Here’s another video analysis lesson. I’ve got a basic lesson here for you, using Mets’ Matt Harvey as a great example of what we call safe, efficient, high velocity mechanics.
This is a game that Matt Harvey pitched against the Nationals on April 19th. Stephen Strasburg was the Nationals’ pitcher, but Matt Harvey came out on top and beat Strasburg and the Nationals 7-1. This pitch is a fastball thrown to Nationals’ center fielder Bryce Harper.
An interesting note is that throughout this game, Harvey averaged 94.2 with his fastball while Stephen Strasburg averaged 95.7. Big difference.
I just want to show you some very simple mechanics – things that Matt Harvey does very well that you can watch for in any pitcher, whether it’s a Little League, high school or college pitcher or even a professional. The key here is efficiency of movement or how to best use the body to deliver the arm at high speed since it is the body that produces velocity, not the arm.
Now remember, Matt Harvey is a big guy. He’s 6’4”, 225. But as you’ll see, he doesn’t move down the mound slow. He moves down the mound with a really nice quick tempo, and he gets in a great position at landing, allowing his body do the work, not his arm. The arm, as you know, is along for the ride and used mainly for ball control. Pitching velocity is not an arm strength activity. In fact, research has proven it doesn’t have a heck of a lot to do with velocity at all.
Let’s take a look at Matt Harvey right now as he delivers a fastball to Bryce Harper, a very good left-handed hitter. I’m going to let the video play at game speed so you see how Matt Harvey uses his body to deliver a 95 mph fastball.
Boom, there’s a knee high strike right there. A tough first pitch to hit. So again, I want you to especially watch how smooth he is. Very, very smooth right there. Remember, smoothness is an indication of good timing.
Now let’s take a look and see what happens. We’re going to go ahead and go frame-by-frame now. I want you to notice how he starts when he is getting his sign from the catcher. He knows what he’s going to throw.
Notice the position of his glove. He positions it a little bit higher than the belt, but belt high is fine. As he lifts his leg, you’ll notice that he’ll lift his glove up at the same time. There goes the leg up then the glove goes up momentarily. That is what you want. You want to create good rhythm and timing by having the glove and lead leg move up together. I also want you to notice what he does with his lead leg. I really like that a lot. You’ll see some other pitchers do it. Feliz does it with the Rangers, you’ll see when he comes back. Take a look at his videos on YouTube. Really good. Matt Latos does the same thing.
Notice how he keeps the lead leg in line with his support leg when he lifts it up. He doesn’t kick it way out and straighten it prematurely as you will see many pitchers do, which is not efficient. Now all he has to do is start to shift his weight – actually, he started shifting his weight when he was bringing his leg up. So in other words, he’s moving his body toward the plate right now with his lead leg still up off the surface of the mound.
Next he breaks his hands and notice that the lead leg is still up. You’ll see a lot of pitchers who when they break, the lead leg is already down to the mound surface. That doesn’t allow them to use their entire body to shift their weight, so they lose momentum and they lose velocity.
Now we are at hand break. Harvey breaks his hands out a little further away from his body than most pitchers do. It’s okay if it works, but we see a lot of pitchers where it doesn’t work, and we train them break their hands in closer to their body.
Now we’re going to look at his arm action and, of course, his arm swing. Like all pitchers with good arm action, Harvey takes the ball out of his glove, swings it down, then back and up. Notice as he shift his weight and is moving toward landing that he keeps his lead leg slightly bent. It’s still bent right here. He doesn’t extend it. Again, that is efficiency of movement.
Next he’s getting close to landing. Let’s look at the timing and positioning of his arms just before landing. Notice that both elbows reach shoulder height. Also this is where the throwing arm is extended back so, at this point, the ball is a far away from the plate as any point in the delivery. Really, really good position right here. This is the position you’re going to want to see most pitchers in just before they land.
Look closely at the position of his throwing arm. Although it is extended back, the throwing elbow is still naturally bent or flexed. It is not extended or straight.
At this point, just before the arm goes into the cocked position, the ball is facing down toward the ground. You can see the glove arm is up. The glove arm elbow is used as a site, right toward the target. And notice that the front shoulder is directed right at the target. Now if I go back here a little bit, the thing I want you to notice right here, at hand break, is that there is no turning away from the target. His front shoulder is directed right at the target. Everything is going right toward the target. No turning at all.
