Matt Harvey’s Nearly Perfect Outing

Matt Harvey placed an exclamation point on his excellent start to the season Tuesday night with 9 one-hit innings, let’s take a look at how he’s doing it with a slant towards the visual.

Harvey is one of the hardest throwing starters in the league on a typical night, and he had a little extra on his stuff against the WhiteSox, averaging over 95 miles per hour on his fastball.  I’ve captured, stabilized and overlaid a selection of his primary pitches below.


While the curve in this group is a little errant, you can see the sharp action off a similar trajectory of his other offerings.  Harvey gets good use out of his changeup and curveball, particularly against lefties, but it’s the mid-90s fastball and hard slider that have been his best tools.  Here is a focused view of those two offerings.


You can see why he leads the NL in swinging strike percentage.  As good as his stuff is, Harvey did have questions for his 2013 outlook coming into the year.  As rookie pitchers have been known to do, he walked 26 batters in 59 1/3 innings throughout the 2012 season.  Harvey has kept the walks in check this season, down to 12 in 48 1/3 innings including making it through the WhiteSox without issuing a free pass.

As an experiment I thought I’d try to compliment the available PITCHf/x data with a visual look at his command during last night’s game.  I have stabilized footage of the first 11 fastballs to reach catcher John Buck, using Buck’s target as a focal point.  With a small sample size, lack of reference and without knowledge of Harvey’s true target I stress this is merely an experiment.


Finally, I will leave you with a sampling of last night’s strikeout pitch sequences.  Here is Alexei Ramirez.


Here’s Hector Santiago.


Here’s Jordan Danks.


Not bad, Mr. Harvey. Not bad.

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Drew Sheppard is a writer for FanGraphs, graphic artist and GIF enthusiast. If you have a topic you would like Drew to take a look at in the future using overlay GIFs, please let him know in the comments here or on Twitter @DShep25.

49 Responses to “Matt Harvey’s Nearly Perfect Outing”

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  1. Frito Bandito says:

    oh my god those pitches are sexy

    rock on mr. harvey

    Good job with the gifs, too.

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  2. Mel says:

    These gifs are almost as awesome as Matt Harvey. Great piece, Drew.

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  3. Brian says:

    That slider/fastball gif is just NASTY

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  4. Floyd Gondoli says:

    This is just fantastic. Keep it up!

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  5. Ammianus Marcellinus says:

    So beautiful…

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  6. cass says:

    On the strikeout sequences, could you put a number to indicate pitch sequence? Since gifs are continuous, it’d be nice to know where you are in the loop.

    Awesome post. Would love to see this treatment given to more pitchers. Hopefully Strasburg will throw some Strasburgian outings soon enough to warrant a piece, but, of course, Harvey is very deserving.

    Might also be interesting to see this treatment for lesser pitchers who have a great start and great pitchers who have a bad start. Just to examine what might have been different, if there’s anything there other than typical command problems and batted ball luck.

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    • Incitatus says:

      Agreed on the adding the pitch count to the GIFs – would be helpful.

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    • Yes, when actually viewing the post that occurred to me too. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to go back and re-save everything to edit these ones, but I’ll definitely add it to my list going forward.

      Thanks for the ideas!

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    • NateW says:

      The pitch after Buck (the catcher) stands up is the first pitch. But yea, maybe a little longer frame on the last pitch would be enough to make it apparent.

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  7. Jobu says:

    Amazing work, Drew

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  8. Jason says:

    .gif Heaven

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  9. George says:

    I liked your experiment with the .gif of John Buck’s target. Very cool.

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  10. y54y45y says:

    this is basically porn

    +39 Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Or Moyal says:

    Welcome to Fangraphs, Drew! Great feature.

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  12. AV says:

    I’m amazed at how his release point on both pitches in the second image is in exactly the same spot. The image gives the appearance of the ball multiplying into two baseballs on its way to the plate.

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  13. l1ay says:

    That FB/SL combo meal is just unfair.

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  14. tfb says:

    what about adjusting the speeds of the different pitches in the overlay? where we can see the zip on a fastball compared to the slow drawl of a curve? It sounds difficult even mentioning it, but it’s a pipe dream.

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    • Can you elaborate? I’m not quite sure what you mean. As is they are slowed down equally so the speed difference between them remains, but with a mid 80s curve it just doesn’t look as different as something like Darvish’s 60s curve.

      Do you mean slowing down a curve and speeding up a fastball even further? Or adjusting each pitch so that they arrive at the glove at the same moment regardless of speed? I’ve actually happened to do the latter already in testing but that emphasizes the movement arcs not really speed.

