The most meaningful (and hopeful) numbers we saw from the Mets this April belonged to Matt Harvey. Let’s give them a thorough review.
From the historical perspective
Harvey ended April 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA and an 0.82 WHIP. The Mets have had only two pitchers end April with at least four wins, no losses, an ERA that low and a WHIP that low.
Dwight Gooden did so, not in his Cy Young season of 1985, but in April 1986, going 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA and an 0.79 WHIP. Frank Viola then followed that up in April 1990, going 4-0 with a 1.32 ERA and an 0.73 WHIP.
Harvey tied Pedro Martinez’s end-of-April record with 46 strikeouts in the month, something Martinez did in 2005. Harvey’s 10.26 strikeouts per 9 innings rates fifth-best among Mets pitchers for March/April (minimum 25 innings). The four ahead of him are Sid Fernandez (13.5 in 1992), Johan Santana (12.1 in 2009), Pedro Martinez (11.5 in 2005) and Tom Seaver in 1971 (10.30 in 1971).
Harvey 2013 vs. Seaver 1971
First Month of Season
Take note of the reference to Seaver’s opening month in 1971. Besides Harvey's one extra start, there are a lot of similarities between those two Aprils.
We’ve placed them side by side in the chart on the right. Seaver finished 20-10 with a 1.76 ERA, leading the NL in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.
One more Harvey/Seaver note. Harvey finished the month as only the second Mets pitcher to throw 40 innings and allow less than five hits per nine innings in April.
Seaver is the only other Met to end April with those numbers, doing so in 1973.
From an analytical perspective
Harvey had good numbers with all four of his pitches in April. He had great numbers with three of them.
He threw 136 sliders in April, accounting for a little more than one-fifth of his pitches. They resulted in 28 outs (27 batters retired, with one hitting into a double play), one hit and two walks.
Harvey also threw 75 changeups in April, an average of about a dozen per start. Those netted 23 outs, one hit, two walks, and one batter reaching via error.
Matt Harvey’s Fastball
If we’re going to grade those pitches as A-level, then his fastball needs to go right alongside that. As we can show you in the chart on the right, Harvey’s fastball is upper-echelon.
His rate of getting misses against it is more than double the major league average for the month. Not only that, but his fastball location has improved dramatically from last season. And that’s made a big difference.
When hitters took Harvey’s heater last season, he got a called strike 31 percent of the time.
In 2013, Harvey is getting called strikes 42 percent of the time.
What is the 11 percentage-point differential worth?
About three to four more balls turned into called strikes just with that pitch per game.
That’s helped Harvey lower his walk rate from 3.9 last season to 2.7 in April.
The bad news is that Harvey’s April is going to be almost impossible to replicate. Even the most optimistic Mets fan knows that going Gooden ’85 (1.53 ERA) for six months is a once-in-a-lifetime sort of feat.
But consider this: If Harvey finished with 200 innings and an ERA of 2.56 (a full point higher than it is right now), his ERA from May to September would still be considerably below 3.
And there would likely be a few more moments like he and the Mets have had in his first six starts this season.