From 2012-2015 Matt Harvey was fabulous on the mound for the New York Mets. His performance in the 2015 World Series was everything a fan wants from a top hurler. He had the persona, the confidence, the dominance and the city to deserve the moniker “The Dark Knight.” It was very fun to be a Mets fan for those seasons.

In 2016, Harvey hurt his arm. Pitchers hide injuries, sometimes subconsciously, because they feel like it is a pain they have worked through before, or maybe they just slept on it wrong.  So, they adjust to avoid the pain on the mound.  Dizzy Dean famously, perhaps apocryphally, had a line drive hit his foot, and to pitch through that he altered his motion and injured his arm.  What was Harvey trying to pitch through?

With Statcast, we can see Harvey change his throwing angle. Statcast data started in 2015, which is key because it shows when he is good.

 

It may not be terribly obvious without a frame of reference, but his release point for all his pitches are pretty narrow and in the same vertical line.  Here’s Jacob deGrom’s 2018:

You can see a nice “football” shape to their release points. Squashed into the vertical.

Justin Verlander’s 2019 season.

 

Here is Trevor Bauer’s 2020:

You get the idea.

Harvey started 2016 pretty well, but the release point charts show he was “rounding” his release points, and really only getting on top of this 4-seam fastball, and major league hitters only need the smallest of differentiation before you become dead meat.  Couple that with declining velocities, and there is a recipe for disaster. Here is Harvey’s 2016 season:

Those pitches suddenly out from the pack are his last game, before shutting down the season. But that release point was tough to come back from.

One can see the roundness of his pitches. And the hand is much further from his body, with changeups being more prominent.

It is about this time people should have noticed. His arm slot is off from his dominant period.  Once a pitcher loses that due to injury can he every get it back or does the fear of re-injuring his shoulder override his ability to do what he knows to be needed.  Frankly, it is tough to tell if he was coached in what he needed. The Mets gave him another shot in 2018, and it started out well, but the Mets lost patience quickly and shipped him off to the Reds, where he struggled.

His pitch releases were better, but still round, and fewer curveballs. He got a real chance with the Angels in 2019, was not good, and then spent 2020 with the Royals. His 2019 was very round, which basically works as tipping your pitches.

At least Harvey made some money in 2019.  As noted 2020 started out with some control, but:

The last two games are represented by the wide release points, which flagged an injury, and he was put on the injured list with a lat strain.

Harvey is an unrestricted free agent. He signed for the minimum in 2020. Harvey hopefully will get healthy and spend some time re-learning how to pitch, his velocity was up some, but his spin rates were down. He needs to hold it like an egg.

Can the Dark Knight Return? Could Rick Peterson fix Harvey in 10 minutes?

This Met fan would love to see him given the chance.

7 comments on “Could Statcast have saved Matt Harvey?

  • José

    This is brilliant! If you figured this out, I’m quite impressed

    • Chris Dial

      That’s very kind?

  • John Fox

    Looking at the charts, good years or bad, the release point on the curve is just about always at the high point for all the releases profiled.

    • Chris Dial

      That is true in general for curveballs – the hand has to get on top of the ball for the pulldown.

  • Brian Joura

    I can’t imagine the odds of Harvey ever being a solid MLB contributor ever again are very high. Will he take an NRI?

    Is there any worry about Bauer’s knuckle curve being released consistently higher than his other pitches?

  • Chris Dial

    I think he accepted a minor league contract for 2020. He was injured. It’s possible.

    Bauer: no, that’s the way t is supposed to look for his exaggerated pulldown – it’s a linedrive.org thing, I think.

  • TexasGusCC

    Very nice research Chris.

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