Breaking Down Matt Harvey vs Toronto Blue Jays

matt harvey

“F–k Yeah, Let’s Go!”

Stat Line:  7 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 6 K, 0 BB

After giving up eight homeruns in his last four outings, Matt Harvey got back on track against the hot hitting Blue Jays lineup.  Harvey’s displayed good command in his four pitch repertoire and nice two-seam movement on his fastball as the game progressed but much of his success can be attributed to his game plan against the Blue Jays lineup and the success with his changeup.

Game Plan

Harvey used the oldest and most successful pitching approach by pitching backwards against the Blue Jays hitters.  Pitching backwards is the approach of throwing off-speed pitches and changeups early in at-bats to combat aggressive and powerful fastball hitters.  In the first two times around the Blue Jays batting order (first five innings), Harvey threw a first pitch off-speed pitch or changeup against 14 of the 18 Blue Jays he faced (77% off-speed/changeup on first pitch).

The real beauty of Harvey’s game plan came the third time through the Blue Jays order beginning in the sixth inning when he transitioned from pitching backwards to attacking Blue Jays hitters with fastballs.  In the first five innings, Harvey threw a fastball on 50% of his pitches but threw a fastball on 64% of his pitches during the last two innings.  Additionally, Harvey only threw a first pitch off-speed pitch or changeup to one of the eight hitters he faced in the sixth and seventh innings.

This transition kept the Blue Jays hitters off balance and uncomfortable in their at-bats causing them to lack a game plan going into their at-bats which resulted in weaker and less aggressive swings as the game went on.  Even Jose Bautista’s sixth inning triple was more of a defensive than aggressive swing on a 98 mph fastball well located on the outside corner.

Changeup

Put simply, Harvey’s changeup was nasty as it exhibited devastating sharp break in the last ten feet to the opposing hitters.  Additionally, the spin on the baseball was so tight that the Blue Jays hitters continually swung right over Harvey’s changeup as they couldn’t pick up the difference between Harvey’s fastball and his changeup.

The most awkward swing against Harvey’s changeup in Edwin Encarnacion’s sixth inning at bat when Encarnacion hit a soft groundball to Mets third baseman Ruben Tejada.  Encarnacion was so baffled by Harvey’s changeup that he wanted to check swing but ended up slowly following through at the high and inside changeup that would normally be taken for a called ball.

@espnstatsinfo passed along the following three stats on Harvey’s changeup from last night:

  1. Hitters were 0-for-10 vs. change (10 putouts with that pitch, most in his career)
  2. Threw it on 19.6 percent of his pitches, highest in a game this season
  3. Induced 8 swings at changeups out of the zone, 3 more than any other start this season and 2nd most in his career; 6 swing and misses vs. that pitch most this season

Take away

Pitchers of all levels should learn the art of pitching backwards.  Young pitchers that have command of an off-speed pitch will have great success if they implement this strategy in their approach.  Major League pitchers who have above average command of two off-speed pitches and a changeup will throw seven shutout innings against the league’s hottest hitting team when they implement this strategy.

Follow @ziography on Twitter for more Mets pitching insight that goes beyond statistics.

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About Christopher Zaccherio 58 Articles
Chris Zaccherio uses his passion and experience in baseball to educate Major League Baseball fans on the art of pitching through analysis that goes beyond statistics.