Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Kershaw and Harvey: Two brilliant paths narrowly miss
By Mark Saxon
It would have been fun to see Clayton Kershaw and Matt Harvey pitch in the same game. In fact, it might have made for a perfect compare/contrast of the three best starters in the National League, since Harvey’s last start -- a win -- came against Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals.
You could pretty much take your pick of any of those three guys and build your franchise around him for the next 10 years.
The New York Mets have to contend with Kershaw on Tuesday night. The Dodgers have to deal with Matt Harvey on Wednesday night. Who has the tougher task? Probably anyone unlucky enough to be holding a bat.
I asked my friend Adam Rubin, who covers the Mets for ESPN New York, to give me a brief scouting report on Harvey:
Matt Harvey has taken his performance to another level after posting a 2.73 ERA in 10 starts last season, when he narrowly exceeded the innings-pitched limit and disqualified himself for NL Rookie of the Year consideration. Harvey has an explosive fastball that seems to take off as it approaches the plate. His average fastball velocity this season is 94.7 mph, trailing only Strasburg (95.6 mph) and Garrett Richards (94.9) in starts. Harvey typically leaves a little in reserve, and will flash a 98 mph fastball late in his outings when he needs a big out. Harvey also throws a slider, curveball and changeup.
His 102 strikeouts in his first 14 appearances are the third-most in Mets history, trailing only Dwight Gooden (107) and Nolan Ryan (103). ESPN’s Curt Schilling recently said he would take Harvey over Strasburg. Harvey is considered a mentally tough bulldog.
"He wants to be the best that there is in the game," manager Terry Collins said about Harvey. "The last time I ever heard someone say that was [Barry] Bonds. So it was a pretty big statement, I thought. All he’s done thus far is back it up."
I wonder if Kershaw might have a little something to say about that last statement. It’s not as if Kershaw looks like a guy who’s out there just to pick up paychecks and get in enough time to earn a pension.
In fact, Kershaw is just a year older than Harvey and, unlike the Mets phenom, he already has a Cy Young trophy lying around somewhere.
Mike Petriello did a piece recently placing Kershaw in his proper historical context and, suffice it to say, it’s quite a context.
When Kershaw struck out San Diego first baseman Yonder Alonso with a letter-high fastball in the second inning Wednesday night, he became just the 16th pitcher in big league history to strike out 1,000 hitters before the end of his age-25 season. The list is a who's who of pitching royalty, including seven Hall of Famers -- Bert Blyleven, Don Drysdale, Bob Feller, Catfish Hunter, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Hal Newhouser -- one active pitcher well on his way (Felix Hernandez) and one derailed only by off-field issues (Dwight Gooden).
And there's this:
In the history of the game, dating to the 19th century, exactly four pitchers have thrown as many innings as Kershaw has (972 1/3) through their age-25 season and allowed fewer than seven hits per nine innings.
The other three guys on that list, including the "Big Train," Walter Johnson, all began their careers more than a century ago.
One would assume that Thursday's game will be the rubber match since the pitching matchups are so lopsided in the first two games. Then again, those kinds of locks often fall apart in baseball series. It's an unpredictable sport. Maybe the Mets' Jonathon Niese or the Dodgers' Ted Lilly will match zeroes with them or maybe Kershaw or Harvey will just have a bad night.
But, based on their résumés, it would be a bad bet to count on such a thing.