Today, the L.A. Times has a feature on former major league relief pitcher Mike Marshall, who has opened up a rather unorthodox pitching school.
Marshall is discovering newer and better ways to launch baseballs. His methods, he says, willprevent pitching-arm injuries. The only problem is, nobody will listen to him.
From the L.A. Times:
Marshall, for example, has scrapped the traditional twisting windup that pulls the arm away from the body before delivering the ball with a pronated, thumbs-up release, instead teaching a supinated, thumbs-down release and an erect, straight-ahead delivery with a quarter turn that leaves his students looking more like javelin throwers than pitchers.
In addition to the new delivery, the students also must learn the vocabulary that describes it. There’s the pendulum swing, the “maxline” pitches that dart to one side of the plate and the torque pitches that shoot to the other.
It’s odd, but it works, relieving stress on the muscles and bones, say Marshall and his followers.
It’s pretty easy to dismiss Marshall as some kind of a nut, except that he comes with quite an impressive resume.
Marshall earned three degrees at Michigan State, including a PhD in kinesiology. His best season came with the Dodgers in 1974 when he broke his record with 106 appearances and set records for most relief innings pitched (208 1/3 ) and most consecutive games pitched in a season (13). That’s the year became the first reliever to win a Cy Young Award.
Marshall says the MLB powers that be just don’t want to let his ideas in. He says they don’t want anybody to shine a light on their ignorance.
“They just didn’t want my ideas to get in,” Marshall says. “That’s ridiculous. But that’s the small-mindedness of Major League Baseball. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing. And if I get in, everybody will know that they don’t know what the hell they’re doing.”
So far, just one of Marshall’s pupils has made it to the big show. Jeff Sparks struckout 41 batters in 30 1/3 innings as a reliever with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but he lost his job because, he says, the team didn’t understand the way he pitched — and didn’t like the fact that Marshall had taught him how.
“It wasn’t anything else as far as I know,” says Sparks, who had a spectacular blowup with his catcher and a minor league manager before his release. “[But] there are no other ways. You can’t throw every day the other way. It hurts to throw the other way.”
Is Marshall a genius or a nut? We may never know. But I’m hoping some major league team gives him or one of his pitchers a chance. Because while it’s almost certain that Marshall is crazy, I can’t help thinking that it’s the good kind of crazy.