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      • Jay29 says:

        I think tfb is confused. The notion that a 12 mph difference between pitches is a large one (in terms of a batter’s timing) makes him think that the curve in the gif should arrive noticeably later than it does.

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      • Jon L. says:

        I had the same thought. I believe tfb, like me, was under the impression that the pitches in the first gif were all synchronized, rather than being shown at (a variation of) their actual speeds. However, it sounds like you’re saying they’re being shown with correct speed differentials. Visually, it doesn’t seem like it, as the curveball and fastball seem to be released and then received at the exact same times.

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        • They are synchronized from the the point of release (the closest frame available, which can slightly differ) so they should they maintain their speed differential.

          I can see what you are saying here, as with Harvey’s hard and harder pitch selection the difference is hard to pick up. From memory I believe the curveball arrives 4 frames after the fastball. The labeling may get in the way of this slightly, though obviously that has its benefits too.

          Slowing down the overall speed further would help make the difference more apparent. I’ll continue to tweak the effect, thanks all.

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      • Manic McReynolds says:

        Yes, the speed differential is apparent. I can actually see the fastball, then slider, then curve caught. I lose the change a little bit as the Buckmitt that catches it is really ghosty.

        Great comparison to say it won’t look as Bugs Bunny-esque as the Darvish loose deuce.

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  15. Persona non grata says:

    This is absolutely amazing. Additionally, despite the number of amazing GIFs, there is zero slowdown on my mobile devices! Please teach Mr Sullivan your GIF magic so I may again enjoy his wit on the move!

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    • Jon L. says:

      I think you may actually be viewing very slowed-down versions of the super-speed gifs I see on my laptop.

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  16. MalinsDad says:

    This is probably the most amazing thing I read today. Keep up the good work!

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  17. steex says:

    In the first gif, it appears that Rios is stunned into an out-of-body check swing by the ghost of Alejandro De Aza showing bunt.

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  18. tz says:

    Man, John Buck has quick hands!

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  19. PioneerSkies says:

    I’d love to see pitch overlay gifs for David Price and Jose Fernandez . . .

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  20. HenduforKutch says:

    Great work. I could stare at the Darvish and Harvey gif’s all day. I think you, more than any single person before you, have perfectly illustrated just how ridiculously hard it is to be a major league hitter.

    Offseason project: A gif of Pedro Martinez, circa ’99/’00. I can only imagine what that would look like.

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  21. Peter2 says:

    Lot of potential in these innovative displays. Not sure you should even be giving these away for free.

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  22. Michael Ketchen says:

    More of this….Lot’s more!!!!!

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  23. rotobanter says:

    gosh its great to have this guy on your best fantasy team … and as a mets fan.

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  24. dtpollitt says:

    Holy shit this is so goddamn awesome. Are you the one responsible for the Darvish gif? Brilliant.

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  25. adohaj says:

    It’s like his arm is a shotgun

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  26. GoateesOnly says:

    Awesome article. So so cool to have baseball data viewed, digested, and re-presented. Awesome.

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  27. Franco says:

    That slider…. has the same release point and follows the same trajectory as the fastball for about half the way to the plate. Than it lands nowhere near the fastball.

    I’m a Mets fan who watched that game and it’s still shocking to see that gif.

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  28. PackBob says:

    It would be great to have a series on the best pitchers in the game and what makes each effective. Or a gallery of styles. Also a comparison for a pitcher like Felix Hernandez that would show how he has changed from a fire-balling rookie to the pitcher he is today, with both being effective.

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  29. doggie427 says:

    Awesome work Drew.

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  30. RJackson says:

    I love that Drew is on here now–perfect match!!!

    Harvey is unbelievable. His motion is so smooth and he really could be effective just going fastball/slider but to add in more to that mix, oh lordie!

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  31. srt says:

    Great work here.

    As John Buck commented after Harvey’s Tuesday night game:
    ‘Matt made my job so easy. I framed my mitt for the pitch, he hit the spot just about every time.’

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  32. Dave S says:

    That one high fastball in the Buck gif sequence is just abruptly scary.

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  33. Tristram Shandy says:

    Fantastic article. In my 45+ years of baseball fandom, nothing has so clearly demonstrated how hard it is to hit (admittedly, superior) major league pitching like that second gif: the slider/fastball one. My, my, my. Thanks for this article. Please keep ‘em coming.

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  34. Jeffrey says:

    How come nobody has talked about Shelby Miller’s outing that was actually better?

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