Pitching Mechanics Analysis
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
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.
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
In the two photos above, you can see Rich Harden's glove out
away from his body at the release point.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
You can see how he does this in the photos above.
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.