Matt Harvey or Miguel Batista?

Before we get into Matt Harvey vs. Miguel Batista, let’s briefly review the work of recent Mets making the jump from Triple-A to the Major Leagues midseason. The list is incomplete and short. But whatever, here’s some guys who did what Matt Harvey may soon do:

Chris Schwinden –
Triple-A: 26 starts, 3.95 ERA, 3.80 FIP
Majors: four starts, 4.71 ERA, 3.03 FIP

Schwinden pitched decently in his four-game showcase last September, and did not during his 8.2 innings with the Major League version Mets this season. Those three 2012 games aside, Schwinden has been an effective pitcher for the past two seasons. So if the Mets are unsold on Batista and don’t want to rush Harvey, Schwinden might be the unsatisfying, disappointing middle ground.

Jeremy Hefner –
Triple-A: eight starts, 2.96 ERA, 3.44 FIP
Majors: three starts, 6.89 ERA, 3.64 FIP

Hefner walked only two batters in his 30.1 innings pitched, but he also struck out only 17 and allowed 38 hits. So he may have pitched too much in the zone. Or whatever. I don’t know. You come up with something!

Dillon Gee –
Triple-A: 28 starts, 4.96 ERA, 4.01 FIP
Majors: five starts, 2.18 ERA, 4.20 FIP

Gee’s the strange case here, because his Major League ERA improved over his Minor League numbers in his first few starts. Out of the (small sample of) five pitchers here, Gee was the only one to post a better ERA in the Majors than the Minors. And Gee and Schwinden are the only two to be not-terrible their first few Major League starts.

Jon Niese –
Triple-A: seven starts, 3.40 ERA, 4.11 FIP
Majors: three starts, 7.07 ERA, 5.13 FIP

Remember Jon Niese’s first three starts? He was bad. Niese is a good pitcher now and was a decent prospect at the time, but the Major Leagues are scary and hard the first time through, even for ready-ish prospects who do eventually figure it out.

Mike Pelfrey — (2007 stats)
Triple-A: 14 starts, 4.01 ERA, 4.04 FIP
Majors: 13 starts, 5.57 ERA, 5.06 FIP

Yeah, same thing. Pelfrey actually debuted in 2006, but he’s got more Triple-A and Major League stats from 2007, so we’ll look at those.

So now getting into the actual point of the post, here are Batista’s and Harvey’s numbers this season:

Miguel Batista — (as a starter)
Majors: four starts, 4.00 ERA, 5.28 FIP

Matt Harvey
Triple-A: 19 starts, 3.34 ERA, 3.50 FIP

So the Mets’ decision here rides on two questions:

1. Will Matt Harvey pitch better than Miguel Batista over 10 or so starts for the remainder of this season?
2. Will Matt Harvey’s long-term development be positively or negatively affected by a promotion now?

I see the answers as:

1. I’m not sure Harvey will be better than Batista over 10 starts. If you look at other Mets pitching callups from recent seasons, most of these young pitchers struggled in their first few Major League starts; some struggled to ERAs in the 5.00-7.00 range. The following statement is obvious but stands to repetition: The Major Leagues are much harder than Triple-A. The adjustment is probably a little scary and intimidating for even the toughest young pitchers, and good Triple-A pitchers can and often do get rocked in the Majors. There’s no guarantee that Harvey will come up and pitch anything but terribly in his first three or four starts, or in his first ten starts for that matter. Harvey is pitching well in Triple-A, but he’s not dominating. And even young pitchers who dominate the Minors can struggle (see the Rays’ Matt Moore this season).

On the other hand: Miguel Batista, who is probably good for a 4.50-5.00 ERA for the remainder of the season, isn’t an inspiring alternative. I think Harvey will be better than Batista for 15-20 starts, but the two’s performances will be closer over the 10 or so remaining starts the Mets need to fill. But Harvey is not a clear upgrade for 10 starts in 2012; I’m not sure theĀ argumentĀ for Harvey holds up from that angle, at least not yet. Which leads into our second answer, regarding Harvey’s development:

2. So the (realistic) best-case scenario is that Harvey is ready and pitches to a 3.50-4.00 ERA with the Mets for 10 starts. The worst-case is that Harvey struggles and descends into an existential crisis, leaves pitching to join a ninja monastery, and emerges years later as a crime-fighting vigilante. Which really isn’t that bad, all things considered. But a more realistic worst-case is that Harvey is rushed, struggles, and figures out a way to merely get by instead of truly succeed, i.e., throw nothing but fastballs low in the zone. That’s the risk that comes with any promotion: The player could improve, or implode or figure out how to just get by.

Do the benefits of Harvey-over-Batista outweigh the risk of screwing up a pitching prospect? It’s close. I’m not sure the benefits do outweigh the risks yet. Harvey’s performance would need to be a clear, clear upgrade over Batista’s performance to justify maybe-rushing him. And it’s not yet. Young pitchers struggle transitioning to the Majors, and I’d bet Harvey does the same.

But two weeks from now, things may look much clearer. Especially if Harvey throws up a few gems and Miguel Batista throws up some lumps of coal. But should the Mets hold off on Harvey until August, I think they’re making a smart, if boring, call.

8 Comments

Filed under Columns, Mets, Words

8 responses to “Matt Harvey or Miguel Batista?

  1. Sadly its looking less like the Mets are going to contend this year (although they keep surprising me after every bad losing streak). Either way it might be a good time to get him exposure so he can go through some of the growing pains this year. The Mets will have a little better idea of what they have going into 2013. If we are lucky he pitches as well or better than Batista would and its a win win.

  2. I want to see Harvey, but it maddens me how many Mets fans out there seem to think they absolutely *know* that Harvey is ready and *will be* better than Batista. Calling the decision (which still isn’t official) stupid, and “giving up on the season” or some variation thereof.

    I mean, I don’t want to watch Batista start another game, but I’m pretty sure I’d be even more upset to watch Harvey get absolutely shelled when he doesn’t need to be. So clearly it’s a grey area, and it baffles me how so many think that it’s just absolutely black and white certain that Harvey will be better than Batista.

    At this point, Harvey hasn’t forced his way up out of AAA, so if Sandy et al think he needs more time, yeah I’m disappointed, but I can certainly understand and accept that decision.

    /rationality

    BOOOO! I WANT HARVEY!

    /Berg

    • pat

      Agree completely Kyle. They are the same people that were in favor of signing Jason Bay, thought Luis Castillo was a good signing “because who else were we going to get to play 2B?” LOVED the idea of putting Mo next to Robbie and in front of Jeremy. Thought bringing back Bobby Bo and Roger Cedeno was a stroke of brilliance………until they didn’t.

      They are the people who never consider the possible and even likely downside of the big bold move.

  3. I was saying Boo-erg…

    I think that it’s probably good for Harvey to get a post-deadline call-up and get some starts, to see what he’s up against in the bigs, and the Mets’ staff can work with him on adjustments. But the bigger problem right now isn’t what happens from innings 1-7, it’s what has been happening relentlessly in inning 8 and beyond.

  4. The third start the Mets need a 5th starter will be in San Fran, followed by one in San Diego. That gives Batista two starts to stink it up or wear out, so that Harvey can face two of the weaker hitting teams on the west coast. Seems like a good plan…

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