The Inverted Race For The Cy Young W

baseballthinktank Featured Post, Pitching Mechanics

Today’s post is to not necessarily to educate you, it’s to inform.

I’m sure most of you pitching guys are aware of the term, the inverted W.

The term was coined by Paul Nyman and is used to describe a particular arm action.

However, the concept has been skewed and twisted. It has become synonymous with high elbows and arm injuries.

In essence, it has become a Witch Hunt for the inverted W.

Just last night I was told by a buddy of mine that he’s going to be careful with “these” guys because of the risk for injury.

That seems to be the case for many pitching coaches, but why?  Where’s the research?

Oh, you’re arm hurts?  It’s probably because you have an inverted W.

Oh, you’re arm’s a little sore?  No wonder, you have an inverted W.

Fortunately for the short list of Cy Young candidates, they didn’t receive that instruction!  

We’ve discussed at length on the site the importance of arm action, it’s your identity, the social security number of pitching mechanics. It’s formed at an early age and influenced by hundreds of variables, most notably, intent.    For some, it’s the reason you throw like a girl, for others, it’s the reason you throw GAS!!!

The inverted W was simply a way of trying to describe that Smoltz initiated his throwing action as soon as his hands started to separate.  Paul Nyman

If you’re not familiar with the Inverted W, here’s the real story.    In that particular article, Paul mentions the high elbow phenomena.  High elbows is another type of arm action that has been portrayed as harmful or dangerous and was NEVER, EVER part of the original context to describe the inverted w arm action.  The real truth……

In my experience, 99% of high elbows is not an issue with the arm action, but inefficiency through the center portion of the body!

Want proof?  Watch this short video and you will see noticeable changes in the arm action and guess what? We never once discussed, highlighted or focused on the arm action!  We placed our entire emphasis on the center mass moving more efficiently!  You can read the article here.

As Paul has made note on many occasions, everything affects everything in pitching mechanics, it’s total chaos.    If you missed some of Paul’s previous articles, I would highly recommend that you bookmark this post and read each and every article!  Most of my thoughts and beliefs of how to optimally throw a baseball were directly influenced by his research.

Important Note:  There is no scientific evidence to support that the Inverted W correlates to arm injuries.

Even if there were hard based scientific data to support , do you realize how difficult arm action is to change?  

I would argue that an attempt at change would only INCREASE YOUR RISK FOR INJURY, not to include your performance!  

So, to throw around the idea of changing or altering arm action as a simple change is probably not the best route.  It would take hundreds, if not thousands of hours of deliberate practice in a non-competitive environment before you could ever hope for it to be successful.

After a certain age it’s extremely difficult to change arm action but it can be influenced through:

  • Tempo
  • Rhythm
  • Mobility/stability

Peer Groups:

  1. Center mass: greatest influencer on the arm.
  2. Feet:  The angle of the foot can negatively affect the center mass.
  3. Glove side:  works for against, not much middle ground
  4. Front leg:  works very similar to the glove side

If you’re an advanced player and would like to improve your arm action, think INFLUENCE, not change.

More articles? Follow @lantzwheeler

Now that I’m off my soap box, it’s time to get back to the original point, the inverted race for the Cy Young. Fortunately, most of the power arms and Cy Young candidates in MLB were not warned of the dangers posed by the inverted W.

Let’s take a closer look:

In the following profiles:

  • I want you to watch the video and see the inverted W arm action.
  • I then want you to re-watch the video and pay particular attention to the timing (positioning) of the arm as the front foot braces.
  • All 4 of these guys are in a position to throw the ball as the front foot touches down improving their chances of connecting momentum to the arm without delay or interruption.
  1. Max Sherzer: 18-1 and the leading candidate in the American League.  According to Fan Graphs, his fastball has averaged 93.3 mph.  Here’s a picture followed by a slow motion video, thanks to Pasttime.


2.  Yu Darvish:  According to most experts, he’s second in the race for AL Cy Young.  According to Fan Graphs his average velocity is 93.2 mph.

In the National League, the race features Clayton Kershaw and Craig Kimbrel.

  1. Clayton Kershaw:  12-7/1.8 ERA, according to Fan Graphs his average velocity has been 92.5 mph.


        2.  Craig Kimbrel:  39 saves and a 1.07 ERA, according to Fan Graphs his average velocity has been 96.7 mph.

Based on my 2 hours of research on this topic for the inverted Cy Young race, I have come to this conclusion:

The inverted W is a pre-requisite to the Cy Young race, if you don’t have it you’re at risk for ridicule and low salaries.  

Obviously, I’m being sarcastic.  My point is pitching is never, ever about positioning, it’s about timing.

In closing, arm action is EXTREMELY difficult to change!  In most cases, I would argue than an attempt at changing the arm action would only increase your chances for failure and injury.  Besides, where’s the research and conclusive data that suggests that the inverted W is injurious?

Don’t believe me?  Ask the 4 top candidates for the Cy Young!

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