Monday, April 8, 2013
Harvey, Halladay a matchup for the ages
By Will Cohen, ESPN Stats & Information
USA TODAY SportsNew York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies are headed in opposite directions after the first week of the season, with the Mets riding high following their 4-2 start and the Phillies sliding after losing four of their first six games.
Matt Harvey and Roy Halladay both have something to prove tonight in the Mets-Phillies game.
A fast start out of the gate is nothing new for the Mets. Over the last three seasons, the Mets have won 53 percent of their games before the All-Star break and just 40 percent after the break.
The Phillies slow start is potentially troublesome as they are coming off their worst season in recent history. Last year’s 81-81 record was the first time the Phillies failed to finish above .500 since an 80-81 campaign in 2002.
For the Mets, there is hope tonight with their future ace, Matt Harvey, on the mound. The Phillies counter with their former ace, Roy Halladay, who is hoping to rebound from arguably his worst season in more than a decade.
Let’s take a look at each starter in the spotlight tonight.
The 24-year-old Harvey made his major-league debut on July 26th last season and he immediately became one of the best strikeout pitchers in the league. His strikeout rate of 30 percent is best among National League starters in that span.
He has used an overpowering fastball to dominate hitters, getting more than half of his strikeouts via the heater.
His average fastball velocity of 94.7 MPH and his 23 percent miss per swing rate with the pitch both rank fourth among starters since his debut last season (minimum 600 pitches).
Harvey’s fastball is not the only weapon in his pitching arsenal. Hitters have also had a hard time squaring up his slider.
Of the 29 sliders put in play against Harvey in his career, only five have been classified by Inside Edge as “well-hit” and only four have dropped in for hits. Overall, Harvey has held batters to a .091 batting average in at-bats ending with his slider.
Velocity watch is in full effect for the 35-year-old Halladay. He has seen the average speed of his fastball (sinkers/fastballs/cutters) drop in each of the past three seasons; however, he hasn’t lost his ability to miss bats as evidenced by nine strikeouts in his first start.
So what’s the big deal with velocity? It’s subtle, but as fastball velocity increases, so do swing and miss percentage and groundball rate.
Since 2011, hitters have batted .261 on at-bats ending with a 94 MPH fastball versus batting .300 against an 87 MPH fastball.
Another issue for Halladay in 2012 was the decline in his ability to get groundballs. Halladay's groundball rate last year was his lowest (45 percent) since the stat was first tracked in 2002.
He’ll try to get back on track tonight against a Mets team that he has dominated during his time with the Phillies. Halladay is 7-0 with a 1.78 ERA and 58 strikeouts in eight starts vs New York since 2010.