I was at a local bar with my wife when I got a text from my best friend. He lives a few hours out of town, but was in town to see his parents for the weekend. So, I told him to come meet us at the bar, and he did. That’s where it all started! Thirty minutes later my wife was over it and left us there. You see, my best friend is a high school pitching coach, so after 15 minutes of insults to each other, we then began our discussions on pitching.
It was a long night and he ended up sleeping at my house. The next morning I found myself barefoot in the front lawn demonstrating pitching mechanics to my friend. If anyone was watching out their windows, they received thousands of dollars worth of information for free. More likely, they just thought “what the hell are these two idiots doing out there? Is this some type of new yoga?”.
The reason I am telling you this story is because in the information to follow, I believe there are some great points that you may be able to learn from. Also, I didn’t get the chance to finish the conversation with my friend because he had a hang over and was acting like a little baby. Forget talking about pitching mechanics with a hang over, he used to pitch like that. I guess he is not the man I once knew.
I know he’ll be reading this, that’s why I joke. Just look for the first stupid comment you see below and that’ll be him.
Anyway, back to the pitching! He originally brought up Chris Sale and Scap Load. It seems like Scap Load was big back in the mid 2000’s and a lot of pitching coaches started trying to teach it. That was the first time that I had ever heard of it and I was already out of college and playing professional baseball. I didn’t even ever think about it as a pitcher because I was a “feel” guy. I understood what was happening and how it was supposed to feel, so I never wanted to be coached on things like this. Really, I just had too big of an ego and thought I was the $hi* and didn’t need to learn anything new, especially from some “has been”. Looking back I would have paid more attention to things like this, but I definitely wouldn’t have changed the way I developed into a pitcher without much instruction. I think pitchers today get too deep into mechanics and not enough into their natural feel. With that being said, for you pitchers who over think too much, here’s some more information to worry about…
What is Scap Load?
First of all, let me clarify something. I believe Scap Loading is a good thing. However, if done incorrectly (Inverted W), it can cause some serious injury.
So, what is Scap Load? Scap Loading is the idea that when a pitcher goes to pitch he will “load” or pinch his Scaps/Shoulder Blades just before the arm comes up and around to throw the baseball.
Let’s look at Chris Sale for example since my friend brought him up. I think Sale is a great pitcher. I think he has good leg drive (give me a few days with him on the King of the Hill and I’ll have him even better), a great front leg at release point, and chases the glove out front very well. He is super deceptive and I would definitely NOT want to face Sale as a hitter. The only thing I would change about Sale is I’d put a little weight on those bones in case a batter charges the mound. It never hurts to have a little @ss behind you when in a fight. Just kidding Chris, I’m just messing with you. From what I hear you’re a great guy and I can see, as the rest of the world, that you’re a great pitcher. Go FGCU!
Now, I’m sure those of you reading this are in one of three positions:
1) See, Sale’s a great Pitcher and he gets to the Inverted W.
2) Oh no! He’s in the Inverted W. He should have been injured already.
3) What the hell is an Inverted W?
I’ll address number 3 first. The Inverted W is what looks like an upside down W (inverted W) in the pitchers arm. See Sales picture above. I don’t know why we don’t just call it an “M”. I guess pitching coaches want to sound intelligent. I personally believe that the Inverted W is a bad thing because it puts more stress on the shoulder (hips start going forward which snaps that arm from down to up and then forward quickly).
Now, here’s where I think there are some misconceptions about the Inverted W. I don’t believe that Chris Sale is actually in an Inverted W in his picture above. I think he is a fine example of Scap Loading. Now, if you would have asked me this a few years ago, I would have said “yep, Inverted W, that’s bad”. But the more I have studied this subject, the more I realized the difference between the Inverted W and just some good ole fashion Scap Loading.
In Chris O’Leary’s article called Death to the Inverted W he shows a few examples of The Inverted W vs Scap Load without the Inverted W. Here are two pictures from his article. I was going to steal them all, but that would take too much time, so just go read the article yourself when you’re done here. But here’s two. In the top picture, Mark Prior is in the Inverted W position. In the bottom picture, Carlos Marmol is NOT in the Inverted W position. You may be thinking, “What’s the difference? They both look like Inverted W’s to me.”. The difference that O’Leary points out is that although Marmol looks like he’s in the Inverted W position, he actually isn’t because he is leaning towards third base. Because he is leaning towards third base, his throwing arm elbow doesn’t break the plane that his shoulders are on, even though it may look like it from this angle.
