Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

June 16, 2002 Cincinnati Enquirer

Legendary workhorse Marshall develops a better plan: Major-league record-holder has school to teach young pitchers his way to deliver
Cincinnati Enquirer
June 16, 2002

And then there were none.

It always happens that way.

By June, the pretenders to Mike Marshall 's single-season record for appearances by a reliever (106) drop by the wayside like a pack of hounds who can't believe the lead dog could run that fast that long.

Earlier this season, the Reds' Scott Sullivan and Gabe White were on track to approach the appearances record Marshall set 28 years ago.

But they turned out -- fortunately -- not to be needed that often, and Marshall's record was again safe.

Besides, Sullivan got hurt and that cost him some appearances.

Sullivan, the side-arming Alabaman, has his own record of durability:  He's the first pitcher ever to lead the big leagues in relief innings pitched for four straight seasons (1998-2001).  In the last three of those seasons, Sullivan appeared in 79 games each time.  He averaged 108 innings per year over that period.

In Marshall's 106-appearance season, he threw 208 innings.

Those 208 relief innings are a big-league record, too.

"Nowadays, 200 innings is a benchmark for a starter," Sullivan said.  In this era of bullpen specialization and long-term contracts, Sullivan said, "I don't think you'll see any reliever (get close to 200) again.  The 106 games?  It'd probably take a specialty lefty, somebody who comes in to face (a left-handed hitter or two), then leaves."

Marshall, a right-hander who has a doctorate degree in exercise physiology (his Web site is www.drmikemarshall.com), said "everybody could do it if I teach 'em how."

Marshall set his appearances and relief innings record in 1974, the year he won the Cy Young Award.  His team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, won 102 games that year (the Reds won 98) and lost the World Series to the Oakland A's.

Now, Marshall operates a 40-week long pitching school in Zephyrhills, FL.  His teaching methods -- while arguably more sound than anything taught in baseball today, because they put less stress on the arm -- involve teaching pitchers a new set of mechanics.

In his second year of running the August-through-May school, Marshall already is producing some remarkable results, turning some strugging junior-college pitchers into pros and unheralded high school graduates into four-year scholarship winners.  His students get a lot for their money -- $10 a day for the school -- but it's a long program, and costs add up.  Between fees, and room and board at his school, the tab for each athlete is more than $5,000.  Enrollment at the school is "very limited," Marshall said.  Marshall requires his students to hold jobs and encourages them to attend one of two local community colleges part-time.

Marshall began applying the scientific principles of Isaac Newton (the three laws of motion) and Daniel Bertoulli (fluid-flow equation) to his own pitching in 1973.  These differ from the traditional approach to the pitching motion.

Under Marshall's method, pitchers art taught not to take the baseball behind their body.  When pitchers take their baseballs too far behind their body during the transition or preparation phase of the pitching motion, they cannot drive their pitches in straight lines from leverage through release.  They have to start their drivelines by circling their baseballs laterally outward from behind their heads.  From that point forward is where the most arm injuries occur.

At his school, he teaches not only proper mechanics and extensively trains the pitchers using them, but also teaches them 16 different pitches:  five different fastballs, five different breaking balls and six "reverse breaking balls" (i.e. forms of the screwball, which was Marshall's "out" pitch during his big-league career).

When the Enquirer first contacted Marshall at his pitching school last Wednesday, he did not remember giving up a home run to Joe Morgan at Riverfront Stadium on Sept. 7, 1974. (See "Cinergy Moment No. 23" on this Page C6.)  Two days later, an e-mail arrived from drmikemarshall@earthlink.net.  What he wrote is indicative of the record-keeping he did as a player to improve his pitch sequence:

"September 7, 1974, in the eighth inning with one out and a baserunner on first in a 5-5 tie game, Joe Morgan hit a two ball, one strike fastball off me for a home run.

"On September 14, 1974, in the eighth inning with no outs and no baserunners with the Reds leading 3-2, Morgan hit a two-ball, no-strike fastball off me for a home run.

"Between July 30, 1971 and July 25, 1976, I faced Joe Morgan twenty-eight times.  I walked him once.  He hit two home runs, two triples, two doubles and six singles.  He went 12-for-27 for .444 batting average.  He was the best hitter I ever faced with Willie Stargell a close second."

Some of Marshall's greatest moments on the mound occurred against the Reds, because of those Dodgers-Reds games back in the mid-1970s when, except for 1973 (when the Mets shocked the Reds in the NL playoffs), the Reds or Dodgers represented the National League in the World Series from 1972 through 1978.

A comment attributed to Marshall on a Cincinnati radio station on Sept. 6, 1974, stirred things up with the Reds and made for a followup story in the Enquirer on Sept. 8.

After Marshall earned the save in the Friday game, to build the Dodgers' lead over the Reds to 312 games in the NL West Division, Marshall reportedly told Dodgers starter Don Sutton:  "Pitching against those guys is like pitching against a bunch of high school kids."

