Stephen Strasburg's pitching mechanics were flawed from the
beginning, leading to both his elbow and his shoulder problems.
The Smoking Gun
As the pictures above and below show, when Stephen Strasburg's shoulders
started to turn, and his pitching arm came under load, his pitching
arm was FLAT and not UP...
The Smoking Gun
...a problem I call
Flat Arm Syndrome.
Flat Arm Syndrome
Strasburg has improved his
Timing, at least to a degree, over the years, which is why he's
But he's still not clean.
This page contains some of my earlier thoughts about Stephen Strasburg's pitching
mechanics. I leave it up so people can see
what I said, when,
using the Wayback Machine.
My first analysis was...
I've since put together a couple of summary pieces...
Another overview and summary of my views about
Stephen Strasburg is...
Stephen Strasburg's Pitching Mechanics
This is a document I first started in 2010. I then made a
number of updates when Strasburg made his debut and again when it was announced on August 27, 2010 that
Stephen Strasburg needed Tommy John surgery.
Inverted W or Timing?
As I have been saying
since at least late 2007, while the
is likely related to Stephen
Strasburg's injury problems, the Inverted W did not cause his injury
At least, not directly.
Instead, the root cause of Stephen Strasburg's
injuries is a problem with his
Timing. That Timing
problem is overloading his arm. It was originally caused by an
Inverted W but has since morphed into more of a
That Timing problem is what got, and is still
getting, Stephen Strasburg's elbow and will eventually get his shoulder.
Flat Arm Syndrome
I have referred to the root cause of Stephen Strasburg's
elbow issues being a
However, I have recently coined and started using a
more descriptive term...
In the clip below, see how Stephen Strasburg's shoulders
starts to turn while his pitching arm is FLAT and not UP?
Stephen Strasburg's Flat Arm Syndrome
It's also increasingly common.
On two occasions now,
Tom Verducci has plagiarized my words and passed them off as
his own or as the words of some anonymous person. That first
happened with Stephen Strasburg and then with Matt Harvey. While
that's frustrating — not to mention unethical — there is one
interesting aspect to Tom Verducci's misdeeds. People don't
steal things they believe are worthless.
August 2010 Stephen Strasburg Pitching Mechanics and Inverted W Podcast
was conducted with a D.C. radio station after his season ended
due to Tommy John Surgery. It's a good overview of my views on
Stephen Strasburg's pitching mechanics, his long-term fate, the Inverted W,
and the ultimate root cause of Stephen Strasburg's problems.
What the not so durable guys do is they take their elbows
back but they also take them up. Now, that's actually painful to
do, but it's not that bad in and of itself. The problem is that
when you take the elbows back and up, you
can end up with a
Out of this interview came a
study of the Inverted W.
I posted the previous piece while waiting on the results of
Stephen Strasburg's MRI. Well, the results of the MRI just came
back and it looks like Strasburg is going to need Tommy John
I'm not at all surprised.
In terms of his having elbow problems rather than shoulder
problems, the fact is
that it's hard to predict which will fail first because there
are lots of variables involved. However, in many cases the elbow
will fail before the shoulder does (especially if the pitcher
relies heavily on his slider). For example,
Inverted W pitcher
went down with elbow problems before his shoulder problems were
able to take their toll.
Going forward, the way this
typically works for
Inverted W guys — at least for those who don't change their
mechanics — is that they come back from the surgery and
look great for a while. Then their mechanics again take
their toll, but on the shoulder this time (think
B.J Ryan who is
Inverted L guy). Given Strasburg's
velocity, I'm thinking that, if nothing changes in his mechanics
and he remains a starter, then the Nats will get one or two
years of value out of him before his shoulder blows up.
For Strasburg to have any chance of pitching more than 5 years
he's got to change his arm action and get rid of the Inverted W.
He also needs to ditch the slider because that is an absolute
killer of the elbows. Changing his arm action may knock 5 or so MPH off of his velocity, but that's what
it's going to take to reduce the load on his arm.
In my prior comments about Stephen Strasburg, I say his arm
action is borderline, but the long-term implications for the
health of his arm depend on whether he has a timing problem or
As I also say below, the pictures
below are very suggestive of a timing problem.
Notice how he is
pulling back with his Glove Side elbow well before his Pitching
Arm Side upper arm has reached 90 degrees of external rotation
(PAS forearm vertical).
I've been going over some of the
video of Stephen Strasburg that's been hitting the web over
the past few weeks — much of which incorrectly extols
Strasburg's pitching mechanics and compares him to greats like
Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens — and
it's clear that Stephen Strasburg does in fact have a
significant timing problem, the same timing problem
that he has had for years.
As was evident in the video above, which is from 2007 or 2008
and which I reference in detail further down on the page, Stephen
start rotating well before his PAS upper arm has reached 90
degrees of external rotation. In fact, while his arm action
isn't exactly the same — but it is pretty close — Stephen Strasburg's timing problem is
pretty much identical to Mark Prior's.
