|ChrisOLeary.com > Essays > Death To The Inverted L|
One day I was Googling around and stumbled across an article about Greg Maddux. While I thought it was generally pretty good, the paragraph below drove me crazy...
What distinguishes him from other pitchers is his arm swing — the motion of his arm from the moment he separates the ball from his glove until he releases it.
Whoever wrote this has either never seen Greg Maddux pitch or is pushing their own interpretation of proper pitching mechanics and is trying (inaccurately) to use Greg Maddux to prove their point.
Death To The Inverted L
In truth, in my opinion the Inverted L — which is basically just half of an Inverted W — explains the injury problems of pitchers like Tim Lincecum, Chris Carpenter, Scott Williamson, and many others.
Tim Lincecum's Inverted L
As I discuss in my piece on Jose Fernandez's pitching mechanics, the Inverted L is one of the root causes of his elbow and shoulder problems.
Jose Fernandez's Inverted L
Other pitchers who make — or, more accurately, made — the Inverted L include...
Kerry Wood's Inverted L
Chris Carpenter's Inverted L
Scott Williamson's Inverted L
Cliff Politte's Inverted L
Yu Darvish's Inverted L
Aaron Nola's Inverted L
Josh Johnson's Inverted L
In each case, the thing to notice is how the Pitching Arm Side (PAS) elbow is at or above the level of the shoulders and the PAS forearm is hanging down vertically beneath it and in a position of up to 90 degrees of internal rotation.
BJ Ryan's Inverted L
BJ Ryan's pitching mechanics also include a major Inverted L. I believe this is the root cause of his elbow problems and believe it will lead to Rotator Cuff and Labrum problems over the next few years.
NOTE: The paragraph above was written in August 2008.
Barry Zito's Inverted L
You can also see the Inverted L in the pitching mechanics of Barry Zito. I think the fact that he made the Inverted L had something to do with the velocity problems Barry Zito had over the last few years of his career.
The Inverted L Defined
For those of you with medical or other scientific backgrounds, let me give you a more technical definition of the Inverted L. I define the Inverted L as being 90 degrees of shoulder abduction (PAS elbow at the level of the shoulders) combined with 90 degrees of shoulder internal rotation (PAS forearm pointed vertically downward) and 90 degrees of elbow flexion (elbow bent 90 degrees).
The Problem With The Inverted L
Like the Inverted W, the Inverted L isn't (that) bad in and of itself. Rather, the problem with the Inverted L is that it can create timing problems which can increase the distance, and thus the force, with which the PAS upper arm externally rotates. This can increase the stress on both the elbow and the shoulder.
BJ Ryan's Inverted L
This is very clearly illustrated in the clip above of BJ Ryan. The thing to notice is how, due to his significant Inverted L, his shoulders start rotating well before his Glove Side (GS) foot plants and his PAS forearm is in the vertical, high-cocked position. This additional, especially forceful, external rotation increases the load on both the elbow and shoulder joints.
Driveline, Boddy, Inverted L, Elbow Spiral
In 2008, Kyle Boddy of Driveline Baseball e-mailed me asking for help. He was having arm problems and I gave him some suggestions of what to do and what not to do, suggesstions that he said worked.
That makes Driveline's current focus on creating velocity all the more mystifying; at a minimum, Kyle Boddy isn't warning people off of some of the problems that I help him fix in his own arm action.
Driveline's Elbow Spiral
The elbow spiral is a perfect example of one of the things I'm talking about. One of the things I warned Kyle about — I have the e-mails — is hyperabduction (high pitching arm side elbow).
The problem with Driveline's elbow spiral is that — by definition — it puts pitchers in a a position of hyperabduction. I have no doubt that that will often provide a short-term velocity boost. However, in my experience hyperabducting the pitching arm side elbow, as is done in the Inverted L, will tend to create arm problems.
Just as it did for Kyle Boddy of Driveline Baseball.
The current fad seems to be to try to cancel out the injury problems that the Inverted L and the other inverted arm actions create through the use of shoulder conditioning. While I will admit that that seems to work, to a degree, it doesn't protect the elbow. The case of Jose Fernandez also suggests that it just serves to push off the inevitable shoulder problems.
Pitchers Who Make The Inverted L
There are a number of major league pitchers who have had arm problems, I believe in part to the fact they make the Inverted L...
The following pitchers have some Inverted L in their arm actions, which makes me wonder about the long-term health of their elbows and shoulders...
Kerry Wood also has some Inverted L in his arm action, but it is borderline, which I think explains why he has been able to resurrect his career (to date).
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