Pitching Mechanics Analysis
Generally, when I write about the pitching mechanics of a
certain pitcher, I have no connection to them; I have never met
them and have never even talked to them. However, that's not the
case when it comes to Matt Harvey.
A Concerned Father
In late 2007, as Matt was getting ready for his freshman
baseball season at North Carolina, I was contacted by his dad, Ed. Ed had come
across my work on the
and thought it had some merit -- I believe because he had been told
to look into teaching the Inverted W to Matt, researched it, and decided not to -- and asked
me to look at Matt's pitching mechanics and see if I saw
anything that looked problematic.
I told him that I liked what I saw.
There was no sign of the Inverted W in Matt's arm action and,
just as importantly, there was no sign of a general timing problem.
While Matt did have a similar arm swing and got to the same T
Position as Mark Prior -- with his arms extended out to his
sides as he broke his hands -- Matt didn't come out of that
position by lifting with his elbows as Prior did. Instead, he
did what comes naturally to most people and kept his elbows just
below the level of his shoulders as he externally rotated his
pitching arm and
Yes his glove side wasn't perfect and his scap load was a bit
extreme -- largely due to what he did with his glove side arm -- but
it was well within the range of what you see in long-lived
pitchers. His elbows stayed below the level of his shoulders
and he had never had any problems with the front of his
In the clips above and below, notice how Matt's arm gets up
and into the Ready Position just before his front foot plants
and his shoulders start to rotate. As he goes into foot plant,
you can see his pitching arm externally rotate 90 degrees so
that it gets to a good position.
What Matt exhibited was an arm action that was generally
quite similar to the arm actions of Roy Oswalt and Justin
Verlander. Matt also had the nice pelvic and shoulder tilt, and
high front shoulder into foot plant, that you see in Justin
The only thing I didn't like about Matt's delivery was his
glove-side action. Among other thinds, I didn't like how Matt
finished with his glove behind him because I thought it would
leave Matt vulnerable to come-backers. I advised Ed that Matt's
glove side was the biggest thing that he needed to work on.
In September 2012 the Mets came through St. Louis. I went
down to the stadium to watch
Andres Torres play and Matt Harvey pitch. I was excited because I
assumed I was going to get some footage of the next Justin
Verlander. Footage that I could show to
young pitchers and use to teach them what they should do.
What I got was something else.
A different Matt Harvey than I had seen coming out of high
Where before Matt did a great job of getting his pitching arm
up on time, what I saw was a pitching arm that stalled; that
started to get up and then just hung there for a number of
The result was that his arm was late and out of position at
the moment his front foot planted and his shoulders started to
Where before Matt Harvey...
- Had a very smooth, standard arm swing.
- Showed the ball to third base.
- Moved out with tilted hips and a raised front
What I now saw was a pitcher who...
- Lifted with his elbows.
- Looked like he was trying to keep his fingers on top of the ball as long as possible.
- Showed the ball to center field.
- Moved out with largely level shoulders.
...and whose arm took FOREVER to get up to the Ready
Position and was late as a result.
I vividly recall the moment when I first looked at the video
clips above of Matt Harvey. It was like opening a present on Christmas morning and
knowing what it was and knowing that it was going to
awesome and then seeing that it wasn't what you thought it was
and that it most certainly wasn't awesome.
I tried to contact Ed Harvey with my concerns and some
questions about whether Matt had consciously changed anything.
However, it's been five years since I was last in touch with Ed
and my e-mail bounced.
So what happened to Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics?
What changed and why?
In May of 2013 I was contacted by a writer to help out with a
New York Magazine piece on Matt Harvey.
When asked what I thought was Matt Harvey's secret, I talked about an animated GIF I had recently come
across on Fangraphs that showed
the consistency of Matt Harvey's release
Matt Harvey's Release Point
...and how that contributed to his deceptiveness.
Those comments made it into the piece in the form of the graphic
The Secrets of Matt Harvey's Success
During that interview, I also made some comments about Matt
Harvey's pitching mechanics that didn't make it into the piece.
1 The gist of
what I said was
that, while I was very impressed with his performance to date, I
had come across some pictures of Matt Harvey, and had in my
possession a number of video clips, that were a cause for some
The Smoking Gun
As it turns out, the explanation for what I was seeing, and why
Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics had changed, can be found later on
in that New York Magazine piece...
In college, Harvey had clean mechanics but could
rush his throwing motion. Since, he’s focused on
keeping his windup "long," extending his throwing
arm for as long as possible,
then letting the momentum of his body drag it forward. This
adds a couple of miles per hour to his fastball.
At some point after high school, in college or the minor
leagues, somebody changed Matt
Harvey's pitching mechanics.3
They taught him a trick.
By teaching him to extend his throwing arm for as long as
possible, they taught him to rush; to get, and to keep, his arm
disconnected from the forward motion of his body.
