Pitching Velocity: Mets’ Matt Harvey vs Justin Verlander
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Here, we’ve got two high velocity major league pitchers. We’ve got Matt Harvey, New York Mets’ right-hander on the left and Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers on the right. These guys both throw upper 90’s. Verlander hits 100 and I’m sure Harvey has hit 100 before too.
We’re going to take a look at their mechanics. I think they’re both about the same size. I think Matt Harvey is six-four, 225. Justin Verlander six-five, 225; he’s got an inch on Matt Harvey.
I have them synced up at ball release; just note what’s going on right here. As they are approaching ball release you can see both pitchers have their back foot off the mound. They’re not in contact with the mound at this point and we’ll see when they actually leave the surface of the mound.
Notice that Matt Harvey, on the left, has his trunk flexed forward more. Verlander has a shorter stride and gets on to a very extended front leg very early, at which point he catapults himself over that front leg very fast, but he is not quite as flexed forward as Matt Harvey.
Just as they get their hips and trunk square or facing the plate, this is the point that their back foot leaves the surface of the mound. If they’re squared up they can get away with it, but if they’re not squared up then there could be a problem in terms of control because we don’t have a foot on the ground and thus don’t have total stability to rotate into ball release.
I wouldn’t recommend that for your normal amateur pitcher. Most amateur pitchers whose back foot comes off the mound before ball release have a trunk flexion problem. Because their trunk is too upright, the back foot cannot stay down and is pulled forward by the upright trunk.
I will now go back to the beginning and will sync them up at the top of their leg lift. OK, they are both synced up at the top of their leg lift.
They’re both synced up here in terms of their movement or their weight shifts toward the plate.
Now let’s watch and see what happens and I’m going to tell you who moves down the mount faster and why.
Notice right here they look very similar. I like their lead leg position. You’ll see a lot of kids that swing the lead leg out and around rather than keeping it in close to the support leg (back leg), which makes for a more efficient linear movement toward the plate.
Watch The Position Of The Lead Leg At The Top Of The Leg Lift
We see many amateur pitchers who, at the top of their leg lift, do not let the foot hang under the knee. So what else can they do but swing the leg, which produces a big slowing action. During lessons and video analysis, that is one of the first corrections we suggest because we want an efficient movement toward the plate. So let the foot hang down under the knee; if you allow the foot to be more toward third base (from the back view) for a RH pitcher, it’s normally going to produce a slowing action and may force the pitcher to collapse his back leg.
Notice the good posture here with Harvey and Verlander. Notice their trunks are erect and tall.
But both will get low on their back leg. This doesn’t mean they’re collapsing their back legs. Remember, when their hands start to move down and their leg starts to move down, what is happening at the same time is they are shifting their weight toward the plate, which you can’t see from the back (you can only see from the side angle).
Are They Collapsing Their Back Legs?
They’re moving their body toward the plate even though their back leg is continuing to bend. Then, at hand break, their back leg will stabilize. So at hand-break, they don’t get any more bend in their back leg. Instead, their back legs will stabilize, meaning you’re going to see the back knee staying over the foot for both pitchers.
Amateur pitchers on the other hand, when looking from a direct back angle, will allow their back knee to continue to drift out over the back foot toe after hand-break. That is collapsing the back leg.
Neither Harvey or Verlander let their knee come out over the toe, which would be an indication that their forces were going down because they’re just sinking down. These guys are not collapsing their back leg guys. They are moving their body toward the plate as they’re bringing their hands down.
At hand-break you can see that Verlander takes the ball out of the glove a little bit quicker than Harvey.
Now, I have them both synced up right at handbrake. Let’s see the difference. Notice how they both keep the lead leg bent as they move toward landing. They’re not swinging the lead leg. A leg swing is going to occur normally right as the pitcher takes the ball out of the glove. At that point, many amateur pitchers extend or straighten the front leg and then start to swing it around, which again, produces a big slowing action.
We can see that Verlander does get more tilt to his trunk, where the front shoulder is pointed in a more upward trajectory. He gets the glove arm up higher.
Matt Harvey is a little bit more level. Now you can see what happens with the lead leg. Watch the lead leg of Justin Verlander. He kicks it right there. I wouldn’t consider that swinging the leg because he’s so far out when he does this. He’s getting ready to think about landing as his throwing arm gets into position.
