There is no end to the theories as to what is wrong with Matt Harvey. The primary focal point, from most of the experts, is that his velocity is down to 93 MPH. While there are some things that will change when velocity goes down, this is not the reason for his decline, after all, he is still at or slightly above league average and plenty of pitchers are having success at that velocity. The primary reason for Matt Harvey’s slide is apparent in the graphic above, if you speak Effective Velocity (Ev) at least. This is what RHBs see about 20 feet out of his hand and there is no Ev Tunnel to hide the identity of any of the pitches. Most every pitch he is currently throwing is identifiable in the first 1/3 of the pitch flight and actually as soon as immediately out of the hand. Big League hitters are very good at adjusting to pitches they can see early enough to identify.
The visual is only part of the story, a picture is worth a thousand words, after all. There is much hidden to the eye in the first graphic. Not only does Harvey’s ‘Ev Pitch Design’ have a super low Ev Deception Rating, it also has a very low rating on another key Ev element, Ev Speed Spreads. Deception helps pitchers ‘hide’ the identify of their pitches longer, giving the hitter less time to react. The Ev Speed Spread puts more distance between reaction times of each pitch, making it harder to adjust to.
Imagine a quarterback has two receivers with only one defensive back to cover both. If he sends the receivers out 10 yards apart, the DB can cover both adequately by staying in the middle and having time to span the yardage to either one. If the QB sends them out 20 yards apart, one 10 yards downfield and the other 50 yards, the DB has no chance to cover both. If the DB waits to see which receiver the QB is throwing to, there is not enough time to cover the distance to be there in time. ‘Time’ is the root word in ‘Timing’, regardless what the analytics experts say. ‘Reactionary Timing’ is all about time and distance. When pitches are closer together, with bad deception, it is the best of both worlds……….. for the hitter.
Harvey’s poor Ev Pitch Design creates the worst possible deception, with the lowest Ev Speed Spread, so he is losing on both fronts. He is making it easier to see what pitch he is throwing but he is also making sure there is minimal speed differentials to deal with. He’s sending only 2 receivers out and making sure they stay within 10 yards of each other. Below is the Statcast pitch locations for Harvey in 2018 so far. He uses fastball and slider primarily, with just a scattering of changeups. You can see that all 3 of these pitches are away primarily. It is physically impossible for 3 pitches of different speeds and movements to share an Ev Tunnel long enough to fool a hitter.
Right now, Matt Harvey has multiple top receivers at his disposal, but only chooses to use two primarily (FB away/Slider away) and he is sending them out 10 yards apart. With minimal Ev Speed Spreads, he gives the hitter the ability to sit in the middle and cover both pitches…………… and with the earliest possible pitch recognition visuals.
The analytics experts believe that the plus and minus located adjusted speed of Effective Velocity is not correct. In other words, they believe hitters can react to any speed pitch with the same amount of success. Every location has a different reach for the hitter and so the time has to change from one location to the other. This is the base level of Effective Velocity and the reason Exit Velocity is predictably 10 MPH higher at the bottom of the zone than the top. There are countless ways to prove that location affects the reaction time of pitches and that has a profound effect on the time a hitter has to react to pitches.
The scientific truth is that a fastball away gives the hitter a greater amount of time to see, identify and react to the pitch. Conversely, up and inside pitches give the hitter much less time to react to, ‘effectively’ adding speed but more realistically, taking away reactionary time. Harvey’s primary location of his fastball this year is middle to middle away, creating an average Ev of about 89 EvMPH. His up and in fastball at 93 MPH is between 96 EvMPH and 99 EvMPH, depending on where it ends up. Let’s just call it 96 EvMPH on average when used on the plus side of the zone, but he only uses the faster version 21% of the time, with only 15% of plus fastballs in the zone. Would you draft a guy who throws 89 MPH or the guy who throws 96 MPH? What’s the point of working so hard to add velocity, only to use it so poorly.
His usage of fastball away is 45%, more than double the fastest version of this pitch. In fact, 70% of his fastballs are from middle to away in the zone and out. What do you suppose would happen if he threw his slider up in the zone more than twice as much as the intended down and away location? That pitch would get hammered in very short order. The fact is, there is no difference between his ‘hangin’ slider up in the zone and fastball thrown down on purpose, from an Ev Speed perspective. This means the reactionary time is the same for both of those pitches.
Fastballs, by definition, are supposed to be fast. Down and away is the slowest version of that pitch, just as the high slider is the fastest version of that pitch. The fast pitch getting slower and the slower pitch getting faster is a recipe for disaster. The damnable misery of it all is that he is being told to throw this combination of pitches. Yikes. When does the team of front office guys, pitching coach, manager and catcher, the people who are really calling his game, get the blame?
Take for example the infamous World Series when he talked his way into going back out for the 9th inning, after dominating the Royals for 8 innings. Eric Hosmer hit a missile to left center, resulting in a double that eventually led to the loss. Everyone was quick to jump on the manager for not taking him out. While it was management’s fault, it had nothing to do with his decision to send him back out and everything to do with the pitch he was told to throw. Harvey’s catcher put down a signal for fastball away to Hosmer. He executed the 96 MPH fastball (same velocity as earlier) almost perfectly and it was hammered for a double. The difference is location, which made the Effective Velocity go from over 100 EvMPH from early elevated fastballs to 93 EvMPH. That fastball away call was the worst possible pitch that he could have thrown, but he was just nodding to what the catcher put down. Hosmer had already shown he was very late to the elevated version of that pitch multiple times in earlier at bats that game.
Eric Hosmer had a hard hit ball average of .750 in that spot. This was the beginning of the decline for Harvey and none of that was his fault, except nodding his head yes to that pitch at that location to that hitter. Why isn’t the catcher/coach/front office getting hammered in this situation?
Every pitcher has an ‘Ev Ecosystem’ with all pitches working together to create maximum deception and maximum yardage between pitches. This makes for the most difficult atmosphere to hit in. This is why only 10% of all hard hit balls happen on Ev Efficient Pitch Sequences. 90% of hard contact is happening where Matt Harvey is living these days. Easy to identify pitches with the lowest Ev Speed Spreads, which his advisors do not even believe exists. Harvey’s opponents certainly do.
So………. what’s wrong with Matt Harvey? Very bad advice on how he goes about his business. He needs an Ev Makeover to get back to his elite level of performance but he will not get that without an understanding of Ev.