence is as good as advertised.”
It all seems premature but the more you hear these things and the more you watch Harvey on the mound the harder it is to deny just how good he really is right now. I also found Ron Darling‘s take on the comparisons to Gooden interesting in Klapisch’s post:
That’s high praise, linking Harvey to the Tigers’ ace. But what about the comparison to Gooden? Is it too soon to say he’s the new Doctor K? Too early to start measuring Harvey’s successes against one of the single greatest pitching performances baseball has ever known? On the scale of one to supernatural, Doc’s ’85 resume was off the charts, including a 24-4 record, 1.53 ERA and an insane 276 strikeouts in 268 innings.
Photo by Michael G. Baron
Obviously, with another five months to go in the 2013 season, Harvey is still only dreaming of matching Doc, especially in victories. He has little chance to be a 20-plus winner, backed by a bullpen that’s ranked second to last in the NL in ERA.
That is, unless Harvey does it all himself. That’s where the comparison to Gooden takes hold. Just ask some of Doc’s former teammates what they see now – and then – and you realize the talent gap between Gooden and Harvey is virtually non-existent.
“The results are about the same in their ability to win at-bats even in a hitter’s count,” said Ron Darling. “But whereas Doc was Baryshnikov, Harvey is more workman-like. With Doc, it was all about the strikeouts; Harvey can defeat you in different ways because he has more pitches.”
Darling was later quoted as having said “Whatever it is that Doc had, whatever you want to call it, Harvey has it, too, it’s for real.” To me, as someone who grew up watching Doc K, there’s simply no higher praise.