So once he gets the elbows up to shoulder height, it’s time to get the front foot down. You can see his front foot is getting close to landing. Can’t see the back foot, but he’s coming up on the ball of his back foot right now. Most amateur pitchers get to the ball of their foot much too early because they start to turn too early, which considerably reduces velocity.
When the front foot hits the surface of the mound, the throwing arm goes into what we refer to as a semi-cocked position. But once most of the pitcher’s weight gets to the front foot, the arm will fully cock to about 90 degrees.
Once the weight is on the front leg, the energy will next get transferred to the trunk. So this is the position you want to see the pitcher in. Arm is cocked, notice everything is directed right at the target. Back hip is higher than the front hip.
Now, the next thing that’s going to happen is he’s going to go into trunk rotation. You can see his glove is sitting right here, so he didn’t pull the glove off toward first base, which would have opened the front shoulder too early.
Notice the glove position. Now he’s going to start trunk rotation. So the trunk is going to rotate right there, and notice what happens at the beginning of trunk rotation – the arm goes to cocked, and then you can see this space right here in front of his throwing shoulder is all of the connective tissue that stretches back. In other words, when he starts trunk rotation, the throwing arm stretches back momentarily. It doesn’t move immediately forward when the trunk starts to rotate.
The trunk turns, but the arm stays back, so he has that stretch there. We call it pre-stretch. That pre-stretch creates a plyometric effect where the arm is actually kind of being used right now as if its a big rubber band.
Now the arm is going to go ahead and pull through with the trunk, and as you can see again, he’s getting close to maximum external rotation where the arm lays back. The arm is laid back here about 180 degrees. Notice he’s got his hips and his trunk facing the target. You can see that his back foot comes off the ground prematurely. But again, this isn’t a real problem as long as you have the trunk and the hips facing the target at this point. If his back hip was still back here, then it would be a problem, because he’d really lose velocity.
At the point of maximum external rotation of the arm, his trunk is flexing forward. So he’s rotating and flexing his trunk forward. Now he’s going to go into elbow extension and ball release.
The other thing that I want you to notice at this point is that he’s got some good trunk tilt. Not too much, and that’s what happens when you start to rotate the trunk. The trunk starts to rotate right there, now we’re getting a little bit of trunk tilt going on. That’s what you want. And there’s maximum external rotation, as well as elbow extension into ball release. He’s going to release the ball right here.
Because many amateur pitchers do not know how to use their trunk, many get very little trunk tilt which can cause the throwing elbow to be positioned below the shoulder, reducing velocity and adding stress to the arm.
However, you will see many youth and even high school pitchers who have too much trunk tilt, where a RH pitcher at maximum external rotation will have his non-throwing shoulder leaning to far down toward first base. The most efficient and safe amount of trunk lean or tilt is about 20 degrees, according to the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, AL.
Finally you can see that Matt Harvey, at this point, is flexed forward out over his front leg, head directed right at the target. No leaning. His head is almost completely level. Now you see a very good finish. You can see where the arm finished and this ball is going to be a strike. Good fastball right there at the knees.
Great mechanics. You know the key, the thing you want to look for in a pitcher, is smoothness. Smoothness is again an indication of good timing. So if a pitcher looks like he’s smooth, he’s probably got pretty good timing. If he looks herky-jerky, then he doesn’t, and that’s usually going to detract from velocity and control, as well.
So here’s a guy with great mechanics, safe mechanics and very efficient mechanics. You’re going to be watching him for a long time, and I think you’re going to see some great results this year from Matt Harvey.
That’s about it. I’m going to suggest that you go ahead and register for my YouTube channel. I’ve got a lot of videos over there, a lot more coming up using Matt Harvey as a good example of safe, efficient, high velocity mechanics. Comparing him to high school pitchers, college pitchers, and other major league pitchers as well because I want you to see that other pitchers do have good mechanics like Matt Harvey.
I just happen to like him, just because he’s really, really smooth and explosive, and again, he indicates those mechanics we like to call safe, efficient, high velocity mechanics.