The Inverted Race For The Cy Young W



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  1. Troy P says:


    Another great and informative post. Keep up the great work and I can’t wait to find time to bring my son up to one of your programs. We live in South Alabama and I wanted to know if you will be offering any weekend programs in September? Thanks for all the free info, it’s one of a kind!


  2. Jim Wink says:

    I totally agree with the difficult nature of changing arm action. Especially when you focus on positions, instead of fluidity.

    If arm action is to be changed, it has to be(from my experience) a whole body transformation. As your overall body mechanics improves, so can you arm action.

    But I believe that through a lot of hard work you can also change arm action, itself, to be more fluid and continuous. A lot and lot of hard work, but it is doable if you want to enough.

    My before and after are in the links below. My arm action has changed, but I would point to my overall mechanical differences to how I’m able to have a more efficient arm action then before.

    I don’t have ‘elite’ mechanics, but I have made progress.

    What do you think of my mechanics? I seem to have the ‘inverted w’ thing going on too, and I have had several people talk about my elbow being too high.


  3. Zita Carno says:

    Do you remember an old poem about the blind men and the elephant?
    The story is that six blind men came across an elephant. The first man took hold of the creature’s trunk and declared that the elephant was like a rope. The second one grasped a leg and said that the elephant was like a tree. Each one in turn tried to describe the elephant. The last two lines of the poem go like this: “Though each was partly in the right, They all were in the wrong.” And so it is with this discussion of the so-called “inverted W”, particularly with this character called “Yardbird” who is so far off base that I could easily pick him off with a good snap-throw move.
    Thank God I was an honest-to-gosh sidearmer and had no such problems.

    • Lantz says:


      Haha….. Love it!


      • Zita Carno says:

        Thank you.
        It all goes back to what Ed Lopat told me a long time ago. He said that you should never, NEVER mess with a pitcher’s arm action, arm slot, what have you. He firmly believed that each pitcher has his/her own individual arm action, and what he would do was work with that pitcher to maximize his/her capabilities. He had noticed from the beginning—when he was watching me familiarize myself with the slider—that I was a natural, honest-to-gosh sidearmer with a consistent release point and a slide-step which I used all the time, and we took it from there. (Don’t you wish all pitching coaches would follow the same precepts?) He was one of the finest pitching coaches anyone would give his eyeteeth to work with, and I was indeed fortunate to be able to work with him for almost four year; what I learned from him was nothing short of priceless. He helped me become a better pitcher.

  4. Goody says:

    So where are we going with all of this? Is the “inverted W” something that we should be teaching? Or is it something that occurs naturally in the throwing of most high level throwers? And if so, was Paul Nyman merely pointing out its existence and therefore named the movement “the Inverted W” much like Columbus discovering and naming America? And if our pitchers aren’t doing the IW, should we teach them to do it so they have a chance to become a potential Cy Young winner like all of the above mentioned pitchers?

  5. Mike Reinold says:

    Nice article and breakdown. There is a bit of misconception regarding the inverted W. Not all W’s are the same. A true inverted W is measured at the time of foot contact, not during the windup.

    A bigger issue may not be the fact that a pitcher has a high elbow, but rather the timing of the high elbow. A high elbow with good timing of mechanics from foot plant onward may not be as stressful (it is, but perhaps not as significantly).

    However, an inverted W that causes the arm to be late into ER at foot contact causes a large increase in stress on the shoulder and elbow.

    You can invert all you want earlier in the windup, but if you catch up and everything clicks into place it is less significant.

    Nice post!

    • Lantz says:


      You are a breath of fresh air! Thanks for commenting, I agree 100% with your thoughts. As stated, Paul originally coined the term to describe Smoltz at the initial hand break. Thanks for commenting.


  6. James G says:

    I realize I’m late to this thread, hopefully you still read it. First, disagreeing with you using evidence:

    In defense of Nyman, his point is not that the Inverted W keeps pitchers from being effective, it’s that it correlates with injuries within a few years. This crop of Cy Young candidates is unique because they’re all so young. Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Mike Hampton were each Cy Young candidates with inverted W’s, and they each had careers derailed by injuries.

