The Case For The Inverted W, Part 4

The Case For The Inverted W, Part 4 thumbnail

The Case for the Inverted W Part 4 by Paul Nyman:

The inverted W injury “Witch Hunt”

In case you missed it, here is Part 3.

Almost without exception the articles stating or implying that the inverted W is a potential source of arm injury use Mark prior and/or Steve Strasburg to support their beliefs.

First and foremost is those who believe the inverted W is a precursor to injury are talking about THEIR VERSION of the inverted W i.e. lifting the elbow above the shoulders.

Lifting the elbow above the shoulder was NEVER part of the inverted W explanation. As stated previously the inverted W was an integral part of scapula loading which I believe is accepted in many throwing circles as being a positive thing.

What many perceive as “shoulder height” is based upon the perception that shoulder height is defined by this picture:


Figure 11

 And this is what must be taking place during their interpretation of the inverted W:


Figure 12

 Where the humorous (upper arm) is elevated above a straight line drawn through both shoulders.

In reality, what pitchers do when they pinch the shoulder blades up and back is to elevate the scapula.


Figure 13

This is a picture of the upper arm maintained abducted at 90° and the scapula is elevated 30° i.e. the relationship between the glenohumeral joint and the scapula is the same as this picture:


Figure 14

 Specific to the injuries of Prior and Strasburg.

Here’s Mark prior’s injury record (Wikipedia):


Figure 15

 The contention on the part of the inverted W critics is that Mark prior injured a shoulder because of the inverted W.

Considering prior’s injury record, is it possible that his shoulder problems were a simply a result of wear and tear?

From Wikipedia:

In 2003, Prior finished third in the National League’s Cy Young Award voting after compiling an 18–6 win-loss record despite missing three starts after an on-field collision with Atlanta Braves second baseman Marcus Giles. Prior and Giles had both been chosen to play in the All-Star Game, but were forced to miss the game as a result of their injuries. Prior and fellow right-handed pitcher Kerry Wood were dubbed “Chicago Heat” by Sports Illustrated, and the name stuck, as the twosome were dominant in leading the Cubs to an 88-win season and a division title. However, sportswriters and fans began to criticize Dusty Baker on the high pitch count of the two pitchers. Despite the concerns, Prior and Wood continued to pitch high counts throughout the season. In 2003, Prior averaged 113.4 pitches per starts in regular season. In the month of September, Prior recorded 126 pitches per start. Prior averaged another 120 pitches in games in the postseason and struggled with an injury the next season. Pundits often blame Baker for ruining the careers of both pitchers.[3][4]

Or possibly had to do with previous injuries altering his delivery (Dizzy Dean syndrome)?

Other than the perception that lifting the elbow above the shoulders early in the delivery is a negative,

I see no definitive proof that the inverted W had anything to do with Mark Prior’s shoulder problems.

With respect to Strasburg, I watched videotape of the game where it is believed he tore his UCL.

What is interesting to me is that the pitch that he threw before having to come off the mound was a change up. Anyone who has thrown effective changeup understands that the grip on the changeup and delivery  is different, which has the potential to change the forces on the elbow.

Also the pitch prior to the changeup was a fastball where Strasburg exhibited no indication or sign of discomfort.

And from numerous studies attempting to explain the cause of UCL injury, maximum stress on the elbow occurs just and along with maximum external rotation.

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©2015 Baseball Think Tank and Lantz Wheeler

About the Author
Lantz Wheeler

Lantz coached college baseball for 8 years. He served as the pitching coach for St. Catharine College, Lipscomb University & the University Of Louisiana Monroe. He currently trains over 20 professional pitchers and 7 of his current players are pitching in MLB. He also consults with numerous NCAA D1 programs and 43 college teams use his Pitching Mechanics MasterMind System.

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Turn 22 April 13, 2013, 2:07 pm

    I don’t understand it but I see where the uninformed or uneducated see the elbow go up and naturally assume its the shoulder joint raising the elbow.

    How do people negatively comment on such things that they don’t understand or take the time to investigate.

    • Lantz April 13, 2013, 4:22 pm

      FEAR FACTOR! There’s a lot of guys that take myths and try to make money out of them or a name for themselves. One of the more popular guys uses it as a platform to sell products and his idea or view to what is pleasing arm action. That’s my thoughts anyway

  • Matt April 13, 2013, 4:55 pm

    I stumbled across this researching the quote on quote inverted W and while it does reassure me about the state of some pitchers, I don’t think I’m totally convinced it’s wise to throw that way. Many major league clubs go through the trouble of changing young players who use this and I don’t know if that’s a result of superstition about the delivery or if there’s sufficient evidence we’re not seeing that links certain injuries to that style.

