MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Harvey vs. CC matchup a symbolic one for Mets, Yanks

Righty personifies young, dynamic club; lefty a reflection of veteran-laden group

Harvey vs. CC matchup a symbolic one for Mets, Yanks

If you're inclined to see one game as something larger, something symbolic of where two franchises find themselves at the beginning of a new season, you're going to love what the Mets and Yankees are giving us Saturday afternoon in the Bronx.

Matt Harvey vs. CC Sabathia.

Cy Future vs. Cy Past?

To some, this is a game that reflects where the Mets and Yankees find themselves in 2015. The Mets are young and dynamic and gaining confidence by the hour. Meanwhile, the Yanks are in transition, old in some areas, working younger players into the mix in others.

Both teams believe they're good enough to play in October. It has been nine years since both the Yankees and Mets made the playoffs in the same season, so this year, the Subway Series could end up being about more than bragging rights.

Back to Saturday's pitching matchup and how it says something about where the two franchises find themselves.

Harvey is 26 years old and making his 40th big league start. Sabathia is 34 and making his 427th.

After missing the entire 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Harvey has resumed his career right where he left off and once more seems destined to become one of baseball's dominant performers and biggest stars for years to come.

Harvey's appeal begins with power. He has a full repertoire of pitches, but everything begins with the fact that he can throw the ball harder and with more consistency than almost any pitcher in the game.

Harvey's fastball has averaged 95.6 mph in three starts this season, the fourth highest among Major League starters, according to FanGraphs.com. He throws both his slider and changeup at around 88 mph.

Harvey shatters bats and buckles knees, and he has the ability to get away with mistake pitches simply because he throws that hard. In 18 innings, he has a respectable -- but not dominant -- 3.50 ERA. Here's the stat that says it all: one walk, 24 strikeouts.

Sabathia was once that guy, or close to it. Until about four years ago, his fastball averaged close to 94 mph. He barely touches 90 mph anymore, a byproduct of all those years and all those innings.

Sabathia's strong eight innings

Sabathia's fastball and Harvey's changeup look about the same to hitters. Because of that, Sabathia is attempting to reinvent himself with a different repertoire -- fewer fastballs, more changeups, sliders and cutters.

If his body holds up, Sabathia believes he can still be successful even though Friday was the one-year anniversary of his most recent big league victory. However, he's coming off a solid eight-inning, two-run performance against the Tigers on Monday.

Sabathia is 0-3 after three starts, but he has a 4.35 ERA the Yankees certainly would take for the entire season. Even better, he has pitched seven innings once and eight once. Those innings are exactly what the Yanks need from him.

Because Sabathia no longer has a blazing fastball, hitters are more comfortable in their at-bats. They have more time to react, and so he must be precise in his location. Sabathia pays for his mistake pitches more than he did five years ago.

Sabathia is one of a long list of questions swirling around the Yankees. They need their older players -- Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran -- to be healthy and productive. They have been injured so much in recent years, the Yanks have no idea what they'll get from any of them.

Nor do they know what to expect from a slew of new players, from shortstop Didi Gregorius to second baseman Stephen Drew to new closer Andrew Miller.

The Mets began the season with questions, too, but they were a different kind. Young players like Jacob deGrom, Travis d'Arnaud, Juan Lagares and Lucas Duda took huge steps forward in 2014.

So far, so good. Despite a slew of injuries, the Mets are off to a great start. Then again, the Yankees returned home Friday night after a 7-3 road trip that seemed to get them back on track.

So both teams will see this weekend as a good litmus test. The roads will be large, the emotion high. For a series in April, it's about as good as it gets.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.