    As my own “science” when I came across the Inverted W in 2010, before looking into their mechanics I made three lists: 10 veteran or retired pitchers with really long, healthy careers, 10 pitchers I knew to be injury-plagued, and 10 young pitchers to watch for. Of the 10 veterans (guys like Maddux, Nolan Ryan, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee…) none had inverted W’s. Of the guys with injuries (Joel Zumaya, Mike Hampton, Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Francisco Liriano) all had inverted W’s.

    In 2010 I looked at the mechanics of young pitchers to keep an eye on this for its predictive power. Guys who looked clear: Felix Hernandez, Ubaldo Jimenez, David Price, Justin Verlander. Guys who looked like they’d have problems: Adam Wainwright, Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw… Lincecum was weird because he didn’t have a high elbow, but at the point in his delivery where you normally look for it his arm is still reeeally far back. Anyway, the inverted W has almost perfectly predicted which of these guys have had injuries and which haven’t. Felix, Ubaldo, and Verlander have missed a combined ZERO starts. DP missed a few this past year, but it was a muscle and not ligaments and seemed pretty minor.

  7. James G says:

    Second, where I agree with you.

    Around this same time, I had a LHP friend who was having a great college season and looked like he could become an early round pick (ended up supplemental first). I looked at pictures of him and saw the inverted W and thought about telling him. This is where I agree with you: NOT WORTH IT. I think you’re right that arm action is the fingerprint of a pitcher’s effectiveness and not worth screwing with if you’re getting results. Plus, look at some of the “cautionary tales” and they’ve still gotten to the places young pitchers dream of. What are you going to tell a young pitcher? “Hey, look at Smoltz/Wainwright/Prior… if you don’t change your mechanics, you might only contend for like 2-3 Cy Youngs match and might get injured before you get more that half-dozen league championship rings”?

    That said, that friend of mine got Tommy John 2/3 of the way through his first season at High-A.

    But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to the inverted W. For young pitchers, like 11-15, it might be worth trying to change. And it’s definitely worth considering for GM’s or even fans. For example, I think that Kershaw contract looks a lot riskier when you consider this mechanical issue.

    Thanks for setting up this forum for discussion.

  8. Brad McKay says:

    Does the Yu Darvish injury alter your perception at all? I thought most of this was quite thoughtful… but really, you’re going to claim the inverted W is a prerequisite to being a Cy Young candidate? Ever seen Maddux or Clemens? It is very important to note that a lack of scientific evidence demonstrating the inverted W is a risk factor is not the same thing as it not being a risk factor. The way we collect evidence and evaluate it in science means we are often confident when we identify a risk factor; much less so when we don’t. I’ve been looking at the 2014 TJs… how many of them do you think had an inverted W, excessively high elbow, or both? Perhaps I’m being overly critical, but when Roger Clemens threw without an inverted W, when so many guys who have one are going down injured, in my opinion it is incredibly irresponsible to suggest that it is necessary. It is demonstrably not necessary. Whether it will hurt you or not is still unanswered. But, like so many other things that we slowly learn hurts us, the evidence seems to be building and it’s only a matter of time before we nail it down.

    • Really? Do you think throwing the ball 95 mph increases the risk for injury? I do. Does steroids or performance enhancements strengthen the ligaments and tendons? It’s a witch-hunt and to your point on high-elbows…this is not an arm action issue. Maddux wasn’t a power pitcher…seen the latest on Nolan Ryan?

      What’s your answer? You going to take kids that are throwing in the 90’s and tell them to “fix’ the inverted w? If so, what’s the repercussions there? How do you do that?

      And the evidence being collected is skewed…if you’re going to tell me how many of the 2014’s had the inverted w….how many of the ‘non-injured’ pitchers have the inverted w?

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