Phenom. Dominant. Injured. Frustrated. These four words tell us a lot about the rise and subsequent fall of Matt Harvey's MLB career.
In 2012, he was the phenom. He struck out 11 in his first ML start, blowing 100 MPH heaters by anyone who stood in the box.
In '13 and '15, he was dominant. He started the All-Star game in '13 and guided the Mets to the World Series in '15, throwing one of the most memorable games in franchise history.
In '14 and '16, he was hurt. He missed all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery and in 2016 missed much of the season after having a rib removed to alleviate the pain and nerve issues stemming from TOS.
From '17 to '20, he was frustrated. Stints in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and Kansas City didn't pan out, and he was unable to rediscover the magic that made him one of the best pitchers in baseball just a few short years ago.
And now in 2021, there is a new word. Hope.
First and foremost, getting Matt Harvey back to being Matt Harvey was going to take buy-in from The Dark Knight himself. In the three days Matt was with us he was 100% locked in and open to any information or suggestions we had.
Implementing a systematic and data-driven approach to his training was paramount. What we found in Harvey's pitch data & mechanical analysis was the following:
His 4SFB Vertical Break had dropped close to 6 inches from '15 to '20.
His Release Side & Extension numbers were drastically different from his heyday in Flushing.
Mechanical changes had begun to occur over time, leading to many of these numbers dropping.
He still threw the ball at a league average velocity, but was leaving a few MPH on the table.
His pitch arsenal did not play well off of each other as it had earlier in his career.
The locations he was attacking no longer were successful due to the declined movement profiles of his pitches.
Being that we only had 3 days to work with, our primary focus was on trying to rediscover that elite carry fastball. After many throws and analysis from our Edgertronic camera, we were ultimately able to get his fastball back to the 18V days of his prime.
As to why this change had occurred, much of it was mechanical. In the pictures below, you can see in KC he opens early, forcing his fingers to not stay behind the ball, and a small yank forces him inside the ball too much. Compared to the picture in ‘15 with the Mets, his arm works deeper and allows the fingers to drive down the back of the ball longer.
In addition to rediscovering his high-vertical fastball, Harvey also showed off another elite weapon we were not expecting: a power sinker. At the same velocity as his 4-Seamer, Harvey began consistently throwing a 18-20H sinker at just 8V. This pitch also allowed him to develop a better feel between the underwhelming dead-zone heater of the past few years (12V 12H) with the high-carry fastball of his prime.
Now with two plus offerings to set the table, designing off-speed pitches that pair effectively with each was the focus. In his prime, Harvey's off-speed had little to no horizontal movement. The "Warthen Slider" (which really played more like a cutter) and the 12-6 Power Curveball each stayed within 0" to -1" of horizontal movement. These pitches played effectively off his 18V fastball as all three pitches tunneled effectively out of the hand. In recent years, however, in addition to losing much of his IVB on his heater, he also added negative horizontal to his breaking balls (and lost positive horizontal on his changeup).
In yesterday's bullpen session, Harvey was able to:
Add as much as -12" of vertical break to his curveball, which will pair nicely with the rediscovered high-vert heater.
Throw a number of sliders at -5" to -7" of horizontal break, which will pair effectively with his new power sinker.
Spin changeups back at the positive 16" horizontal rate that he did in 2013 and 2015.
With just a week left to go before Pitchers & Catchers report to Spring Training, we feel that Harvey is on his way to winning his 2nd Comeback Player of the Year award, this time 6 years later. Someone just has to give the 2021-version of The Dark Knight a shot. They won't regret it.
*If any team or organization would like the CSV from yesterday's bullpen, please email firstname.lastname@example.org*