The quote in the New York Magazine piece implies that the
goal was to keep him from rushing. However...
- I never saw Matt Harvey exhibit a problem with rushing
- I now see Matt Harvey exhibit a problem with
If anything, the changes to Matt Harvey's mechanics "worked"
not by fixing his problem with rushing but by making him more
Matt Harvey now rushes with every pitch.
Unfortunately, while this trick undoubtedly worked --
Matt Harvey is throwing harder than he was in high school --
it also came with a cost, a cost that Matt Harvey is now going
to have to pay, and hopefully before his shoulder starts to wear
It's the Timing, Stupid
As I discuss at length in my in-progress
Inverted W webbook,
recent research into the Inverted W backs up something that
I came to realize a few years ago; the problem with the Inverted
W isn't the position itself, but the impact that that position
has on the pitcher's timing.
Even though Matt Harvey doesn't have the glaringly
obvious Inverted W that Zack
Zack Wheeler's Inverted W
...Matt Harvey does have the timing problem that is the real
problem with the Inverted W.
If I Ran the Zoo
So what would I tell Matt or Ed Harvey if they were to
contact me and ask me how they should deal with Matt's current predicament?
First, and like
Michael Pineda, Matt Harvey needs to immediately ditch the
things that he seems to have been taught about keeping his fingers on
top of the ball for as long as possible and, perhaps, showing
the ball to second base.
Second, if I were Matt Harvey, I would go back to the more
standard, Verlander-ian, Oswalt-ian, longer arm action that he used in high
school. A long arm
action isn't necessarily bad -- Roy Oswalt's arm held up just
fine -- but what Matt Harvey is currently doing isn't conducive to the longevity
of either the elbow or the shoulder.
After breaking his hands, Matt Harvey gets to the T Position
that all long armers do. However, the difference between what
Matt Harvey does and what Roy Oswalt does is that Roy Oswalt's
forearm is looser at the T Position.
That allows him to get his arm up to the proper position by
foot plant and keeps his arm from dragging.
In contrast, Matt Harvey pronates too soon and for too long,
showing the ball to center field and
second base. That creates the tension that causes his arm to stall and
IMO is the
major contributor to his elbow problems.
I know that increasing numbers of people teach what Matt
Harvey does -- how he pronates early and shows the ball to
second base -- but, while that may often give a pitcher a velocity
boost, it is problematic physiologically and is contributing
to the epidemic of elbow injuries of pitchers of all ages.
Also, and contrary to what
Sports Illustrated article about Matt Harvey implies,
Roger Clemens most certainly did not
show the ball to second base. Heck he wasn't even a long-armer.
Instead, and like virtually every great right-handed pitcher,
Roger Clemens showed the ball to third base.
Given that his learning to show the ball to second base coincided with
the boost in his velocity, won't changing this cost Matt Harvey some
However, the tear in Matt Harvey's UCL demonstrates that
his current pitching mechanics are putting a load on his
body that his elbow -- and likely his shoulder -- can't
That makes any concerns about the impact of a change to Matt
Harvey's pitching mechanics on his velocity a moot point.
Matt Harvey can't just keep doing what he's doing and expect to last.
What's more, I'm not convinced that Matt Harvey has to give
up all of his new-found velocity. I see a fairly common inefficiency in how
he uses his lower body that suggests that he has a few more
miles per hour in reserve and that he can develop with some hard
Finally, Matt Harvey still needs to learn how to pitch. To a large
degree, his current approach is based on blowing people away
with his four-seam fastball. Given his exceptional
Matt Harvey's Release Point
...and his broad arsenal of plus pitches, Matt Harvey would
seem well-suited to backing off a few miles per hour and focus
on getting people out by locating his pitching and mixing up his
That is the strategy that is used by most of the greatest
pitchers of all time, and is something that Matt Harvey still
has plenty of time to learn to do.
1. The interview was conducted over the phone, so I don't have a
transcript to prove what I said.
However, I did send a follow-up e-mail to the writer that said...
FYI, here are some random pictures from around the internet
that show the timing problem that I am talking about and
that concerns me.
Given that his front foot is down, his pitching arm should be
However, those comments didn't make it into the piece.
2. I also discussed my concerns about Matt
Harvey's pitching mechanics during
a phone interview on the Steve Czaban show on May 9, 2013.
My comments about Matt Harvey start at around 12:55 into the
3. I recently came across a quote from
Baseball America from after the 2010 draft that indicated
that others noticed that Matt Harvey changed something in his
Scouts agree that Harvey's arm action is longer now than it
was in 2007 but they aren't sure why. It affects his command, as
it's harder for him to repeat his delivery and find the same
release point. When he does, Harvey has explosive stuff, and he
has worked harder than ever, thanks to improved maturity, to
improve his balance and tempo.