In 1974, for very different reasons, Los Angeles Dodgers’ teammates Tommy John and Mike Marshall
catalyzed two of the most profound discoveries for pitchers in modern
baseball history. The more famous of the discoveries was due to the
efforts of renowned surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe, who would perform
the first UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) transplant surgery on a MLB
pitcher. Jobe would take a tendon from another part of John’s body and
reconstruct John’s shredded elbow ligament with it. The implanted
tendon would fortify John’s elbow and act as a ligament. The result was
bionic! Instead of having his career cut short at the age of 31, John
would go on to pitch another 15 years, win 20 games in three different
seasons, and another 164 games overall. The famous surgery was coined
after it’s initial patient and became known as "Tommy John" surgery. In the last 33 years the procedure has saved the careers of hundreds upon hundreds of major league pitchers.
When John underwent the first procedure, the odds of him pitching again
were 100-1. Now around 85% of pitchers who undergo the surgery return
to pre-surgery performance levels within about two years. The surgery
has become so popular that many young pitchers are having it performed
even when their elbow ligament damage is minimal. In many young
pitcher’s eyes the surgery is inevitable and they would rather get it
out of the way sooner rather than later. According to Dr. James Andrews (the foremost "Tommy John" surgeon)
the most common age group now to have the procedure is between 10-18
years of age. This startling fact begs the question, is elbow ligament
transplant surgery, as well as the plethora of other devastating arm
injuries preventable? Or are these injuries just a reality for young
arms that, more than ever, push the radar gun close to 100 mph?
The Marshall Plan
The same year John became the successful guinea pig for modern day
surgery, Mike Marshall accomplished a feat that would challenge the
traditional idea that arm injuries were an inevitable result of being a
professional pitcher. In 1974 Marshall won the NL Cy Young Award by
pitching in a phenomenal 106 games. More phenomenal were the other
records Marshall set by pitching 208 1/3 relief innings that year, and
at one point throwing in 13 consecutive games. Overall, Marshall went
15-12 with 21 saves and a 2.42 ERA. He was injury-free for the rest of
Most everyone in baseball including John thought Marshall was just a
physical freak of nature. But, there was a method to Marshall’s
ability, a very scientific method that drew heavily on Sir Issac Newton’s "Laws of Motion". Marshall has dedicated himself to learning and teaching now for almost 40 years.
In 1967 after experiencing shoulder soreness while pitching for the
Detroit Tigers, Marshall began to apply his love for science and
research to himself. He wondered what was causing his soreness and went
about experimenting with the mechanics of how he threw to rid himself
of the discomfort. The discoveries Marshall would make were
groundbreaking in the science of bio-mechanics applied to the throwing
of a baseball. In 1978 Marshall, while still pitching for the Minnesota
Twins, obtained his Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology. Over the next 29
years Marshall would continue to develop his ideas on the best
mechanics to throw a baseball.
For those unfamiliar with Marshall’s work, here are some highlights
of the mechanics behind Marshall’s method. The scientific explanation
for Marshall’s ideas are pretty complex, so I’ve done my best to
simplify them here. I’ve also linked to a video of a Marshall student throwing a baseball
with these techniques. Unfortunately, the video is from Yahoo, so
there’s a thirty second commercial before the video begins. But, it’s
worth checking out:
1- Sir Isaac Newton’s "First and Second Laws of Motion"
teach that in any movement the direction of the force is the same as
the direction of the acceleration. The most efficient and powerful
movement is that which moves in a straight line. Because of this
Marshall believes that pitchers should apply all of their movement in a
straight-line force towards home plate. Any windup that requires you to
turn your body away from the plate he believes is inefficient and
causes extra stress to the arm. Marshall teaches a pendulum windup much
like a softball pitcher uses or some of the pitchers from the early
part of the nineteenth century.
2- Hidden Velocity– Marshall
teaches pitchers to release the ball from their hand later than
traditional approaches. He claims this will add extra velocity to a
3- Pronation of the Forearm–
This means that a pitcher should turn his palm away from his pitching
arm with the thumb pointing downwards upon follow though. This movement
relieves stress in the elbow and shoulder and prevents the forearm bone from slamming into the upper arm bones.
4- Rear Foot Forward– Pointing
the rear foot forward off of the pitching rubber alleviates stress to
the knee and hip joint while also preventing groin pulls.
5- Throw in a Back To Forward Motion– Marshall claims that throwing across one’s body causes extra stress to the arm that will cause many types of injuries.
