Harvey ScherzerWe are now three quarters into the season and the playoff picture has become slightly clearer.   The first place Detroit Tigers visit Citi Field today in the midst of a stretch that has seen them go 23-10 since the All-Star break.  Within that same string of games, starter Max Scherzer has gone 5-0 in six starts while upping his season pitching record to 18-1, far and away the best record in the majors.  Scherzer is easily the leading candidate to win the Cy Young Award in the American League, a league the Tigers seem to be the favorite to represent in the World Series.  On Saturday, he is opposed by Matt Harvey in a national TV game on FOX.  Oddly enough, this will be the second time they face each other this year at Citi Field; the first, of course, being the All Star game held there on July 16th.  Harvey is also a Cy Young candidate in the National League, but unfortunately for Mets fans not the favorite.  Clayton Kershaw, a former Cy Young winner, right now is the front runner for a second award.  Does that necessarily mean Scherzer has pitched better than Harvey this year?

Statistics have become a wonderful tool for fans to use as they engage in debates or casual conversation regarding America’s pastime.  Over the past few years, the use of saber metrics has expanded the parameters of a discussion almost to the point where analysis takes on a scientific approach.  Since I do not agree with their new found place in the forefront of statistical analysis, I will not delve into or expand on them. However, I will point out that both Scherzer and Harvey have an identical WAR of 5.4, which ranks them fifth in MLB.  As far as traditional statistics are concerned, one could argue Harvey has been the better of the two pitchers this season.  Here are both of their lines as it stands today:

  G W L CG SHO IP H ER HR BB SO ERA WHIP BB/9 SO/9
Scherzer 25 18 1 0 0 172.1 117 54 14 38 185 2.82 .899 2.0 9.7
Harvey 25 9 4 1 1 171.2 122 43 7 31 187 2.25 .891 1.6 9.8

 

It’s uncanny how similar the statistics are when you lay them out, and because the innings pitched are only two thirds apart, it becomes a cleaner comparison.  The only column Scherzer exceeds Harvey is the win column. The gap is a discernible, but much out of Harvey’s control.  Scherzer has had an average of 6.0 runs per game compared to only 3.5 of Harvey.  This is hardly a surprise to Mets fans who have routinely been witnessing greatness every fifth day without the payoff of a win, mostly with the offense to blame.  Evidence to that shocking revelation is the Mets 13-12 record in games Harvey starts.  It’s also essential to point out that the two pitchers both have 19 quality starts, a stat that necessitates that pitchers pitch at least six innings while giving up three runs or less.  However, if you delve deeper within those starts,  for instance in starts of at least seven innings while giving up one run or less, Harvey bests Scherzer 12-to-5.

Any way you look at it, the statistical comparison clearly reflects two elite pitchers performing at an optimal level.  Scherzer has built on his breakout season in 2012 with an even stellar one this year. Now at age 29, this perhaps could be the best season he ever has.  On the other hand, Harvey’s equal or better season, statistically anyway, seems to be merely just a precursor to a decade of dominance.  Hyperbole maybe, but who would argue?

One thing this weekend’s matchup should shed light on is the declining significance of the Win statistic.  The pitch and inning counts have become more prominent in today’s game.  Starter pitchers are being coddled and molded into six or seven inning beings.  Health and longevity are the keys in this decision making of course, but it has made the prospect of winning 300 games a thing of the past. I would think Harvey would be an exception to these trends.   In his first full season, Harvey has displayed the “workhorse” trait which teams look for in an ace pitcher.   He has stated his main goal was to pitch 200 innings this year, and is on pace to surpass that mark even with the front office doing its best to curb that number.    So when Scherzer takes the mound on Saturday, and the broadcasters gush over his 18 wins, be sure to remember that Harvey has been just as good, or better.  The stats will back it up… if you look at the right ones.

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7 comments on “Max Scherzer’s season shows what Matt Harvey’s could have been

  • David Groveman

    Say what you will, being the runner up for Cy Young to Clayton Kershaw isn’t a bad second season.

  • peter

    But pitching in the American League is more difficult. Instead of facing a line up that usually has at least 2 automatic outs Scherzer will face 9 quality hitters. Comparing stats is fun but not always a fair barometer. Plug in what a DH can do as opposed to the stats of a pitcher who has to bat and you can clearly appreciate what Scherzer has accomplished this season.

    • Chris F

      He also has the most fearsome offense that is capable of unleashing fury at any out, any count, and any any inning. That balances some of the AL issue. Harvey pitches from a tough assignment every time. All things considered, I think its easier on Scherzer.

  • Steven Turaniczo

    Winning is still important.It’s not Harvey’s fault,he deserves better.

  • Name

    I’m sorry, but I still see a lot of win bias here. Scherzer is not “easily the leading candidate to win the Cy Young Award in the American League”. Darvish, King Felix, Kuroda, and Sale are in the discussion

    Felix: 2.62 ERA, 1.103 WHIP, 182 K’s, 178.2 IP
    Scherzer: 2.82 ERA, .899 WHIP, 185 K’s, 172.1 IP.

    It’s close, and I would choose Felix at this point. They’re also tied in fWAR while Felix edges out Scherzer on bWAR.

    As for comparing Harvey and Scherzer, it’s a tough thing to do since they are in different leagues, but they both have been one of the best pitchers in their league and no one can say anything about that.

    • Sean Flattery

      Exactly, you kind of piggybacked on the point I was tryin to make. I think the win bias, less relevant now, is what sets him apart from the others thus making Scherzer the favorite in the voters eyes. I’m not saying that he SHOULD win. I would say Darvish is his top contender at this point

  • Jim OMalley

    Regardlessof who wins the AL Cy Young, there is no way Harveywins the NL CY Young this year.

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