Wednesday, July 3, 2013
What will it take for a Harvey no-no?
By Mark Simon | ESPN Stats & Information
Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds threw the first no-hitter of the season (and second of his career), defeating the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night.
New York Mets ace Matt Harvey has looked capable of throwing a no-hitter many times this season. He has taken three bids into the seventh inning, and retired the first 14 hitters against the Washington Nationals in his last start before allowing his first hit.
In his past three starts, Harvey has allowed only eight hits in 20 innings, a .119 opponents' batting average.
But what would it take for that to be .000 on Wednesday night?
Here are a few keys for Harvey's start against the Arizona Diamondbacks on ESPN:
Hit 98 on the radar gun
As was noted on the Stats & Info blog last week, Harvey is unhittable when he throws his fastball at least 98 mph.
Since coming up to the majors last season, Harvey has thrown 123 pitches 98 mph or faster. Opponents are 0-for-33 with 23 strikeouts and two walks when an at-bat against Harvey ends with a pitch that fast.
The fastball at any speed has been a good weapon for Harvey lately. In his past three starts, he's thrown 179 of them, and they've resulted in 30 outs, one hit and one walk allowed.
A really good breaking ball
The Diamondbacks hit right-handed pitching all right, ranking eighth in the majors in batting average (.260) and 13th in the majors in OPS (.724) against righties.
But collectively, they have a weakness. They don't get hits when a righty throws a curveball or slider.
Diamondbacks batters have a .195 batting average when an at-bat versus a righty ends in a breaking pitch. That's the second-lowest in baseball, ahead of only the Seattle Mariners (.186).
Harvey had a good curveball in the first two innings of his last start, throwing his first six for strikes, and his slider was sharp, netting seven of the game's first 14 outs.
But Harvey's curve lost a little effectiveness as the game went on, and with two outs in the fifth inning Harvey threw a hook that Ian Desmond hooked for a homer. Harvey would give up two more hits with his breaking ball before being pulled.
Careful with Goldschmidt
The Diamondbacks' best hitter this season has been Paul Goldschmidt, who is hitting .302 with 20 homers.
Goldschmidt thrives where Harvey is most successful -- at the top of the strike zone. He has the NL's highest batting average (.367) and most home runs (9) against pitches ending in the upper third of the strike zone or higher.
Goldschmidt's weakness is the bottom of the strike zone and below, but he's a smart hitter. His swing rate against pitches thrown to the lower third of the zone or below is among the lowest in baseball.
One of the things that made Bailey's night easier was that he only needed 109 pitches -- an average of 12 per inning -- to throw his no-hitter. That's the same number of pitches Harvey threw in his last start ... in seven innings.
One of the consequences of being a high-strikeout power pitcher like Harvey is that it takes him more pitches to get through games. Averaging 12 per inning like Bailey did would be ideal. Harvey has done that twice in 17 starts this season, including when he pitched nine one-hit innings against the White Sox on May 7.
Knowing what happened after Johan Santana's 134-pitch no-hitter last June, it seems unlikely the Mets would take any chances if Harvey was to throw more than 120 pitches.
That might be the toughest challenge. He has either thrown 120 pitches or been on pace to throw that many in all but three starts this season.
John Fisher and Will Cohen also contributed to this post.