Death To The Inverted L
One day I was
Googling around and stumbled across
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.
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
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
Jose Fernandez's Inverted L
Other pitchers who make -- or, more accurately, made -- the Inverted L
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
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
NOTE: The paragraph above was written in
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 and the InverteD L
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
That makes Driveline's current focus on creating velocity all
the more mystifying; at a minmum, Kyle Boddy isn't warning people
off of some of the problems that I help him fix in his own arm
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
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 that 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
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).