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Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Harvey's 2013 forecast: Not quite 2012

By Mark Simon

Listen to the hype on New York sports-talk radio or talk to a rabid Mets fan, and you’ll hear about the high expectations for Matt Harvey in 2013.

Those are based on the results Harvey got in his 10-start, 59 1/3 inning debut in 2012, in which he went 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA.

But the statistical projections for Harvey don’t quite have him matching that in 2013.

The four math-based projection systems on Fangraphs.com have Harvey’s ERA ranging from 3.57 to 3.91 this season. Baseball Prospectus has him about in the middle at 3.71. The Ron Shandler Baseball Forecaster pegs him for a 3.94.

What is keeping those numbers in check, in comparison to fans' lofty expectations?

There are a couple of factors.

Each of these projection systems is based on historical precedent and precedent is such that two things will drop for Harvey in 2013.

One is that his strikeout rate, 10.6 per nine innings last season, will come down to something closer to his rate in Triple-A (9.2).

The other is that Harvey’s Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), which was a remarkably low .262 last season, will rise to something resembling the .295 he finished with at Buffalo.

These systems also assess that Harvey will run into the same types of control issues he’s dealt with both in the minors and majors, that his walk rate will be close to the four per nine innings that he hit last season.

Smush all that together into the various mathematical formulas these systems use and you’ll get an ERA in the mid-to-high 3s.

The biggest thing that Harvey could do to exceed those expectations would be to improve his control.

Consider this:

The Steamer projection system, gauged to be the most accurate in studies done the last few seasons, has Harvey with this line in 2013.

9.03 strikeouts per 9 (201 in a 200-inning season)
3.99 walks per 9 (89 in a 200-inning season)
0.88 HR per 9 (20 in a 200-inning season)
.286 Batting Average on Balls in Play.

That system has another second-year pitcher, albeit an American Leaguer, with a similar line.

9.46 strikeouts per 9
3.15 walks per 9
0.79 HR per 9
.287 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Harvey’s projection nearly matches that one but for the walk rate, which is about 20 percent higher.

What’s that worth in terms of actual numbers?

Steamer has Harvey with a 3.91 ERA in 2013.

The other guy, Yu Darvish, pitched a heck of a game last night, a near-perfecto against the Houston Astros.

His projected ERA from Steamer would look pretty good for Harvey in 2013: 3.36.