Last week, Marshall denied having said it, just as he denied it 27 years ago.  But what he said Wednesday went a long way toward explaining the importance he placed -- and today places even more -- on pitch-selection sequence.

"In high school, you're taught to throw a fastball for strike one, a fastball for strike two and then a non-fastball," Marshall said.  "In (the majors), I'd start off hitters with a sinker or slider to get ahead, before I'd show 'em my fastball, then finish 'em off with my screwball.

"But I told (Dodgers starter Andy Messersmith, who used a similar sequence as Marshall), "We've got to pitch the Reds differently.  We've gotta pitch 'em like a high school team.  They're talking to each other, something most teams don't do.  They're taking away that easy strike one, that non-fastball that most hitters don't want to swing at on strike one.  Somebody must be in charge over there.'"

Marshall added a curveball to his repertoire for the 1975 season to spectacular results -- at first.  His success against the Big Red Machine was his gauge, as he points out in his book:

"I needed another pitch to throw to right-handed spray hitters.  I followed every pitching coach instruction.  I pulled down the window shade.  I got on top of the ball.  I used the stab-the-heart forearm, wrist and hand technique.  I worked hard.  My curve broke sharply.

"When the 1975 championship season started, I felt prepared to dramatically improve on my 1974 performance.  On April 7, 1975, Opening Day in Cincinnati, I pitched five shutout extra innings against Rose, Morgan, Griffey, Perez, Bench, Foster, Concepcion, Driessen and Geronimo.  With my new curve and proper pitch sequences, I handled them with ease.

"On April 9, I pitched two and one-third more innings against the Reds.  On April 14, I pitched three more shutout innings against the Reds in Los Angeles.  On April 16, I pitched two more shutout innings against the Reds in Los Angeles.  On April 17, I pitched three more innings against (them).  In my first ten games, I had pitched fifteen and one-third innings in six games and against the Big Red Machine.  The new curve worked.  The pitch sequences worked.  I felt great.  What a year I was going to have!"

But on April 20, he threw a curveball to the Giants' Derrell Thomas, and felt a twinge in his ribcage.  Three pitches later, he threw another curve.

"The seventh rib on my left side exploded from its articulation with my sternum," he wrote.  "A searing, sharp pain shot through my left ribcage.  I dropped to my knees in excruciating pain.  My dream (had) died.  Just like my pitching coaches told me, I (had) pulled the window shade down, I got on top of the ball, I powerfully supinated my forearm, wrist and hand in the stab-the-heart technique.  However, I broke my rib and my spirit.

"Seven years after I retired from professional pitching, I revisited the curve.  This time I listened to Sir Isaac Newton.  I determined the proper curve force application technique.  I learned how to throw the curve with maximum intensity without injury.  Now, I have a great curve.  I tell my pitching students, if I had my Sir Isaac Newton curve in 1975, I could have been great."


An article about then-Red reliever Scott Sullivan, in conjunction with the article, is presented:

Marshall's mark has impact on Sullivan
Cincinnati Enquirer, The (OH)
June 16, 2002

If Mike Marshall were pitching for the Reds today the way he pitched for the Dodgers 28 years ago, there would be no Scott Sullivan.

Well, there would be a Scott Sullivan, but he wouldn't be the setup man.  Marshall was a closer who was his own setup man.

"I've talked to (Reds bullpen coach) Tom Hume about Marshall, and Tom told me Marshall had some four-inning saves," Sullivan said.  "The starter might go five (innings) and here comes Marshall going the last four."

Sullivan, 31, was 3 years old when Marshall set the major-league single-season record for relief appearances (106) and innings (208) in 1974.  But Sullivan knew of Marshall's 1974 season because it was so astronomical.

"I've been able to put some innings together the last few years," Sullivan said, "but his numbers just belittle anything I accomplished."

Another of Marshall's numbers that raised Sullivan's eyebrows was his career ERA of 3.14.

"I've had outings this year where I've just gotten shellacked, given up five or six runs," Sullivan said.  "If you're a reliever, and you want to have a good ERA, you just can't do that.  It takes you the whole season to recover.  To see him with a 2.41 ERA the year he made those 106 appearances is just incredible.

Out of every 10 outings you have as a reliever, if you get your job done eight times, that's considered good.  For him to have a 2.41 ERA that year, he was getting it done.  He wasn't getting shellacked."

Sullivan takes heart in knowing somebody -- anybody -- was able to have a 14-year career as a reliever while throwing so many innings.

"Guys think that with the innings totals I've pitched the last few years that I'm going to break down, that the law of averages is going to catch up to me sooner or later," Sullivan said.  "These (Marshall's numbers) prove that you can extend yourself beyond the realm of what people think is possible."

Happy Pitching Everybody

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