Jun 23

Mets’ Matt Harvey Good, But Hold Off On Great

Matt Harvey is having a terrific season for the New York Mets, and the team and its fan base should be thrilled and excited about his future. But, can we have a little perspective please?

I read a blog post where the writer said he wouldn’t trade Harvey for any pitcher “on the planet,’’ which is an overused expression to begin with, one having cliché proportions.

HARVEY: Good, not great. (AP)

HARVEY: Good, not great. (AP)

Harvey will be making his 26th career start this afternoon, so that’s clearly jumping the gun. As good a season as he’s having, there are others having better years; others with better career numbers; and others with futures seemingly as bright.

Clayton Kershaw and Clay Buchholz, Patrick Corbin and Jordan Zimmerman, Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez. They are all good, young pitchers with bright futures as gleaming as Harvey’s. And, don’t overlook Stephen Strasburg.

There’s also the majors’ best pitcher this year in Detroit’s Max Scherzer, and his teammate, Justin Verlander, who is regarded as the best pitcher in the majors overall.

Twenty-five career starts is not enough of a sample to say he’s the best. Very good, but let’s have a reality check for a moment.

It is understood Harvey pitches for a bad team this year, but in the 15 starts he’s made he’s had eight no-decisions. That’s not a great ratio. Great pitchers, regardless of the quality of their teams, usually find a way to win.

Like most everybody else this spring, I am fascinated by Harvey and he is must-see for me, whether at the park or on TV. But, he’s not the best pitcher “on the planet.’’ He’s trying, which is the best thing to like about him, but he’s not there.

If Harvey is to become a great, franchise pitcher the way Tom Seaver once was, he must find a way to convert those no-decisions into victories. And, if you think I’m dumping on Harvey, he would be the first to agree.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 19

Mets Should Enjoy Harvey And Wheeler For Now; Let Future Take Care Of Itself

Nobody can say with any certainty how the careers of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler will unfold. We’ve been bombarded with the comparisons to Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden for both.

Hell, Gooden even tweeted late last night about their future. Imagine how Twitter might have blown up if it was around when he played?

WHEELER: Enjoy him now. (AP)

WHEELER: Enjoy him now. (AP)

Will they live up to the expectations and follow Seaver into stardom, or they flame out as Gooden did?

Harvey was dominatingly spectacular in winning for the first time in over a month to break a long string of no-decisions. Wheeler, as anticipated, had control problems, but pitched out of three significant jams in six scoreless innings.

Since the trade of Carlos Beltran for Wheeler, the Mets have promised a bright future built on pitching. Throw in Jon Niese, and with Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero in the minors, and it didn’t have the feel the Mets selling us a bill of goods.

We got that feeling by watching their inaction at the trade deadline and in the free-agent market.

The Mets gave us reason to believe things might be improving with a 7-4 start and after beating the Yankees four straight. This morning, following Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ game-winning homer Sunday with Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep and there’s that rise in optimism again.

The starting pitching, with Johan Santana gone and the back end of the rotation horrid early in the season, has been remarkably good the past month. The bullpen, defense and especially the hitting have dragged them down.

Yes, the game is about pitching, but a team still needs to score some runs. The Mets finally did that yesterday, and they did it in a place, and against a rotation, that has made their lives miserable over the years.

It would be easy to get carried away about yesterday and say the Mets have turned the corner. But, we can’t go there because they have quickly faded and disappointed before.

In the big picture, we don’t know what will happen with Harvey and Wheeler. But, let’s not even think of it.

Let’s just enjoy them now and watch their journey.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 18

Mets’ Harvey Not Motivated By Wheeler Promotion

Don’t buy for a second Matt Harvey’s scintillating start this afternoon had anything to do with the attention piled onto Zack Wheeler. The New York Mets have been saying one of Harvey’s signature attributes is his focus. Harvey said the same thing with his “24-hour rule,’’ in which he gives himself a day to think about his performance, good or bad.

In doing so, he’s also telling us he’s about concentration, not letting little things get to him and being single-minded in purpose. He wouldn’t be doing any of that if he used Wheeler’s promotion as a motivational tool. And, the flip side is also true in that Wheeler has enough on his mind than to attempt to equal Harvey’s performance.

The two just aren’t related. It’s a nice story, but there’s nothing to it, simply talkshow and backpage fodder.

Harvey admitted after the game he was running out of gas and probably shouldn’t have gone out for the eighth. A couple of starts ago Harvey didn’t say anything until it was too late he had tweaked his back. I appreciate Harvey’s desire to stay in the game and compete, but eventually he’ll have to trust his teammates.

Harvey has shown to be a special talent with as bright a future as any young Met pitcher, including Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, but he can’t do it alone.

Hopefully, Wheeler shows that tonight. He said he’s not a savior, but much is expected of him. Wheeler was not dominant in Triple-A, and had some physical ailments this year in a blister problem, strained oblique in spring training and missed one start with a tender shoulder. Wheeler wasn’t going to be promoted until his Super Two status was no longer an issue, but even with that no longer an issue, there’s question of him being ready.

Nobody can realistically expect Wheeler to equal Harvey’s performance. For tonight to be successful for him you’d like to see him refine his command, as his velocity won’t be an issue. You’d like to see him work out of trouble and minimize the damage when he can’t.

Oh, and one other thing, when tonight is over, let’s hope Wheeler doesn’t say it was just another game. It is not. Tonight is the first of what could the first of many in what the Mets are hoping will be a long career.

It’s not important that Wheeler becomes the second Harvey, or Gooden, or Seaver. Let’s just hope he becomes the first Zack Wheeler.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 08

Will Matt Harvey Ever Get That Great Moment?

