is a lightly edited version of my first, 2007 piece on the
Inverted W, the arm action that killed a
what Jeff Passan says about the Inverted W in his book The Arm,
the fact is the Inverted W ended the careers of...
- Mark Prior
- Anthony Reyes
- Jeremy Bonderman
I've created updated versions...
...but I retain this version for sentimental versions and so people
can verify what I said, when,
using the Wayback Machine.
Death to the
Inverted W (2007)
February 6, 2007
As you may know, I have a huge
problem with a pitching cue that is referred to as the "Inverted
W" (or the "Upside-Down W" or the "M" or
"Breaking the hands with the elbows"). I believe that
pitchers who make the "Inverted W" are at a significantly higher
risk of experiencing shoulder (and in some cases also elbow)
In the interests of accuracy in journalism, I have been
holding off on publishing this essay because I wasn't sure if
pitchers were actually being taught to do this or if they were
simply figuring this out on their own (and being praised for it).
However, just the other day I had a "conversation" with
a pitching guru named Paul Nyman in one of the forums on Steven Ellis'
Lets Talk Pitching
web site and he indicated that the "Inverted W" is indeed
something something that he advocates (and teaches).
I can point to literally hundreds of players
who have benefited significantly using the exact same methods
(inverted W, scapula loading, pelvic loading, etc.) that you THINK
are a problem or what you THINK causes problems.
Why I DON'T LIKE
THE INVERTED W
Let me explain all of the reasons why I don't
like the "Inverted W".
It's NOT What Great Pitchers Do
If you look at the motions of great pitchers
(and by great I mean pitchers who had long, successful,
and relatively injury-free careers) like...
- Roger Clemens
- Bob Gibson
- Sandy Koufax
- Greg Maddux
- Nolan Ryan
- Tom Seaver
...you will see that none of
them make the Inverted W.
Instead, while you could say that all of
these pitchers employed Scapular Loading, I would argue that the
critical difference is that they make the Horizontal W
(and just to be completely clear, "horizontal" is the key word),
with their elbows below the level of their shoulders, rather than
the Inverted W, with their elbows above and behind the
level of their shoulders.
I believe that the Horizontal W is a safe way to
scap load while the Inverted W is not.
It IS What Frequently-Injured Pitchers Do
If you look at the
mechanics of pitchers who have had injury-plagued careers, then
you will almost always see the "Inverted W". Their
Pitching Arm Side (aka PAS) elbow is both above and behind their
shoulders in what I call a state of Hyperabduction.
You will also see this pattern bear out if you
go back into the history books and look at the careers of guys
like Don Drysdale. He made the Inverted W and ended up retiring
due to shoulder problems.
If I am correct about this, then I believe a number of young pitchers will
experience problems as a result of making the Inverted W
(especially if they are moved into, or continue to pitch in, the
Similarly, pitchers like Roy Oswalt
should not experience nearly as many problems because they do not
make the Inverted W.
If you are interested in a technical,
anatomically-based explanation of why I think this is a problem,
then here goes. The supraspinatus muscle, which is the
muscle that is initially responsible for abducting the upper arm,
is the one that is most frequently injured by pitchers. I don't
think it's a coincidence that I have found that a state of
Hyperabduction (which is achieved using the Supraspinatus) is very
often related to rotator cuff problems. I am not sure what the
exact mechanism is, but I believe that it could be related to
impingement of the superior portion (top) of the Supraspinatus on
the inferior portion (undersurface) of the Acromion.
Eliminating The Inverted W
In terms of improving the mechanics of a
pitcher who makes the Inverted W, the problem is that pitchers who
do this tend to break their hands with their elbows and try to
take their PAS elbow as high as they can. They may also try to
keep their PAS elbow above the level of their PAS hand (with their
PAS forearm hanging down vertically) as long as possible. Some of
this can also be due to trying to keep their fingers on top of the
ball as long as possible (which I also think is a dangerous cue).
What I have my pitchers do is, ala Greg Maddux, Nolan
Ryan, and Roger Clemens, break their hands with their hands (not
their elbows) and keep their PAS hand more level with, if not
slightly above, the level of their PAS elbow. I also have them
show the ball to 3B relatively soon after breaking their hands as
this helps to keep the PAS hand above the level of the PAS elbow.