By Andrew Goodman
Earlier this year I made the claim that Yu Darvish was the best pitcher in the majors. I would like to retract that statement. Yu Darvish IS the best pitcher in the American League, but there is no pitcher in the majors that batters fear more right now than Matt Harvey. Harvey has dominated hitters this season. He leads the league in strikeouts, WHIP and ERA. However, there is one category that Harvey is lacking in – wins. Time and time again, Harvey has thrown gems against opponents, only to have the Mets' atrocious bullpen come into the game and blow it.
In his last 10 starts, Harvey has eight quality starts (minimum of six innings pitched and at most three runs allowed). Most of the time, this would equate to eight wins. If you figure in a blown save or two, the fewest wins Harvey should have got in these starts is six. However, the bullpen has been killing Harvey, and so in those eight quality starts Harvey is 3-1 with four no decisions.
In his last start, Harvey allowed only one run in seven innings against the Washington Nationals. When he exited the game, the Mets were winning 4-1. Then in came David Aardsma who put a man on base, followed by Edgin who allowed a double to put two men in scoring position, all culminating with Brandon Lyon walking a man to load the bases and then allowing a bases-clearing double to Ryan Zimmerman. Just like that, Harvey went from winning pitcher to yet again, another no decision. That game got even worse as closer Bobby Parnell allowed two runs in the ninth, leading to a 6-4 Mets loss.
This has been the case all season. Matt Harvey starts the game, dominates for six or seven innings, and then the bullpen ruins everything. The entire month of May should have been a great month for Harvey, but instead did basically nothing to his win-loss record. Going into the month of May, Harvey had an ERA of 1.56. At no point during the entire month did Harvey's ERA go above 2.00. However, Harvey had little to show for his five stellar performances. Harvey went at least six innings in all five of those starts, and only allowed three or more runs in one of them. Despite Cy Young caliber outings, Harvey gained only one win in May.
As easy as it is to blame the bullpen, the poor offensive production by the Mets is also at fault. Two starts stand out in particular. On June 13th, Harvey recorded his only loss of the year. Harvey pitched seven innings and allowed only one run, while striking out seven. However, the Mets lackluster offense gave Harvey little backing, scoring only once, leading to a 2-1 loss to the Cardinals. Now, let's go back to May 7th, a game that truly broke my heart. Harvey had his best stuff that night. He threw nine scoreless innings, almost had a perfect game but allowed one hit in the seventh inning, and struck out 12 batters. However, the Mets did not score the entire game. Going into extras, the game was tied 0-0. Finally, in the 10th inning, the Mets got a man across the plate, resulting in a win – a win for closer Bobby Parnell, not Matt Harvey.
Harvey started off the season red-hot, as he came out of the gate with a 4-0 record in his first four starts. Following those four starts, he received only one win and eight no decision in his next nine starts. There is nothing more frustrating for a pitcher than pitching well and not seeing it result in wins. Harvey has pitched near perfection all season long, but his record does not show it. He has struck out at least 10 batters five times this season, striking out as many as 13 in a game. He has more than five times as many strikeouts as walks and almost twice as many strikeouts as hits allowed. In 117 innings, Harvey has allowed only 26 runs. Batters are hitting only .184 on the season against Harvey. All of these numbers combined make for a great pitcher, but the lack of wins is more disappointing than any of these statistics.
Tonight, Matt Harvey faces the Arizona Diamondbacks. It's 'Fireworks Night' at Citi Field, a night that has seen the Mets play some remarkable baseball in the past, including a ten-run two-out rally in the eighth inning against the Braves back in 2000. I was at that game, and I had never seen anything like it. I felt the stadium shaking beneath my feet. Hopefully, something just as amazing happens tonight.
Harvey is the best pitcher in baseball – plain and simple. For his sake, I really hope the Mets start producing when he is on the mound. He deserves to start the All-Star Game, and if he continues pitching the way he is, he deserves the Cy Young Award. I will be at the game tonight, watching Harvey pitch in person for the first time. Hopefully tonight is full of even more fireworks than just the ones in the parking lot.