The Next Tom Seaver or the First Matt Harvey?

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

After a dominant start to his major league career, the inevitable comparison between Matt Harvey and Mets legend Tom Seaver has been drawn by many. How does Harvey really stack up to "Tom Terrific"?

This weekend I viewed The Dark Knight (2008) for what must have been at least the fiftieth time and came across a scene which I found especially relevant to what I had been thinking about at the time. In the scene, Bruce Wayne is trying to understand the Joker's motivations for terrorizing Gotham City. To help Bruce understand, his loyal butler, Alfred, provides a parable about a jewel thief that stole rubies and just threw them away. This part of my digression is unimportant, but what is relevant is the end of the scene, when Bruce asks Alfred why the thief bothered to steal the rubies at all, to which Alfred replied:

Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Perhaps because I had just finished watching Matt Harvey dominate the Twins, toying with the idea of a no-hitter, prior to viewing the movie or because my baseball-obsessed mind never switches off, I immediately drew a parallel between the Joker and another Gotham man of mayhem, Matt Harvey.

There are a select few pitchers who's starts have become appointment viewing for me. After witnessing him fan eleven Diamondbacks over 5⅓ innings in his MLB debut last July, Matt Harvey joined my list of must-watch pitchers. There are certain players who you can see once and know they will be great. I felt that way about Matt Harvey. Every time Harvey takes the mound his modus operandi is burning people and destroying lives. You can see the fear in the batter's eyes when his slider is on it's way to the plate. Just look at what he did to Jedd Gyorko of the Padres earlier this season.

Baseball fans, as well as most fans of other sports, have always had an innate desire to compare up and coming players to the greats of the past. The familiarity is comforting, I suppose, so it was only a matter of time before Matt Harvey began drawing comparisons to the greatest Mets pitcher of them all, the legendary Tom Seaver. Even Philadelphia Phillies' manager Charlie Manuel has drawn the comparison between Harvey and Seaver:

"He’s got a little bit of style like Seaver," Manuel said, meaning Tom Seaver. "He’s a drop and drive guy. He gets a lot of torque from his backside pitching off the rubber."

Making such comparisons strikes me as a bit reckless at this point, but you can hardly blame Mets fans, who have long been starved for the type of hope that can be brought to a fan-base by a promising young ace. The expectations associated with a comparison to a pitcher of Tom Seaver's legendary stature can only bring disappointment. Matt Harvey has been great in his first thirteen starts, but fans also should recognize that thirteen starts is a very small sample size.

However, since the two are already being compared anyway, I was interested to see how the two stacked up against each other through the first thirteen starts of their careers. Let's take a look. (Note: Tom Seaver's stats attained using box scores from Baseball-Reference)

Pitcher GS IP CG H ER WHIP K% BB%
Matt Harvey 13 81⅓ 0 48 20 0.98 29.7 10.0
Tom Seaver 13 95⅔ 7 86 27 1.18 14.7 6.7

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at the table above. The first is that, obviously, Seaver and Harvey played in vastly different eras. The mound in Tom Seaver's rookie season (1967) was still fifteen inches high, for example. The second is that the way managers used relief pitching was much different, which accounts for Seaver's seven complete games.

Drawing a comparison across eras is difficult, but the numbers seem to show that Matt Harvey has been much more dominant through the first thirteen starts of his career. It's impossible to know if he will reach the level of greatness attained by Tom Seaver, but that really isn't what we should be worrying about. The focus should be on appreciating Matt Harvey for who he is, a man who just wants to watch the opposing batter's world burn.

All stats courtesy of our friends at FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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