Mets Ace Won't Sniff 20 Wins, But Should Be In The Discussion

By Ernie Palladino
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Funny thing about Matt Harvey. You never have to worry about over-saturation with him.

Talk about him for a week as All-Star Game starter? Fascinating.

Yak endlessly about his three brushes with no-hitters, which is kind of like discussing the discovery of three five-carat diamonds in a pile of one-carat jobs? No problem.

His future goals involving women and wealth? Sure, why not. We just did that the other day in this space.

Here’s another subject, since there always seems to be something to talk about with this 24-year-old, right-handed mound genius. Assuming he continues his first-half dominance, might we all be watching the Mets’ second Cy Young Award winner in two years?

R.A. Dickey proved last year that one needn’t pitch his team to the postseason to land the award. Harvey fits that profile, too. Due to a horrendous first half that pretty much doomed the whole season, it would take a heck of a lot more than Harvey pitching and winning every five days for the 43-51 Mets to make up the 10-game gap between themselves and a wild card spot.

Like Dickey last year, however, Harvey has dominance on his side, only moreso. Dickey, who has had his struggles in an 8-11, 4.75 season with Toronto, threw one unhittable pitch and did quite well with it. Harvey throws four pitches for strikes, including a slider that sailed in at 93 MPH in Sunday’s seven-inning shutout performance against the Phillies.

This is where the 8-2 Harvey at least deserves consideration. As he wins, he continues to improve his mound virtuosity. He’s not just throwing gas. He’s learning how to actually pitch, and quickly.

Sunday’s 5-0 win showed all the facets that make Harvey arguably the most dominant pitcher in the game today. He didn’t walk a batter, and has issued just 28 bases on balls through 137 innings this year. He allowed three hits, and the most solid shot off came in the seventh when Juan Lagares ran down John Mayberry’s hard liner to the left center field gap.

The ERA sits at 2.23, the WHIP was down to a miniscule 0.89.

If anyone thought the kid would plummet back down to earth after baseball’s unofficial midseason break, they were stone-dead wrong. Harvey has picked up where he left off in the first half.

Assuming continued health and performance level, one would think Harvey should be in the Cy Young discussion, at least. But a couple of things could get in his way.

Despite consistent dominance, his win numbers are simply not going to be there by season’s end. He has about 13 starts left, which means if he won them all, he’d finish with 21 wins. That’s unlikely, especially the way the Mets’ bullpen has acted for much of the year.

Those 10 no-decisions in the first half, few of which were deserved, will likely keep him well under the 20-win mark. Dickey was 20-6, 2.73 last year. Twenty wins isn’t a pre-requisite — Seattle’s Felix Hernandez won it in 2010 with a 13-12, 2.27 mark with 232 strikeouts — but it always helps a candidate.

If Terry Collins shuts him down in September, that could also hurt him. Collins is ever mindful of Harvey’s workload. If Harvey continues to go as deep into games as he has, he’ll hit 200 innings around the 10th start, thus depriving him of three potential appearances. When Hernandez won with 13 victories, he pitched 249 innings. Tim Lincecum worked 227 and 225 innings when he won it consecutively with 18 and 15 wins in 2008 and ‘09.

Whether Collins would be willing to let Harvey throw 220 innings this year is debatable.

An early shutdown wouldn’t disqualify him from Cy Young consideration, but it won’t help, either.

But if Harvey continues to shine like he has, the stronger his candidacy becomes. And if the voters have any doubts about whether the he deserves a place in the discussion, they can simply refer to the Cardinals’ All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran when he told the skipper of his former team that Harvey was the best he’s ever faced.

Other All-Stars told Collins his budding prodigy is so good, it’s almost unfair.

If that doesn’t sound like the stuff of a Cy Young winner, what does?

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