Is it time to panic about sports?

I missed most of the Braves’ thrashing of the Mets this weekend. I caught the series finale yesterday on radio — Braves radio, no less — but only saw the box scores for Friday and Saturday’s game. Let me guess: some bullpen meltdowns, some poor defense, the Mets losing games the way the Mets lose games.

The difference this time, of course, is that David Wright mustered only two hits in the series and both R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana turned in underwhelming starts. Those three stars carried the Mets to a successful first half, so when they disappoint — however briefly — to kick off the second half, the flaws they’ve helped cover become more striking.

Plus, with Dillon Gee out until at least September, the healthy rotation that worked to keep the ball out of the hands of the woeful bullpen suddenly looks, well, it looks like it might have Miguel Batista in it. Gee is second on the team in innings pitched, so the Mets need people to occupy those innings — ideally as capably as Gee did.

Where have you gone, Mike Pelfrey?

At this point in this post, I intended to point out that Matt Harvey is pitching tonight, putting him on turn to pitch Saturday when the Mets next need a fifth starter. And so I was planning to note that it does not benefit the Mets in any way to commit to putting Harvey in the rotation until they accidentally do, and that if Harvey pitches well tonight he could well be pitching at Citi Field on Saturday.

It turns out that’s pretty much exactly the case, and I missed Terry Collins saying as much on Saturday. If Harvey puts up a clunker or the Mets see something they’re sure won’t translate to the Majors, they can start Batista on Saturday without rolling back on their word. If Harvey pitches anything like as well as he has since the middle of June, he should make his next start for the Major League Mets.

Harvey has thrown 158 innings in the high Minors over the last two years, about 20 more than the minimum the Mets want before Major League promotions. Toby covered this last week, but to reiterate: Calling up Harvey is not optimal for his development, but it’s hardly crippling. He’s 23, he’s been their best Triple-A starter this year, and his last five starts have been excellent.

Harvey’s acceleration through the Mets’ system has earned comparisons to Pelfrey’s, but beyond the surface-level they don’t really bear out. Pelfrey dominated High-A and Double-A in his first professional season, 2006, then got called to the Majors and into the thick of a pennant chase after only two starts in Triple-A. He returned to Triple-A to start the 2007 season, but Harvey already has 58 more Minor League innings under his belt than Pelfrey ever did.

Also, Pelfrey whiffed the world in Single-A and Double-A but never really did at the Minors’ highest level, where — by reputation at least — professional hitters can turn on a mid-90s fastball and lay off breaking pitches out of the zone. Check this out: in 82 innings in Triple-A across 2006 and 2007, Pelfrey struck out 62 batters. Harvey has struck out 102 batters in 98 1/3 innings at Buffalo this season. That seems to me like a pretty important distinction between the two.

More importantly, Harvey is his own unique snowflake, as is Mike Pelfrey, as we all are. Supposedly he still needs some work on his secondary pitches. I buy that. But the Mets do have coaches and side sessions and video scouts and everything. Presumably it’s easier to sharpen your changeup against lesser hitters and away from the Major League spotlight, but the Mets have a shot at a Wild Card and a hole in their rotation and Harvey looks like the best person to fill it. No reason he can’t keep working on his arsenal in Flushing.

Also, for what it’s worth, I think scouts are very important and that baseball teams should put a lot of stock in the things scouts say. But I suspect that among many fans, the pendulum of trust in Minor League evaluations has swung a bit too far back toward traditional scouting. Results matter too. And putting too much faith in the opinions and biases of any one scout or even a small handful of scouts seems sort of silly, what with the human element.

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