Youth and power will be on display in Queens this afternoon, as Miami's Jose Fernandez (9.1 K/9, 115 ERA+) squares off against the Mets' Matt Harvey (9.7 K/9, 171 ERA+). The 20-year-old Fernandez and Harvey, 24, are best known for their scorching fastballs, and for good reason. Both rank in the top five in fastball velocity, with Fernandez averaging 94.6 MPH with his heater and Harvey sitting at 94.9 MPH.
But these burgeoning aces bring more to the table than mere gas -- each has a wicked breaking pitch that's getting lots of awkward swings from batters.
For Fernandez, that complementary pitch is a curveball, thrown 29% of the time, that ranges anywhere from 76 MPH to 85 MPH. While many pitchers use their breaking stuff to coax hitters into chasing off the plate, Fernandez floods the strike zone with his curve. He has thrown 59% of his curveballs over the plate, the highest rate among starters who have thrown the pitch at least 200 times this season.
Opponents haven't been able to touch Fernandez's breaker -- they're slugging .275 against the curveball, about 75 points below the MLB average. The only starters to induce weaker contact with the curve are Chris Tillman (.154), A.J. Burnett (.188), Adam Wainwright (.202), Gio Gonzalez (.209), Stephen Strasburg (.209), Shelby Miller (.211) and James Shields (.242).
Fernandez's curveball location
The Dark Knight of Gotham, meanwhile, uses his power slider (averaging an MLB-best 89 MPH) to mow down right-handers. Harvey's slider, thrown 21% of the time, is more of a chase pitch than Fernandez's curve. He has placed his slider over the plate 41%, far below the 48% MLB average. However, Harvey is getting more swings on sliders thrown out of the zone (33%) than the MLB average (31%), and he's generating ground balls at a top-notch clip (58% of balls put in play, compared to the 47% average). Those chases and worm-burners have helped Harvey limit batters to a .242 slugging percentage against his slider, which ranks in the top ten lowest among NL starters and is over 100 points below the big league average (.349).
Another reason why Harvey's slider is so tough to hit is that he rarely catches the meat of the plate with the pitch. Just 13% of his sliders have been thrown to the horizontal middle of the strike zone, lowest among starters who have tossed the pitch at least 150 times.
Harvey's slider location