ChrisOLeary.com > Projects > Analyses > Rich Harden

Pitching Mechanics Analysis
Rich Harden

7/19/2008

Rich Harden is a pitcher who has tremendous ability but who has also had injury problems during the course of his career. As the Cubs just traded for Rich Harden, I thought it would be interesting if I looked at Rich Harden's pitching mechanics and tried to get a sense of whether the Cubs will get significant value out of this deal or not.
     Let me use some still photos and videos that I have to point out some things that I see in Rich Harden's mechanics that I think may point out the possible root cause of his shoulder problems.

No Significant Arm Action Problems

The first place I look for problems in a pitcher's pitching mechanics is their arm action. While I do see some things that concern me, I don't see major flaws like the Inverted W or Inverted L that can cause timing problems.

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

You can also see good hip/shoulder separation in the three photos above. This means that Rich Harden's problem isn't that he's throwing all arm. Instead, something else is going on with him.

Problem 1: Flying Open With The Glove

The first, most obviously problematic thing that Rich Harden does is that he flies open with his glove. By that, I mean that at the release point Rich Harden's glove, rather than being at his glove side pec or hip, is out to the side of his body. This is problematic because, by having that mass out away from their body, it can slow down the rate at which a pitcher's shoulders will rotate. This can force them to use more effort than would a pitcher who get their glove closer to their body as their torso rotated.

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

In the two photos above, you can see Rich Harden's glove out away from his body at the release point.

Video Clip of Rich Harden

Rich Harden

You can see the same thing in the video clip above of Rich Harden. Notice how his glove stays out away from his body as his shoulders rotate through the release point.

Kiko Calero

Kiko Calero

What's interesting is that Rich Harden resembles Kiko Calero. Coincidentally, or not, Kiko Calero also flew open with his glove in pretty much the same manner as Rich Harden. Kiko Calero also experienced significant shoulder and elbow problems over the course of his career.

Problem 2: Opening The Hips Early

A second, but much more subtle thing that Rich Harden does, and that might contribute to his arm problems, is that instead of striding sideways to the target, Rich Harden opens his hips quite early in his stride.

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

You can see this in the two photos above. Notice how, instead of leading with his Glove Side (GS) heel, Rich Harden leads with his GS toe.

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

You can see the same thing in the clip above of Rich Harden. Notice how in Frame 11 Rich Harden is already opening his GS foot (and this his hips) as he starts his stride.

Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling

Contrast Rich Harden's stride with what Curt Schilling does. Notice how much more closed Curt Schilling's GS foot is and how his is striding sideways, leading with his GS heel.
     This is a problem because it suggests that Rich Harden, despite his good hip/shoulder separation, doesn't get as much stretch -- and thus power -- out of his core as he could. By opening his hips early, Rich Harden reduces the stretch in his core and thus reduces his ability to throw with his body and not his arm.

Problem 3: Showing The Ball To
Center Field And Keeping The
Fingers On Top Of The Ball

Another thing that Rich Harden does that I'm not a fan of and that is probably not related to his shoulder problems -- but might increase the risk of elbow problems -- is that he shows the ball to Center Field and keeps his fingers on top of the ball as long as possible.

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

You can see how he does this in the photos above.

Rich Harden

Rich Harden

You can also see this in the video clip above.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line on Rich Harden is that he's got two mechanical problems that help to explain his shoulder problems by making his mechanics less efficient than they could be. Rich Harden also shows the ball to Center Field and keeps his fingers on top of the ball, which can lead to elbow problems. All of this means that Rich Harden was a very risky pick-up for the Cubs. While he might make it through the year, his future health history is likely to continue to be problematic.

about | contact | copyright | sitemap | liability policy