6- No Leg Kick– As Marshall puts it, "Stand still and then lift your foot about four feet in front of you. How’s your balance?".
By teaching pitchers to move their foot forward without a kick,
Marshall believes that one has a stronger center of gravity to exert
7- Hand Under The Ball– Pitchers who throw with their hand on top of the ball are prone to rotator cuff and Ulnar Collateral Ligament problems.
These are just a few of the ideas Marshall teaches to improve a
pitcher’s health with his mechanics. To understand more fully, one
really might want to take an anatomy class.
Marshall claims that if pitchers learned his methods, 95% percent of
arm injuries would be preventable including Rotator Cuff problems and
the infamous "Tommy John" injury and. Marshall’s book, Coaching Baseball Pitchers (can be read free on the internet) should probably be on the nightstand of every pitching coach in baseball. So, why isn’t it?
Don’t Wanna Hear It!
Lack of exposure is one reason. Recently though, Jeff Passan
opened Pandora’s box and re-introduced Marshall to the baseball
community in his expose "Outside Pitch" on
Yahoo.com. As Passan’s article articulates, the answer to why organized
baseball has turned a blind eye to Marshall probably lies somewhere
between ignorance and opportunity. In the mid-nineties Marshall sent a
letter to every GM offering his services. Not one replied. Major league
GMs are afraid to send Marshall top-tier talent because the mechanics
he teaches are a direct challenge to the traditional mechanics that
baseball coaches have been teaching for the past 130 years. As Braves
GM John Schuerholz explains,
"It’s so far afield from the traditional,
normal method… Not many people I’ve talked to would be comfortable
embracing a concept that’s so diametrically opposed to the teachings of
If baseball was to adopt Marshall’s ideology they’d basically be
indicting themselves for teaching inferior mechanics. In a recent
conversation I had with Marshall, he shared with me his frustration
from the fact that most pitching coaches have a very limited knowledge
of biomechanics and science which creates a gap in communication, if
not a total brain freeze.
"The minute I start talking to any
pitching coach about the science their faces go blank," Marshall says,
"But, when I give a lecture at any major university, I get a standing
Marshall makes no bones about what he thinks of baseball’s power
brokers. He thinks that the traditional mechanics that they teach
pitchers actually cause most of the arm injuries.
"I got tired of appeasing the stupid… How
long does a blond have to act like a ***** before she gets a date?
These people (in organized baseball) are idiots. They don’t know a ****
thing. The thing is, they’re powerful. They get the kids and can
destroy them. And they do."
If one looks around the majors today, it would be hard to argue with
Marshall’s contention that the traditional pitching mechanics that are
taught contribute to and may cause most arm injuries. Currently, in the
major leagues their are roughly 360 pitchers. If one were to look at
the injury list, one would find that 73 pitchers or a little over 20%
of major league pitchers are currently on the Disable List (DL) or
day-to-day with elbow or shoulder injuries. This number does not
include back, leg, rib, or other arm injuries. It also doesn’t include
the many minor leaguers that are suffering from arm injuries.
So are these injuries really inevitable? Or as Marshall insists, can
95% of them be prevented by learning his throwing mechanics? And if
pitchers did adopt Marshall’s mechanics could they still pitch as
effectively? You’d think that at least one GM might want to give
Marshall a shot to prove his ideas at the major league level. What
would a GM like the Cubs’ Jim Hendry really have to lose by sending some of his MASH patients like Mark Prior or Kerry Wood over to Marshall’s school in Zephyrhills, Florida for a few months?
For the answers to these question and more
insight into Dr. Mike Marshall’s theories on pitching, tune into
BASEBALL TALK w/Carl the Cabbie & Dugout Joe this Sunday, May 20th
at 1:00 PM. If you have a question you’d like to ask Dr. Marshall you
can call in between 1:00-2:00 at 646-478-4570. Just click HERE
to go listen to this week’s show or any of our past shows. Also, if any
MLBloggers would like to be a guest on our show to talk about and
promote their blog, just e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carl The Cabbie
Alrighty folks… if you haven’t heard yet, there’s a new show in town! Carl The Cabbie and Dugout Joe have started the most provocative baseball podcast in the blogosphere. The show is aptly named BASEBALL TALK and can be heard at http://blogtalkradio.com/baseballtalk. We air live every week and all past shows can be listened to in our archives. This week is our third show and can be heard LIVE on Saturday, 5/12 at 1:00 PM. We welcome any baseball fans or bloggers to call in between 1:00-2:00 PM at 646-478-4570. You can also e-mail us at email@example.com with any questions or interesting tid-bits.
