Saturday, June 29, 2013

Can Matt Harvey's 2013 Season Be A Repeat of Felix Hernandez's 2010?

After last night's start Matt Harvey of the New York Mets sits with a 7-1 record with a league leading 2.00 ERA, 132 strikeouts and 0.85 WHIP in 17 games started. He has nine no-decisions so far this season and the lack of more wins due to his team's lack of run support and bullpen's inability to hold leads are causing the Mets' faithful to get more and more frustrated (or disappointed for Harvey as Sean stated yesterday). I can't help but wonder if Harvey continues as he is as a victim of his team, can he win the National League Cy Young in the same kind of fashion that Seattle Mariners starter Felix Hernandez won the American League Cy Young with a 13-12 record in 2010.

The winning of the American League Cy Young by Hernandez was historical in the sense that never had a starter won the award with so little wins (in a non shortened season) and leading (or being close to the top) of most of the major statistical categories. Also historical was the emphasis by the voters to overlook the wins and loss record of Hernandez and realize that he was a league leader that had no support from his offense throughout the year and that he shouldn't be penalized for that. Here are Hernandez's statistics from the 2010 season:

Player
WLERAGGSCGSHOSV
IPHREROBABBKWHIP
Felix Hernandez
13122.273434610
249.21948053.221 70 232 1.057 
Here are Harvey's statistics up to today's date:

Player
WLERAGGSCGSHOSV
IPHREROBABBKWHIP
Matt Harvey
712.001717000
117762626.184 24 132 0.85 
Here is the breakdown of Hernandez's starts in 2010 by season halves:
1st Half: 19 starts, 7-5, 2.88 ERA, 137.2 IP, 131 K, 42 BB, 44 R, 42 ER 
2nd Half: 15 starts, 6-7, 1.53 ERA, 112 IP, 101 K, 28 BB, 31 R, 19 ER
Harvey's first half performance is better than Hernandez's by a significant amount (with probably two starts to go) with the exception of innings pitched. Hernandez just tore it up in the second half.

Here is a little more statistical analysis by Bob Roarman from November 19, 2010 on the White Sox Interactive forum page:
Last season Hernandez had 30 quality starts. There was only one of those quality starts that could be considered "cheap" in where he just barely met the requirements. Pretty damn good, led the MLB, and I hope by god that we can all at least agree that quality starts is a legit stat, something that can help measure a pitcher's performance. Help to measure, understand I'm not going on that one stat alone, I'm just using it as a jumping off point.

Assuming we can agree on that, let's delve deeper into those starts and start to expand analysis and not just spout off those darned tricky advanced stats like WAR and ERA+ and confuse everyone. So out of those 30 quality starts, Felix had 13 wins. His stat line in those 13 wins:

106+ IP, 0.84 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 117 K, 19 BB, 10 ER.

About as good as you can possibly be. But there were still 17 games he either got the loss or a no decision. Of those 17 quality starts where he didn't get a win this is his stat line:

0 wins, 8 losses, 9 no decisions. 123 IP, 2.20 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 30 ER, 97 Ks, 103 H, 30 BB.

Wow, still great numbers. So how the hell did he not get a single win out of any those games? Going further into those 17 games while he was still the pitcher of record, this is what the Seattle offensive juggernaut supported him with:

24 runs (not even a run and a half a game) a .208 collective batting average, .268 OBP, .295 SLG and hit .149 (15-101) w/RISP.

That is what you call stunningly and shamefully ****ing awful. One of, if not the, worst offenses of the past decade. 7 of those games they scored jack **** while he was in the game. They scored a whopping one run 4 times and 2 runs twice. But let's go even deeper, just for fun, and see how the bullpen did in those same games.

Of those same 17 games, Felix completed two of them (both losses of course) and the bullpen pitched in the remaining 15 games. In 3 of those games, they actually did their job and let up nothing. In 12 of the 15 games this is how they fared:

31 IP, 45 H, 23 BB, 32 ER (!!), 9.29 ERA, 2.194 WHIP

That's Boone Logan bad. "No chance" bad.

Hernandez's overall numbers in his 30 quality starts are:
229.2 IP, 167 H, 40 ER, 56 BB, 214 SO, 11 HR, 1.57 ERA, 0.97 WHIP

Great numbers. Couldn't ask for those kind of numbers. But that's what he put up. And he has 13 wins to show for it. The funny thing is that if he's just a bit worse than a world beater in those games, he probably has even less wins. Maybe he's not even over .500, who knows. The point is looking at the number of wins he has does not even come within a mile of how well he pitched this season or how any other pitcher performed. You're putting way too much emphasis on something that doesn't account for near enough of how well or poorly a player pitched during the season.

Like I said, you don't have to be a stat geek or a "propeller head" to understand why Hernandez won the Cy Young. He just had an absolutely historically bad offense which gave him less than minimal support in the vast majority of games he pitched and the bullpen definitely was not doing him any favors either. You can't rack up 19-20 wins if your team struggles to score a little over 1 run a game in over half the games you pitch in. Period. You can pitch lights out (and he did in those games) and most of the time it won't matter and it was no different for Felix. He was fortunate to finish with 13 wins. That's insane to have to say that, but it's true.
Its hard not to make a comparison with Harvey (at this point in time) and with Hernandez's 2010 season. It just seems that Harvey needs to throw complete game shutouts just to preserve any lead that he might have. It seems that Mets manager Terry Collins is against the idea of leaving his pitcher out there to burn himself out throwing complete games. As has happened all season, Harvey will continue to be at the mercy of his teammates if he pitches solid games and leaves with leads.

I believe if Matt Harvey can keep up with the way he's pitching (barring an undefeated season by Arizona's Patrick Corbin or an injury to Harvey) he would be a favorite to win the NL Cy Young. The precedent has already been set in 2010. We'll have to wait and see if History can repeat itself in 2013.

For Further Reading
- Click Here for Matt Harvey's season statistics from MLB.com
- Click Here for Felix Hernandez's statistics from the 2010 season from Baseball Reference.com
- Click Here for Felix Hernandez's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com