Alex Rios’ two-out infield single was the only thing that stood between Matt Harvey and a perfect game.

Managers don’t usually say these things, but Terry Collins thought in the fifth inning Harvey was heading toward history. Even Harvey knew he was on Tuesday night.

HARVEY: Sniffs perfection. (AP)

HARVEY: Sniffs perfection. (AP)

“Everything was obviously working,’’ Harvey told reporters last night. “When I can throw my slider for a strike and also bounce it when I need to, that’s when it starts getting fun. That was definitely the best I felt all year.’’

He was that on and didn’t get it. The way baseball works, and Harvey understands this, is he could get it on a night he feels awful.

While we are engrossed in the no-hitter pursuit, they are rare because of the nuances in the game. Jim Qualls broke up Tom Seaver’s perfect-game bid in 1969 with a clean single, but as Rios showed they all aren’t line drives.

Rios beat out a dribbler in the shortstop hole. Other no-hitters have been broken up by broken-bat bloops or balls lost in the sun, or bunts. And, who doesn’t remember how Armando Galarraga lost his perfect game on Jim Joyce’s blown call?

Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone threw no-hitters with other teams, when their electric stuff lost some voltage.

No-hitters are flukes, thrown by forgettable names, and not thrown by the greatest arms the sport has ever witnessed. That Nolan Ryan threw seven and Sandy Koufax threw four, and Johnny Vander Meer had them in consecutive starts is incomprehensible. They had skill and stuff, but perhaps it was a matter of the Baseball Gods smiling on them those days.

Harvey has already lost two no-hitters after seven innings this year, so we know the stuff is there, but it isn’t always about stuff. Hey, if a guy swings a bat anything can happen.

What I liked about Harvey was his stuff, his demeanor and his concentration. Do you know how hard it is to breathe and focus when you nose is stuffed with cotton? Harvey started the game with a bloody nose that continued in the early innings.

His focus only sharpened.

What I also liked about him was his acceptance in losing the perfect game. He didn’t regret the slider he threw Rios, and praised Ruben Tejada’s effort.

“In that hole it’s tough,’’ Harvey said. “Obviously anything going away and then making that long throw, I knew it was going to have to be absolutely perfect. He made an awesome attempt.’’

Harvey remains at 4-0 after three straight no-decisions. His 58-12 strikeouts-to-walks ratio illustrates dominance on both the stuff and command levels. What can you say about a 1.28 ERA?

One more number about Harvey is intriguing, and that is his “24 Hour Rule,’’ in which he gives himself a day to relish in a good start or lament something negative, such as losing a perfect game.

Then, it is back to work. On Thursday he will start focusing on Sunday’s start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yes, Harvey has no-hit potential. No, I can’t say he will ever throw one, but I don’t care. Harvey might not ever get that great moment, but he’s on the way to a great career, and I don’t want to miss a start.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

 

 

May 04

Summer of 1973; The Forgotten Championship – Tom Seaver Against Bob Gibson

In today’s installment of “The Summer of 1973; The Forgotten Championship,’’ I chose a game from the month of April and will analyze it through the box score.

My pick is the fourth game of the season, April 12, at St. Louis, with Tom Seaver outdueling Bob Gibson, 2-1, to give the Mets a 4-0 start.

SEAVER: Carried the load all year.

SEAVER: Carried the load all year.

It was Seaver’s second start, with his first being a shutout over Philadelphia’s Steve Carlton. His third start was a 1-0 loss to Chicago’s Ferguson Jenkins.

Three games against three Hall of Famers, and five runs of support. It was pretty much that way for Seaver that season, his second in which he won the Cy Young Award.

Seaver was magnificent, going 19-10 with a league-leading 2.08 ERA, 18 complete games and 290 innings pitched. You don’t find that kind of durability anymore.

There are other amazing numbers, including a 0.976 WHIP and a 251-64 strikeouts-walks ratio. Seaver averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings, the fourth straight season out of five in which he led the NL in that category.

All that is simply saying the words “overwhelmingly awesome and dominant’’ in numerical language. Old stats or new, batters had a hard time hitting off Seaver, let alone scoring against him that year.

In examining the box score from that afternoon, you can gain a sense of much the game has changed, beginning with it played in the afternoon.

Because it was a day game – and the match-ups – I thought it might have been Opening Day in St. Louis, but that was the previous day. A massive crowd of 12,290 showed up Opening Day, but only 6,356 saw Seaver-Carlton, which was played in a nifty 1:51.

In addition to the attendance, time it was played and length, what also stood out for me was how clean the box scores were. The Mets used only ten players, the last being Phil Hennigan relieving Seaver in the eighth inning. The Cardinals used 11 players, Tim McCarver as a pinch-hitter for shortstop Ray Busse, and reserve shortstop Mike Tyson. Gibson threw a complete game, one of 13 that season (breaking a string of five straight years of over 20 complete games).

If a game like that were played today, there would have been an abundance of gamesmanship in the form of pinch-hitters and relievers. Back then, the managers turned the game over to, and trusted, their starters.

The Mets gave Seaver all the support he needed in the first inning on Jon Milner’s RBI single and Cleon Jones’ sacrifice fly.

Small crowds, fast games and Hall of Fame pitching match-ups are an indication of how the game has changed over the past four decades.

This game also represented a trend to come that year, and that was the propensity for the Mets playing close games, as they were 31-32 in one-run games that year. One might have thought a World Series team would have a better one-run record, but it must be remembered the Mets barely cracked .500 that year.

It also showed Seaver would have to do much of the heavy lifting himself. And, he could handle the load.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos