Death To The Inverted L
One day I was
Googling around and stumbled across this
article about Greg Maddux. While I thought the article 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.
Maddux takes the ball out of his glove
with a bent elbow and his hands on top of the ball. Sports Illustrated
described the action correctly as an "Inverted L." He maintains this
"L" position as the hand comes above the shoulder into a regular
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.
In truth, the
Inverted L -- or Inverted Goalpost -- is illustrated by the photos below of
Ian Kennedy, Scott Williamson, A.J. Burnett,
and Cliff Politte.
Chris Carpenter's Inverted L
Scott Williamson's Inverted L
Cliff Politte's Inverted L
AJ Burnett's Inverted L
In each case, the thing to
notice is how their Pitching Arm Side (PAS) elbow is at or above the
level of their shoulders and their PAS forearm is hanging down
vertically beneath it. I think the fact that these pitchers make
(or made) the Inverted L is related to their arm problems.
BJ Ryan's Inverted L
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
Barry Zito's Inverted L
You can also see
the Inverted L in the pitching mechanics of Barry Zito, which
makes me nervous about the health of both his elbow and
shoulder. I think the fact that he makes the Inverted L may have
something to do with the velocity problems Barry Zito has had
over the last couple of seasons.
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.
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 that they make the Inverted L...
- BJ Ryan
- Scott Williamson
The following pitchers have
some Inverted L in their arm actions, which makes me
wonder about the long-term health of their elbows and
- Aaron Crow
- Ian Kennedy
- Tim Lincecum
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).