Matt Harvey keeps his lead leg bent until landing. It looks like it’s extended but it’s not. Look at the difference between his leg and Verlander’s. Verlander’s lead leg is completely straight. Matt Harvey still has some slight flexion right here in the front leg.
Now, you can see again, Verlander does get the glove arm up. He has more trunk tilt coming in to landing and you can see that Matt Harvey keeps this back foot down a very long time. You don’t see that very often. I pointed that out on the video when I compared Matt Harvey to Strasburg. Because you can see right here that Verlander is getting ready to land. He’s got that front toe pointed and ready to land, so he comes up on the ball with his back foot right here, but Matt Harvey is still not quite pointed toward the plate. Now he’s going to get the foot pointed toward the plate, then he starts to come up. He goes forward with his back foot, goes on the inside of his back foot, then he gets the heel up and gets on the ball of his foot.
A little different action with the back leg, you don’t see what Harvey does very often.
You can see that Verlander is landing before Harvey and Verlander releases the ball before Harvey does. We’re going to have to give the edge to Verlander in terms of movement speed, even though this is only 30 frames per second. We’d have to go ahead and see this at a couple of hundred frames per second, but this is a non-scientific video. You can see that Verlander does get to ball release quicker than Harvey even though I had them synced up at handbrake. Now, what does that tell you?
What About Breaking The Hand Fast?
The thing about Justin Verlander is that he breaks his hands very, very quickly. In other words, hand break is the point where Verlander really starts moving down the mound very, very fast; probably one of the fastest moving major league pitchers out there. I don’t think anybody moves any faster. I don’t even think that Reds’ Chapman, moves quite as fast as Verlander. So that’s one of the reasons why Verlander throws so hard.
He’s 6’5″ 225 lbs and goes down the mound very fast. So one of the tips you can get out of this is break your hands quicker. Put it into your brain that when I break my hands, I’m going to really drive, start driving and extending that back leg very, very quickly. That will add velocity to your fastball immediately.
The Rubber-Band Effect Of The Throwing Arm
Let me get these guys in a similar position so I can get them at the beginning of trunk rotation. The thing I want you to know is in this position the back foot, the back hip and the arm are still back. The arm is still back and cocked, which allows all the connective tissue connecting the front of the shoulder to the back of the shoulder to stretch and create a rubber band affect. Because of this pre-stretch of the arm you notice that the arm stays back momentarily while the trunk starts into rotation.
What’s going on there? You’ve got this plyometric effect or rubber band effect of that fast trunk rotation speed, where the arm continues to stretch back as the pitcher starts to go in to trunk rotation. That pre-stretch produces additional velocity.
Both Harvey and Verlander are a couple of very impressive upper 90’s throwers. The question I would have if I was a hitter is, which guy would I want to face? Well, I don’t think I would want to face either one of these guys in a tough situation. Honestly, I think if you probably talked to a hitter, he would tell you he’d probably rather face Verlander.
Why would I say that?
First of all, I think Matt Harvey has a smoother delivery. The other thing about Matt Harvey is he’s closer to the plate because he has a longer stride, lands on more of a bent leg when he goes to release the ball, that’s why he’s closer to the hitter. Verlander’s trunk is further back. He doesn’t flex forward to where Harvey is until after he releases the ball and you can see there’s still quite a bit of difference there in terms of trunk rotation.
If I’m a hitter, I want the guy who’s not as close to me as possible. That’s the guy I’d rather face. I think he’d probably tell you that because Matt Harvey is so smooth, still produces that upper 90’s velocity that hitters don’t like to face because it seems the ball is on them quick. It’s almost like the pitcher isn’t doing anything and then boom here it comes and it’s right by me.
But let’s face it, who on earth wants to face Justin Verlander any time! Not many hitters. So maybe it’s really a tie.
Anyway, another video analysis lesson. Go to my YouTube channel and subscribe to see more video analysis and pitching tips. There’s going to be a lot more videos like this coming up. Lots of comparison videos between major league pitchers, high school pitchers. Let me know your thoughts about Harvey vs. Verlander in the comments below, and who you would like to see compared in the future.