> BUY > Pitching > Matt Harvey's Pitching Mechanics

Created 2013.8.28
Updated 2021.2.18

Matt Harvey Pitching MechanicsMatt Harvey's pitching mechanics are flawed and are putting his career at risk; he needs to start saving his money because, if he doesn't change anything — and, at this point, likely even if he does — the end of his career is right around the corner.

That should be obvious, given the predictability of his performance issues and injury problems.

The problem with Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics starts with how he follows the common cue to...

That leads to a problem I call the...

Matt Harvey Pointing the Ball at Second Base

Matt Harvey
Pointing the Ball at Second Base

...which is problematic because it creates a Timing problem.

Matt Harvey's Pitching Mechanics

What's so tragic about Matt Harvey's injury problems is they were completely predictable.

And were predicted.

So what happened to Matt Harvey?

Why Tweets?

If you doubt what I said, and when, I've put together two pieces that explain this in the form of tweets.

And, remember, tweets are...

  1. Time-Stamped.
  2. Not Editable.

My Experience

Generally, when I write about the pitching mechanics of pitchers, I have no connection to them; I have never met them and have never even talked to them.

That's not the case when it comes to Matt Harvey.

In late 2007 I was asked by Ed Harvey to analyze Matt's pitching mechanics. He wanted me to make sure there was no sign of the Inverted W or other issues.

While Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics were relatively clean in 2007, by 2012 something had changed; something that allowed me to predict Matt Harvey's elbow problems months in advance. In a conversation with Steve Czaban and in a follow-up e-mail to a 5.13.13 conversation with a writer for New York Magazine who was writing a piece about why Matt Harvey was so successful, I expressed concern about something I saw in Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics...

Here's a picture of Matt Harvey that shows the timing problem that I am talking about and that concerns me.
Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey

Given that his front foot is down, his pitching arm should be more vertical.

However, while Steve Czaban was interested in my concerns, my comments didn't make it into the New York Magazine piece.

What Mets fans should find troubling is that, while I have seen signs of progress in Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics at times, of late that progress seems to have disappeared.

It looks like Matt Harvey is back to the pitching mechanics that got his elbow in 2013 and the underlying problems with his mechanics...

All of that explains why I have continued to express concerns about Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics and was talking about Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) back in March and April.

A Concerned Father

In late 2007, as Matt Harvey 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 Inverted W 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 scap loaded.

Yes his glove side wasn't perfect and his scap load was a bit extreme as a result, but his mechanics were 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 shoulder.

Matt Harvey 2007

Matt Harvey
December 2007

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.

Matt Harvey 2007

Matt Harvey
December 2007

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 Verlander. The only thing I didn't like about Matt's delivery was his glove-side action; how, and how much, it got behind his shoulders during his delivery.

Oh Fudge

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 school.

Where before Matt did a good job of getting his pitching arm up on time, what I saw was a pitching arm that stalled; that started to rotate up and then stalled.

Matt Harvey 2012

Matt Harvey
September 2012

The result was that his arm was late and out of position at the moment his front foot planted and his shoulders started to turn.

Matt Harvey 2007

Matt Harvey
December 2007

Where before Matt Harvey...

  • Had a smooth, natural arm swing.
  • Moved out with tilted hips and a raised front shoulder.
  • Pointed the ball at Third Base.

...what I now saw was a pitcher whose arm struggled to get up to the Ready Position and was late as a result.

Matt Harvey 2012

Matt Harvey
September 2012

The new and "improved" Matt Harvey...

  • Lifted with his elbows.
  • Looked like he was trying to keep his fingers on top of the ball as long as possible.
  • Moved out with largely level shoulders.
  • Appeared to be trying to make and hold the Power T into foot plant.

...and, in my opinion, most importantly...

The problem is, that by pointing the ball at second base, keeping his fingers on top of the ball, and/or whatever cue he used, Matt Harvey created tension in his pitching arm. This tension likely led to a quick velocity boost, but it did so by compromising the thing that is the biggest factor when it comes to pitching injuries...

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.

I then tried to alert Matt to the problem by tweeting at him, but he blocked me.

The Smoking Gun

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 point...

Matt Harvey Release Point

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 below.

Matt Harvey Release Point

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 concern.2

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.3

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 before.
  • I now see Matt Harvey exhibit a problem with habitual rushing.

If anything, the changes to Matt Harvey's mechanics "worked" not by fixing his problem with rushing but by making him more consistent.

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 down.

The Power T

I don't know what Matt Harvey was taught and what cues were used to develop his arm action. However, I have worked with kids who have been taught something called the Power T that looks very much like what Matt Harvey demonstrates when he talks about his pitching mechanics and does when he pitches.

Matt Harvey Power T

Matt Harvey

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 position has on the pitcher's timing.

Even though Matt Harvey doesn't have the glaringly obvious Inverted W that Zack Wheeler does, Matt Harvey does have the Timing problem that is the real problem with the Inverted W.

Flat Arm Syndrome

I recently coined a new, and easy to look for term, to describe what in 2012 alterted me to the problem with Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics.

I call it Flat Arm Syndrome.

Flat Arm Syndrome is just what it sounds like, a pitching arm that is FLAT rather than UP at front foot plant.

Matt Harvey Pitching Mechanics

Matt Harvey

Technically speaking, Flat Arm Syndrome means 30 or fewer degrees of external rotation of the pitching arm when the front foot plants and/or the shoulders start to turn.

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.

Roy Oswalt

Roy Oswalt

That allows him to get his arm up to the proper position by foot plant and keeps his arm from dragging.

Roy Oswalt

Roy Oswalt

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.

Matt Harvey Sports Illustrated Cover

Matt Harvey

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 the 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.

Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens

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 velocity?

Almost certainly.

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 tolerate.

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 work.

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 deception...

Matt Harvey Release Point

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 pitch selection.

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.

2015.10.27 Update

Matt Harvey didn't pitch when the Mets came through, so I haven't been able to do a comparative video analysis, but I do see some trends in the photographs I look at.

Perhaps Some Good News

I have yet to find a recent photograph showing anything close to the Flat Arm Syndrome that got Matt Harvey's elbow.

Matt Harvey 2012 Flat Arm Syndrome

Matt Harvey 2012

Instead, he fairly consistently seems to be demonstrating a better position at foot strike.

Having said that, Matt Harvey's velocity was up significantly toward the end of the 2015 regular season, and you have to be concerned if that was being achieved by reverting to the (problematic) Timing pattern that got his elbow.

The (Lingering) Bad News

The problem is that I continue to see evidence of Premature Pronation in Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics. Notice the twist in the wrist of his pitching arm as he points the ball at second base.

Matt Harvey 2015

Matt Harvey 2015.7.20

That suggests that, while the risk to Matt Harvey's shoulder has dropped (some), the ongoing risk to his elbow is no lower.


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 pictures of Matt Harvey that show the timing problem that I am talking about and that concerns me.
Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey

Given that his front foot is down, his pitching arm should be more vertical.

However, those comments didn't make it into the piece.

2. I 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 interview. I also discussed my concerns about Matt Harvey's (and Jose Fernandez's and Lance Lynn's) pitching mechanics on a Cardinals fan site several days before Harvey started having elbow problems.

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 arm action...

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.
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