    • Lantz April 13, 2013, 5:31 pm


      Thanks for commenting, but what MLB teams attempt to change this? I think at that level, they could hope to change it, but it’s not going to happen. I have never seen any scientific data that supports it requires changing and most of the hard throwers in the game have this type of arm action.

      Thanks for commenting.


      • Paul Nyman April 15, 2013, 8:57 pm

        What most people don’t seem to understand is that pitchers who demonstrate what I call the inverted W didn’t develop their pitching mechanics with the intention of throwing with the inverted W. What happened is that throwing process of trial and error they determined that this was the most effective way for them to throw the baseball. And I’m willing to bet that more pitchers who throw very hard exhibit the characteristics of the inverted W that being scapula loading. In other words the inverted W is a means to an end i.e. the and being throwing the baseball hard.

  • Turn 22 April 14, 2013, 2:40 pm

    I find it hard to believe that major league clubs would try and change the “W” in any pitcher. At the cost of their velocity? Nope, can’t see it.

    • Lantz April 14, 2013, 7:17 pm


      I agree.


  • Kevin "Goody" Goodman April 27, 2013, 1:51 am

    This is baseball right? Maybe, since the word inverted is 3 syllables long, it might be throwing some people off. What is going on here is quite simple, the upper arm is being pulled back as the pitcher begins to intiate rotation of the upper body. Actually both upper arms are being pulled back. This is what creates that “big in the chest” look that I think most people understand. When the pitcher makes SFC, his weight is generally in the middle of his pitching stance, and he is just beginning to get into the Inverted W posture. I refer to this moment in time (SFC) as transitioning from a backside to a frontside unload. The upper arms are not pulled back at this point in time (I call this the Flat L because the hand is on top of the ball and the palm of the hand is facing the ground and the lower arm is at 90 degrees of flexion and the upper arms are not pulled back at this point in time) but it is the next sequence in the movement as the pitcher begins upper body rotation and the loading of the glove side scapula is what helps get the pitcher to both get his weight to the front leg and initiates rotation. This is the moment that rushing can occur. Rushing is when the front side gets ahead of the backside, they are not in synch with each other. So when the upper arms are pulled back, that creates the posture: “Inverted W.” Like Mr. Nyman has said numerous times, it has nothing to do where the elbow is, it is a statement about what the upper arm is doing. And when you throw the ball, the upper arm is pulled forward. Now in most things when it comes to acceleration, the longer I have to get up to top speed the faster I will be when I finally get there. Now if I want to throw the shit out of it (A great Nyman ebook BTW) do I want to move my upper arm, say 30 to 40 degrees of movement or would I be better off moving my arm 50 to 60 degrees of movement. In other words, will my sports car be faster at 1/8 of a mile or at a 1/4 of a mile? It’s a no brainer people, pull the upper arm back and FIRE!

  • Dan Farnsworth May 4, 2013, 7:01 pm

    Just came across this site yesterday and am quite impressed with the content here. I’d like a clarification on what actually is the issue people with the Inverted W. I had thought that it was an issue some coaches had with the timing of the delivery, where pitchers had gotten into foot strike before getting the ball above the shoulder level and still being in the Inverted W position. This I could understand to a degree, especially with pitchers who end up rapidly changing their posture after foot strike to rush their arms back in position to throw the ball.

    However, I could also see this as being a sign of efficiency as it may help create even more of the whip action a pitcher needs to create velocity.

    Is the original argument simply that pitchers should not allow their elbow to go above the shoulder at all, or is it after a certain point in the delivery as I understood it to be? And do you see any merit to the claim that not getting the ball above shoulder height at foot strike could be seen as an injury predictor?

    Thanks for the great information!

    • Lantz May 8, 2013, 3:13 am


      Sorry to reply so late. I will wait for Paul to chyme in on this, great questions.


  • Brendan October 2, 2014, 1:28 am

    If the inverted W isn’t something that caused all of the arm problems, then how do you keep yourself from getting hurt? I’m a person that could be thrown under the inverted w group, and I’ve recently had tommy john surgery. I just don’t really understand what went wrong then, other than conditioning and keeping my arm strong or using other parts of my body more. Just trying to keep myself injury free and also trying to regain velocity and go above where I was.

    • Lantz Wheeler October 3, 2014, 5:11 am


      I wish I knew the answer to that one…many times the inverted W is an issue with the center part of the body.


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