None of this bodes well for Stephen Strasburg's long-term
He is a plus plus velocity guy with a significant timing
problem who is pitching longer into the season than he ever has.
If the Nats are smart, they will shut him down. However, I don't
know what the results of the second MRI are going to say, but it
might be too late to salvage his 2011 season if not his career.
2010 June 10
The bottom line on Stephen Strasburg is that
I don't think he'll be another Mark Prior.
While I'm working to get some video to confirm this —
because still photos can only tell you so much — Stephen
Strasburg's mechanics and timing don't seem to be as bad as
those of Mark Prior.
However, Strasburg also isn't completely clean.
I see things that concern me in his arm action and timing
and the pitcher they again bring to mind is John Smoltz, another
pitcher who had a borderline
and some arm problems as a result.
I could very easily see Stephen Strasburg having a
comparable career; years of total dominance accompanied by
lost years due to shoulder and elbow problems.
2010 June 8
I have spent the past week collecting as many recent pictures
of Stephen Strasburg as I can, and here are some of
the better and more telling ones.
Lots of people will say that the picture above shows Stephen
Strasburg's clear Inverted W. I wouldn't say that is
anything more than a borderline Inverted W. Because he is leaning
forward toward third base, his elbows look higher than they
The picture above makes me nervous for three reasons. First,
I see a suggestion of a timing problem. It looks like Stephen
Strasburg may pull back with his glove elbow a bit early, which
can create a timing problem and which is the likely cause of
Mark Mulder and Jeff Francis' shoulder problems. Second, Stephen Strasburg's elbows are well behind his shoulders.
Third, his elbows are quite high relative his shoulders.
If you look at how greats like Greg Maddux and Nolan Ryan Scapular
Load, their elbows never get that high (because the higher the
elbows get, the greater the strain on the shoulder).
The two pictures above show a similar pattern from slightly
different angles. Notice how Stephen Strasburg is pulling back
with his Glove Side (GS) elbow while his Pitching Arm Side (PAS) forearm is
still only horizontal.
The photo above is from a slightly later moment in time.
Notice how Stephen Strasburg has continued to pull back with his
glove side elbow and how his PAS forearm is still not yet
vertical. I'd need video to confirm this, but this is often
characteristic of a timing problem.
Similarly, the photo above gives some suggestion of a timing
problem and a resulting increased load on the front of the PAS
shoulder. Look at how much Stephen Strasburg's scaps are pinched
together. At a minimum, you don't see this degree a scap
pinching in Nolan Ryan.
2009 March 17
The video clip below, which I obtained from Driveline
Mechanics, shows the pitching mechanics of Stephen Strasburg.
The problem is that Stephen Strasburg's
pitching mechanics appear to have been influenced by,
and are remarkably similar to, those of
Mark Prior. The thing to pay attention to in this clip is the
Inverted W that is clearly visible in Frame 23 and Frame 24.
Stephen Strasburg's Inverted W
While the Inverted W isn't automatically bad, in Stephen
Strasburg's case it does appear to create a significant
Notice that in Frame 26, when Stephen Strasburg's Glove Side
(GS) foot plants and his shoulders start to rotate, his Pitching
Arm Side (PAS) forearm is just above the horizontal rather than
being vertical (or nearly so) as I prefer. In Frame 27, when
Stephen Strasburg's shoulder's have clearly rotate a significant
amount, his PAS is still not yet vertical.
All of this causes Stephen Strasburg's PAS upper arm to
externally rotate especially hard and much (see Frame 29) which
significantly increases the load on the elbow and the shoulder.
What's more it looks like this external rotation, as with Mark
Prior, occurs with his PAS upper arm elevated in a position of
If you combine this with Stephen Strasburg's plus to plus plus velocity and the
fact that he seems to be a fastball/slider guy, rather than a
fastball/change-up guy, you've got
someone who is putting tremendous, and likely excessive,
stress on his elbow and his shoulder.
2008 August: The Bottom Line
The bottom line on Stephen Strasburg is that, while he may be
a consensus number one like David Price, mechanically speaking
Stephen Strasburg is no David Price.
Like Mark Prior, Stephen Strasburg has some
Inverted W in his arm action and a
problem as a result.
A habitual form of
This will significantly increase the load on his elbow and his
shoulder and make him a very high risk draft choice.
I could even see him pulling a Cole St. Clair and blowing up
However, because his mechanics in some of the frames I have
seen aren't quite as bad as Mark Prior's, and at times he
sometimes makes the Horizontal W rather than the Inverted W...
...there is a chance that Stephen Strasburg could
have a career more like a John Smoltz. In that case, he would be
effective for periods of time but would also struggle with
elbow and shoulder problems.
It's a bit hard to say for sure, since Stephen Strasburg seems
to show significant variability in his arm action from year to
What I Said, When
If you have any questions or doubts about what I said about
Stephen Strasburg and when, you can
verify my claims using the Wayback Machine.
 I just put together a new piece that discusses my views on
the overlap between pitching mechanics, injuries, the Verducci
Effect, and Pitcher Abuse Points.