Since both Dugout Joe (DUGOUT DIARIES) and myself (INSIDE PITCH) are very active MLBloggers we will be interviewing other MLBloggers throughout the season. If any MLBbloggers would like to be on our show to promote their blogs, you can e-mail us at the above address. This week we will entertain MLBlogger Zack Hample aka The Baseball Collector. Zack recently published his second book, Watching Baseball Smarter, and on May 7th snagged his 3000th baseball at Yankee Stadium.
The following week, Saturday May 19th, is also shaping up to be a very interesting show as we will be interviewing former major league reliever and the 1974 NL Cy Young Award winner, Dr. Mike Marshall. Or who I like to call, Dr. Feelgood!
Since retiring from baseball Dr. Marshall has attained a Ph.D. in Biomechanics and has worked extensively to prevent pitchers from injury by teaching his revolutionary pitching mechanics. Over the past 25 years Marshall has researched, experimented with and presented a body of work that he claims would prevent almost all the arm injuries that most pitchers suffer from. Coming from a guy who holds the records for most relief appearances in a season (106), most relief innings in a season (208), and most consecutive games pitched in (13), all young pitchers might want to tune in for this special interview with Dr. Mike Marshall.
On a writing note, I apologize for my absence from the blogosphere of late and will be contributing
regularly again as soon as I finish this entry. So, look forward to the return INSIDE PITCH. We will have a Mets’ update shortly. And be sure to check out this week’s episode of BASEBALL TALK w/Carl the Cabbie and Dugout Joe, the best baseball podcast in the blogosphere, this Saturday, May 12th at 1:00 PM. Just click here http://blogtalkradio/baseballtalk and enjoy!
Carl the Cabbie
A few weeks ago while in the midst of another long cold night of hacking it, I was slumped behind my steering wheel and stuck in yet another traffic jam from **** along the West Side Highway. The only thing that kept me going was baseball, baseball, and more baseball. With opening day a little less than a month away, I was in baseball delirium. Who would make the 25-man rosters? Who were the top rookies? How many fantasy leagues should I enter in this year? My wheels were spinning, I had to get out of this traffic jam, the April itch needed some scratching.
As if the baseball gods were listening, the next day I got a message from my brother inviting me to go down to Fort Myers for the weekend to visit our cousin and take in some Twins’ spring training. Hallelujah! I packed my sports illustrated duffel bag, grabbed my lap-top, and like the birdies, flew south with my Cabbie crew (brother Tony and 8-year old nephew Isaiah) for some sun, fun, and a whole lotta hardball.
I could probably lull you guys into a pleasant slumber with details about the luxury hotel that my brother sprang for, which included a heated pool, a water slide, a lazy river pool, a jacuzzi, an excellent buffet breakfast, and a hole-in-one golf patch in the middle of a lake. And while I am very grateful for this royal treatment, make no mistake, the best part of this vacation was not the swirling soft baked cinnamon french toast (though it was rather scrumptious!), no the jewel of this adventure was Twins’ spring training camp!
The first morning, I jumped on my lap-top, tossed a pen to my nephew and relayed the names and
numbers of all the Twins players so he would know who to ask for autographs. My brother barked about being charged $5 for the bottled Figi water, "I can’t believe they’re charging for the water, for the amount I’m paying… I can’t believe it!", while he packed the video camera. By 9:30 we were on the road. We rolled into the Lee County Sporting Complex at about 10:00 and I got my first glimpse of Bill Hammond Stadium. I was giddy with excitement. Just a few nights earlier I was honking my way down third avenue on my way toward the Bowery, and now here I was passing through Blyleven Lane, Mauch Manor and Puckett Pkwy. If one saw my nephew and I in the car at that moment, they would have a hard time making out who was the 8-year old.
My cousin Andy and his son, little Barry, met us inside the complex.
Andy, a local sportswriter, played tour guide and introduced us to some
of the Twins’ players and personnel. So, here at INSIDE PITCH we send a
big Cabbie "Thank You" to cousin Andy!
Now without further ado I welcome you to the Vlog portion of this Twins’ spring training exclusive!
Playback tip: All videos are QUICKTIME videos. For best playback results, make sure the "automatically play movies when open"
box is UNCHECKED in the QUICKTIME preference section. Then just click
play when video shows up. This will allow videos to play smoother.
