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Matt Harvey's WAR puts him on pace to join some elite company

Matt Harvey of the Mets reacts to the

Matt Harvey of the Mets reacts to the final out of the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. (April 19, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

How good is Matt Harvey? Let's go to WAR to find out.

WAR is an advanced metric that calculates a player's offensive and defensive contributions over what a replacement-level player would add. The Mets righthander, who is 4-0 with a 1.28 ERA and 58 strikeouts and has two brushes with no-hitters, already owns a 1.9 WAR (using FanGraphs calculation methods) this season, or 0.27 per start. If he continues on that pace, a typical 32-start season would yield a mark of 8.64.

Since 1900, there have been only 59 single-season performances (32 pitchers) producing an 8.6 WAR or greater.

Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens achieved the statistical milestone five times each, Walter Johnson four times and Steve Carlton, Pedro Martinez, Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson three times each. Carlton posted the highest-ever single-season WAR for a pitcher, 12.1, in 1972 when he went 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA for the Phillies.

The Mets have two pitchers on the list: Dwight Gooden and, perhaps not coincidentally, Tom Seaver, the pitcher with whom Harvey is most often compared.

Seaver's WAR was 9.8 during the 1971 season, when he was 20-10 with an MLB-best 1.76 ERA and National League-best 289 strikeouts. In the process, Seaver set the bar for every pitcher who would grace the mound in Flushing after him.

Consider this: In his first 17 games, Seaver posted inferior numbers to Harvey. Seaver was 8-5 with a 2.65 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 2.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 5.30 strikeouts per nine innings. Harvey is 7-5 with a 2.07 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 3.36 K/BB ratio and 10.6 K/9.

Harvey also outdueled Gooden, who was 8-5 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 3.16 K/BB ratio and 10.7 K/9 through his first 17 starts.

Gooden believes Harvey has what it takes to stretch his superb stats across a full season.

“He’s very competitive,’’ Gooden said of Harvey on Thursday. “As much as he dominates, he wants to duplicate that and surpass it. And once you have that drive, you already have the expectations. His work ethic will continue to carry him."

Today's game against the Pirates marks Harvey's eighth start this season and he already has 50 innings under his belt. Barring missed starts, he's on pace to throw more than 224 innings. Since 2000, only four pitchers have thrown more than 220 innings during their first or second season in the majors: Mark Buehrle, Mark Mulder, Roy Oswalt and Tim Lincecum.

Is Harvey the next Seaver? Who knows? A look at some fascinating stats:

- Harvey is the first pitcher in the last 100 years with at least 125 strikeouts and 25 or fewer earned runs through his first 17 starts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

- On Tuesday he became the first player since 1900 to pitch nine innings with 12 or more strikeouts, no walks and just one hit allowed — while getting a no-decision, per Elias.

- He is fourth in the majors and first in the NL in swinging strike percentage at 13.1 percent.

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