W is one of the most problematic arm actions in baseball pitchers.
That is because the Inverted W tends to create
Timing problems in baseball pitchers,
as it did in the case of Mark Prior.
See how Mark Prior's pitching arm was FLAT, and not UP...
shoulders started turning and his pitching arm started to come under load?
And an increasingly common flaw I call
Flat Arm Syndrome.
The fact is that, despite the desperate, dishonest claims of
Jeff Passan about the Inverted W in his book The Arm, the Inverted W ended the careers of...
- Mark Prior
- Anthony Reyes
- Jeremy Bonderman
...among others, and is threatening the career of...
If you don't know who to believe when it comes to the Inverted W, I'd refer you to
what Eric Cressey, now of the New York Yankees, said about the Inverted W
way back in 2012...
The Inverted W theory is incredibly sound; Chris O'Leary
did a tremendous job of making his case – and we certainly work to
coach throwers out of this flaw...
Death to the Inverted W
As you may know, I have a huge problem with a pitching cue that
is referred to as the "Inverted W" or...
- Upside-Down W
- Breaking the Hands with the Elbows
I believe pitchers who make the Inverted W are at a
significantly higher risk of experiencing shoulder (and in some
cases also elbow) problems.
I define the Inverted W as more than 90 degrees of shoulder abduction,
with the elbows — and, critically, the Pitching Arm Side (PAS) elbow
— above the level of the shoulders in a position of Hyperabduction,
such that that creates a Timing problem.
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
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.
Reasons I Don't Like
the Inverted W
Let me explain all of the reasons why I don't like the
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
- Roger Clemens
- Bob Gibson
- Tom Glavine
- 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.
Frequently-Injured Pitchers Do It
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
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
Especially if they are moved into, or continue to pitch in,
the starting rotation.
- Jeremy Bonderman
- Anthony Reyes
- Joel Zumaya
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.