Let me explain in more detail in the Chris Sale example. If you look at the original picture of Sale that I posted above, you can definitely recognize what looks like an M in his arms. BUT, if you look at Sale from the front angle, you can see that his elbows never break the plane that his shoulders are on.
Here’s a front view of Chris Sale in the same position. You see, if I draw a line through his body and the angle that it is leaning (red line) and then draw a perpendicular line to show the angle of his shoulders (green line), you can see that his elbows stay below this green line which is the plane that his shoulders are on.
Now let’s look at CJ Wilson from the front angle and see how he looks. CJ is a lot straighter with his body angle, so the side view you get is a pretty clear picture of him, but let’s see what he looks like straight on.
I tried to be as fair as possible when drawing these lines so I went extra high on CJ to show you. His bottom line is much more up and down than Sale because he has a taller body angle while Sale leans over towards first more. You can clearly see that CJ’s elbows are higher than the green line which leaves his throwing hand way too far down at this point in his mechanics. You can definitely tell in this picture from the side.
So, now can you see the difference between a pitcher in an Inverted W and a pitcher not in an Inverted W? Good! So, let’s get back to Scap Load and what my friend and I were talking about.
We agreed that pitchers do Scap Load and it is not just a few pitchers, it is all high level pitchers. Some more than others. But, our next question to each other was, well how do you teach it? My friend, I think was a little new to the idea, so he was in his beginning stages of thinking about how to implement it with some of his pitchers.
I on the other hand know everything about pitching (see my baseball pitching mechanics page) so I told him how to teach it. You ready for it? Well, get your note pads out because here it is!
How To Teach Scap Load
You don’t! That’s it…end of article. It was nice talking with you guys. Like I said earlier (I think I did), the best pitchers in the game aren’t going to be out there working on “scap load”. They’re going to be just trying to get a good “feel” on the mound. They don’t want to hear about scap loads, inverted nipples, and have lines drawn all over them by some overweight has been (now me). They just want to go out there and pitch.
Alright, stop complaining. I’ll teach you how to teach Scap Load. First, you’ve got to understand that this has a lot to do with timing. A pitcher can be in an inverted W in one frame and in the next frame be into a scap load. But we’re talking about when the front foot lands here. So if we can fix timing, we can possibly fix the inverted W.
Second, you must strengthen the Scaps. Get a piece of wood, put a hook in it, and then tie a rope to a car. Place the piece of wood in between your shoulder blades and pull.
Ok, I’m just kidding. Don’t pull a car with your shoulder blades. (Insert disclaimer here for the idiots reading this). I’m not really putting a disclaimer here, just don’t try this at home….make sure you’re in a 3rd world country.
On a serious note, how do we really teach this part of the pitching mechanics? I really don’t teach it. The reason I don’t teach it is because if I tell a young pitcher to “load your scaps” and show him a picture of Sale in that position, all that pitcher is going to be thinking about is pulling his shoulder blades together. I don’t want that. Instead, I want to teach the pitcher what happens before that so that he doesn’t get into the Inverted W position and instead naturally finds his Scap Load. I start the teaching at hand separation (after we’ve focused on the legs).
So, what happens at hand separation? I’m glad you asked. Here’s a video I made in March of 2013 explaining what I think is the best way to break the hands and the path that the arms should take.
Man, what a good looking guy that is! It seems I’m even a smart @ss on video too. The point is, I believe that it is was happens before Scap Load that determines where a pitcher will end up with his Scap Load. A guy who breaks his hands like the second example in the video, with the palms going out and breaking with the elbows is at a much higher risk of getting into the Inverted W, having bad timing, and putting more stress on his shoulder. The guys who break their hands and move their arms on the path that I am suggesting, usually get into a good Scap Load naturally.
Now, do you think someone taught all of these great MLB pitchers about Scap Load? No! I’d say 90% of them just naturally do it (I just throw that 90% number out a lot like in the video. I don’t have the stats to back that up. You get the point though.)
So, what can you do as a coach or a pitcher if you want to teach Scap Load or identify and want to get rid of the Inverted W? You teach the pitcher how the hands should break and the path the arms should take. Then you watch….
Don’t believe me? Try it.
Ok. I’m tired of writing. I think I got out everything that I wanted to get out on this subject (until I hear some of these comments). By the way, my friend said the above video about arm path at hand separation didn’t make sense. I hope it makes more sense now. In all honesty, my friend is a better teacher than I am. He knows how to talk to his players and get them to buy into what he is talking about. I’m excited to see him implement some of this stuff into his pitchers this year because if it were anything like last year, I smell a Florida State Championship! Does that mean I get a ring too?