In this video, I’ve put two major league pitchers side by side. I have Matt Harvey with the Mets’ on the left side and Stephen Stasburg on the right.
This was the matchup that they had on April 19, 2013. Matt Harvey came out on top in that game. I am going to compare their mechanics, not their statistics as it’s still early in the season. However, Matt Harvey’s having a great year and Stephen Strasburg is off to a slower start. I would keep a close eye on when Matt Harvey is pitching. Study his mechanics as they are both smooth and explosive.
Both pitchers, by the way, are obviously high velocity throwers. The pitch that Matt Harvey is going to throw reaches 97 miles an hour. The pitch that Stephen Strasburg is going to throw is 94 miles an hour.
Let’s talk about their mechanics in terms of what we think is safe, efficient high velocity mechanics because we don’t want pitchers to be throwing high velocity and getting hurt. Of course, that’s what happened to Stephen Strasburg coming off of Tommy John surgery. Hopefully nothing else happens, but we certainly can’t be sure of that.
The thing I want to point out is I have these guys synced up at hand break. You can see they’re going to break their hands about the same time. You can see they’re in a similar position with their body in terms of their upper body posture. You can see that Matt Harvey lifts his leg up while Stephen Strasburg uses what we call a modified slide step.
By the way, there’s no benefit to lifting the leg up high. In fact, you don’t need a leg lift at all to throw with high velocity. All you need is to make sure that you position all of your weight over your back leg and understand and learn how to use your lower body to drive down the mound quickly under control.
Let’s see what happens after these pitchers break their hands. You can see that it is completely different. We can see right here in this position how low Matt Harvey gets compared to Stephen Strasburg. He really gets low with the back leg. Stephen Strasburg, not quite as low. And this is why Matt Harvey has a longer stride.
Getting low on the back leg also allows Matt Harvey to use his back leg and to go from a bent position or a flexed position to an extended position, letting him move down the mound faster than Stephen Strasburg. In my opinion, that’s one of the reasons why Matt is likely going to be one of the higher velocity throwers in the major leagues this year.
Stephen Strasburg has a much shorter stride than Matt Harvey. You can see that coming into touchdown. Notice Matt Harvey’s back leg, very unusual but he does something that we don’t see most pitchers doing, even Stephen Strasburg.
You can see where Stephen Strasburg’s back heel is coming up as he makes his turn into landing. Matt Harvey, on the other hand, goes to the inside of his foot very, very late in the delivery keeping his foot down so that his back hip releases later allowing him to build up more tension and elastic energy.
Remember I had them timed up at hand break. You can see that Matt Harvey has his arm in a good semi-cocked position when his front foot first touches the mound. That’s what you want to see.
You can see with Stephen Strasburg, he gets his elbow up to shoulder height but you can see the elbow is a little bit above the line of the shoulder, which is a stressful position for the arm. You can see the ball is still below his elbow and below shoulder height. He’s not in a good position with his throwing arm at this point. We call this position, where the arm is positioned way back behind the line of the trunk, shoulder abduction. I would say his position is bordering excessive and, of course, it adds more stress to the arm at this point and more stress specifically to the elbow.
Next, after foot touchdown, Matt Harvey goes to the cocked position. You can see how he keeps everything in line, head stays right in line with good upright posture. Then he starts into trunk rotation, getting his trunk and his hips square to the plate. Then into elbow extension and finally ball release.
Stephen Strasburg at this point is still rotating his trunk, so obviously Matt Harvey is moving down the mound faster than Stephen Strasburg. Stephen will finally go to ball release right here.
We have to say that Matt Harvey wins the award for what we would call safe, efficient, high velocity pitching mechanics and that’s what you want to shoot for.
Do you really want to throw the ball hard and then end up getting hurt or needing surgery? I don’t think so. I don’t think anybody wants that. Of course, Stephen Strasburg doesn’t want that either, but that’s most likely what’s been going on with him his whole life. Very talented pitcher, obviously, I just wish he would stay healthy. But with his pitching mechanics and his poor arm action, I am not confident his arm will stay healthy.
Let me show you something about Stephen Strasburg that gets him in trouble. (At some point, I’m going to do a side by side on these guys. I want to see what’s going on with Stephen Strasburg. He has very unusual low body mechanics for a high velocity thrower, doesn’t really do much as far as shifting his weight.)
Next we see Strasburg in the touchdown position. His front foot is down but notice that he doesn’t have his arm cocked. He has his arm positioned into what is referred to as late external rotation, where he doesn’t get his shoulder going until very, very late. The ball also comes in close to the head. Next, his elbow is going to snap it into external rotation.
It’s that snapping that puts the stress on the elbow and that’s what probably caused his Tommy John surgery.
You should be careful of that position with the arm. We have seen many MLB pitchers with their arms in this position over the years. Most end up injured or needing surgery. The point is you don’t want to see a pitcher get the elbows above shoulder height. You don’t want to see the ball down below the elbow like that, so this would definitively be a red flag for any parent or coach.
Anyway, that’s why we like Matt Harvey. One of our favorite pitchers right now just because he’s got those safe, efficient, high velocity mechanics.
Keep an eye on Matt Harvey but because the season is still early, don’t count Stephen Strasburg out.