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Matt Harvey: Where does his first year rank in history?

Matt Harvey has been brilliant in 2013, but has he reached the point where his first full year has been historical?


The New York Mets and their fans haven't had a whole lot to get excited about in the last several years, but the 2013 season has brought a reason for fans, both in New York and on a national level, to tune in to Mets baseball. At least every fifth day.

Matt Harvey has had a downright brilliant season. There's no doubt about it. His numbers are among the best in the game. A simple breakdown would indicate that a Cy Young may be in his immediate future. Not only that, he's been extremely efficient as well.

To this point, Harvey's 2013 season includes 145 innings, a 2.11 ERA, a 2.58 xFIP, a touch over 10 strikeouts per nine innings, and less than two walks per nine. His swing-and-miss rate is the best in the National League, and is just 0.1 percent below Yu Darvish for tops in the league. All while throwing barely over 15 pitches an inning, which is below the league average, despite all those strikeouts.

But how does Harvey's 2013 season stack up against history? We know he's been fantastic this year. However, how does he, a pitcher who had barely over 59 innings of big league experience to his credit prior to the year, measure up to some of his predecessors?

Lucky for us, Ben Lindbergh over at Baseball Prospectus took a look at some comparable pitchers to Harvey at the one-year mark (calendar year, mind you) of their careers. The results might surprise you, and if you're a Mets fan, they might actually be a bit of a letdown. That's mainly when you consider his competition.

Lindbergh uses metrics like PWARP (Prospectus' version of WAR, for a pitcher) and FRA (Fair Run Average) in order to discern where Harvey ranks among pitchers in their first year. Using those figures, Harvey just breaks into the top ten among pitchers since 1950.

Harvey's innings pitched ranks eight on that list, a group which includes the likes of Dwight Gooden, Mark Prior, and Roy Oswalt, among others. His FRA+ also comes in at no. 8 on the list, just a single point behind Rick Reuschel and two behind Gary Nolan. However, while Harvey might be in the mix with some pretty notable names after his first calendar year in the bigs, Lindbergh also provides a sobering though: Harvey's quality of competition:

Consider also that Harvey plays in a pitcher's park, and that he's faced weak opponents-this season alone, he's faced the Marlins three times, the Nationals three times, the White Sox once, etc. Of the 95 starters with at least 100 innings pitched this season, Harvey's opponent OPS-the average OPS of all of the hitters who've faced him, a proxy for opponent quality-ranks dead last, at .725.

At the same time, though, he also points out some names that Harvey comes in ahead of after one year with the Mets:

All in all, it's sort of a sobering list, one that features plenty of great pitchers but no Hall of Famers, and a few guys who flamed out fairly quickly. The first Hall of Famer, Roger Clemens, shows up at no. 14 (3.93 in 184 innings); Bert Blyleven comes in at no. 18 (3.73, in 266.7 innings), and Don Sutton checks in at no. 21 (3.69, 225.7).

If there's anything we've learned from this list, Harvey is in some elite company. He's in league with some of the best the game has ever seen, and he's even in front of several Hall of Famers, in terms of his first year performance. However, Lindbergh's overall message is the fact that as impressive as Harvey's first year has been, it's important to note the advantages he has had, and to keep those in mind going forward.

Still, one has to imagine that this is success that Matt Harvey can sustain moving forward. His efficiency could help to prevent that early flameout we've seen in some prospects, and his arsenal of pitches is absolutely devastating for opposing hitters. There are no guarantees in this game, but the hope in New York is that Harvey heads down the path with some of the top tier names on that list, and not the road traveled by the likes of Dontrelle Willis or Rick Ankiel.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.

Randy Holt is a writer at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @RandallPnkFloyd.

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