We decided to get in a little practice just in case the Twins’ split
squads were a little shorthanded. I taught my nephew Isaiah how to
throw the mysterious Gyroball and he tested it out on little Barry.
were called on to pinch hit.
Next, we sidled over to the batting cage to make sure Jason Bartlett
and Mike Redmond were keeping their head down and eye on the ball.
Hanging out in the stands of Bill Hammond Stadium watching the Twins
take batting practice sure beats sitting in traffic on the West Side
Highway any day!
During spring training players are always testing out new bats.
Here’s an interesting interview with X-bats owner Jack Kasarjian.
X-bats are the second most used bat in the major leagues next to
Louisville Slugger. Almost 300 players used X-bats last year including
Day one at camp ended with us buying some memorabilia in the Twins’
store. We headed back to the pool and hit the water slide. Since my
nephew Isaiah and I had some time to kill, we decide to teach little
Barry some new vocabulary and came up with a very creative game where
we decided to rename everyone who passed by us. Ode to be eight years
We started out with a little breakfast by the pool before heading
back to training camp to watch Cousin Andy take part in a charity
softball game between the local sportswriters. The game was organized
by the Twins as a "thank you" to the writers. Bert Blyleven, maybe the
greatest curveball pitcher of all time, pitched and managed one team.
The great Tony Oliva managed my cousin’s team. The game was loads of
fun and getting to chat and fact check the "roster options" rule
(which I recently wrote about) with GM Terry Ryan was a nice caveat
Well, Cousin Andy ended up 1 for 3 but unfortunately his team went
down to defeat 9-5. To blow off some steam we decided to head to the
"Speed Gun" booth and throw some fastballs as hard as we could. Plus,
we heard rumors that anyone who threw got a free Twins’ baseball. In
between a "Star Spangled Banner" singing contest and chow time, we
chatted with a few more players before enjoying a special lunch thrown
by the Twins for all the writers. They had one of those business
cards-in-a-hat contests with the winner getting an autographed Tori
Hunter Super Doll. Guess who won?
After lunch we went back to the hotel to lounge about in the lazy
river pool. Thank god we didn’t take a dip in the lake next to the
hotel, cause it might have turned into an ugly scene from Jurassic
The next morning we flew out of Ft. Lauderdale and back to the grind
of New York. But, boy did I feel refreshed. This little adventure was
exactly what this Cabbie needed. Thanks to Cousin Andy, Kevin W. Smith
(Twins’ Executive Director of Public Affairs), Mike Herman (Twins’
Manager of Baseball Communications) and all the great people who
organized Twins’ spring training camp. It’s good to know that their are
still organizations out their that understand the importance of and the
value of the fan. Twins’ spring training was a FAN-tastic experience
and gets this Cabbie’s endorsement as a great vacation experience. With
opening day in the books and the season now under way there’s only one
thing left to say, "PLAY BALL!".
Carl The Cabbie’s "Herb Carneal" Contest
This last set of videos is a fun loving tribute to "The Voice of the
Twins", Herb Carneal, who passed away on April 1st at the age of 83.
Carneal was the Twins’ the play-by-play was for Twins’ radio broadcasts
since 1962. He received the Ford C. Frick award from the Baseball Hall
of Fame in 1996 and was a member of the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting
Hall of Fame. Another great Minnesota radio personality Garrison
Keillor once wrote this in honor of Carneal:
"Just give me two pillows and a bottle of beer.
And the Twins’ game on radio next to my ear.
Some hark to the sound of the loon or the teal.
But, I love the voice of Herb Carneal".
in honor of Carneal, here is a group of Twins’ players and personnel
pretending that Barry Bonds is on the cusp of Henry Aaron’s home run
record. We asked each of them to give there best radio call for Barry
Bonds’ potential tiebreaking 756th home run. I ask that you vote in the
comment section for who you think gave the best call.
Here’s one for you. Last night in Dunedin (Minors) the umpiring crew made a controversial call. The P.A. announcer was peeved. So, he decided to play "Three Blind Mice" over the P.A. The Umpires reaction, "You’re Outta Here!". The P.A. announcer was ejected and fined $100.00.
The next best thing to meeting Mr. Met was being a guest on Casey Stern’s "Under the Lights" RadioCast at mlbradio.net last night. Mets’ magic lives!
If you want to hear Casey’s interview with me just click on link above and scroll down to Aug.26th Show. The segment is called "Under The Lights" and it says,
MLBlogger Carl Shimkin talks about the baseball team that inspires
his blog-the New York Mets. Double Click on it and enjoy!