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Matt Harvey in superior class despite his record
Stats are a better indicator of talent than the "eye test," but they have their flaws. Especially when it comes to pitching numbers.
Case in point: Matt Harvey has consistently pitched brilliantly, yet he takes a 7-2 record into the All-Star break. The seven wins ties him for 31st in MLB among qualified pitchers.
Wins have long been used to measure a starter, dating to when pitchers more often than not threw complete games. Twenty wins has been established as the hallmark of an excellent season. Earn 300 and you've generally punched a ticket to Cooperstown.
But consider that Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo has seven wins this season, same as Harvey -- and a 4.85 ERA. Baltimore's Jason Hammel also has seven -- and a 5.03 ERA.
Those who place importance upon a pitcher's record would lump Gallardo and Hammel with Harvey (2.35 ERA), even though they have no business being in the same airspace, never mind conversation.
Harvey has completed at least seven innings in 13 of his 19 starts and never pitched fewer than the five innings needed to qualify for a win. He's allowed three hits or fewer in seven starts and one hit twice. He's permitted no more than one run during 11 starts and has allowed more than three runs just three times. He has qualified for a quality start 15 times, meaning he went at least six innings and gave up no more than three runs. He is viewed as one of the best pitchers in baseball.
It's not just pitchers who have flawed stats that are regularly used to assess their value.
Entering play Thursday, White Sox slugger Adam Dunn and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman both had 300 at-bats. Dunn had 60 RBIs in that span and Freeman 56.
But to think Dunn has been the more productive run producer or even that they've been similarly skilled at scoring runners would be a mistake.
Freeman has come to the plate with 220 runners on base and scored 50 of them, a 23-percent success rate that's tied for fourth in baseball with Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis among players with at least 200 plate appearances. Dunn, meanwhile, has come up with 215 men on base and driven in 36, a 17-percent rate. That ties Dunn with a host of others for 48th in MLB among players with at least 200 PAs. (If you think there's a discrepancy there, it's because, on the occasions home runs are hit, the runner at the plate is not counted as a baserunner scored).
Certainly there has been some progress in turning away from outdated metrics.
For instance, when Mariners ace Felix Hernandez won the 2010 American League Cy Young Award with a 13-12 record (and 2.27 ERA and 232 strikeouts), he became the first pitcher to ever claim the prize with less than 16 wins on his ledger.
And it's not just the reporters who vote on the Cy Young Award. Players and broadcasters have gotten in on the fun, too.
Diamondbacks hurler Brandon McCarthy turned his career around by embracing statistics and realizing a higher ground ball rate was the key to sustained success. Former Cy Young Award winner David Cone, who has five World Series rings and a perfect game on his resume, frequently cites online analytics haven fangraphs.com in his job as a Yankees commentator for YES.
But the more mainstream broadcasts still tend to shy away from advanced stats, and you're likely to hear a whole lot about pitcher wins and RBIs during the All-Star week coverage.
And if Harvey does indeed start the All-Star Game, remember: it has nothing to do with his record.