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Why pitching as we know it today wouldn’t exist without Mike Marshall



On the corner of two unpaved roads in a little Florida town sits a ramshackle green-and-white house that for years looked like the site of a cult gathering, and in a way it was. During the day, grown men with outlandish dreams would do things that to the passersby who dared peer into the backyard looked absurd. They were throwing giant iron balls and flinging trash can lids and strapping heavy sandbags to their wrists. And then, when they were done with that, they picked up baseballs and threw them in a fashion no one ever had seen, because that’s what Dr. Mike Marshall taught them to do.

Known to the world as the winner of the 1974 National League Cy Young Award for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Marshall went by a different name to the students at his pitching academy: Doc. To them, he was a savant, a theorist whose understanding of pitching was so far ahead of his time that nobody in organized baseball was going to give him an opportunity because they couldn’t fathom what he was talking about. And two decades later, it’s clear they were right.

Marshall died Monday in Zephyrhills, Florida. He was 78. He lived long enough to see some of his most foundational ideas — weighted-ball training, emphasis on spin, the importance of slow motion video — co-opted by major league organizations and spread to the masses. Marshall long wished for credit but never was willing to play the game — to market himself or to acknowledge some of his flaws or to abandon the pitching motion that he convinced himself would rid the game of arm injuries.

It’s instructive to start there, in fact, because squaring the notion that someone who knew so much about pitching could tell players to throw a ball like that is incongruous. Ten years ago — more than a decade after he started Dr. Mike Marshall’s Pitching Coach Services — Marshall started a YouTube channel and uploaded six videos. The first, “Marshall Pitching Motion,” features a shirtless man named Jeff Sparks throwing the full suite of Doc’s pitches.

Sparks, a former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher, takes a slight step back with his left foot, raises both arms and brings them down. His right arm swings backward like a pendulum as he takes a small step forward with his left foot. Sparks pushes up with his right foot as his arm extends over his head, and he throws a screwball, the pitch Marshall used en route to his Cy Young. His right leg flies forward, and he lands perpendicular to the mound. It looks funny and wrong and amazing, and for the next 10 minutes, Sparks illustrates Marshall’s particular vernacular — like the Maxline Pronation Curve — with Doc’s monotonous narration.

Someone seeing this for the first time would understandably laugh before questioning Marshall’s credentials entirely. This is what the baseball establishment did. Consequently, it missed everything Doc was getting right.

The Sparks showcase includes slow motion, high-resolution video taken long before it was ubiquitous and readily available to every smartphone user. Though nobody is throwing 6-, 10- and 15-pound iron balls like Marshall’s charges did, players across baseball today use slightly overweight and underweight balls to strengthen their arms. In another video, taken in the mid-2000s, a Marshall student is throwing weighted trash can lids to understand how “to get the right spin axis” on a pitch. Spin rate has been a widely accepted concept in baseball for about five years. Spin axis — the direction a ball is spinning, which helps determine how it moves — is something embraced by most pitchers only recently.

Even today, Marshall’s theories are finding new life. On his website in 2003, he posited a theory he called “The Marshall Effect.” (Doc was never shy about naming things after himself.) The premise was that the way a baseball is made, the Magnus effect — the phenomenon that predicts that a ball moving through space should do so rationally — was incomplete. There was something else making balls move, and Marshall believed that it had to do with the seam orientation of pitches. Eighteen years later, the concept Marshall introduced — now being referred to as seam-shifted wake — has invigorated a baseball physics community that believes it is perhaps the most important breakthrough in decades for understanding how pitches move.

For all of Doc’s brilliance — he earned his doctorate in exercise physiology from Michigan State in 1978 after spending his offseasons in school — his eccentricities were also a great impediment. He was famously brusque. When I asked him in 2007 about why he no longer corresponded with people inside of baseball, he responded: “I got tired of appeasing the stupid.” His website, which is a repository for the hundreds of thousands of words he wrote on pitching (and various other subjects), looks straight out of GeoCities. Nearly every entry ends with what amounted to Doc’s version of a sales pitch: “To prevent pitching injuries, pitchers of all ages need to master the Marshall Pitching Motion.” At the bottom of the page is his EarthLink email address. He never cared about social media. For someone who wanted the world to acknowledge his genius, he didn’t work very hard at inviting it into his universe.

It was there that Doc thrived. Gilded it was not, but then he was a 5-foot-8 right-hander who didn’t throw particularly hard yet in his Cy Young season threw 208 innings over 106 relief appearances. He was the lunch pail pitcher, always ready for work, conditioned to throw whenever called upon. The sort of guy who would play pied piper in a house with a tin roof.

The genius of Mike Marshall lives on in that backyard, now free of nets and balls and the detritus of his $10-a-day academy. It lives on in the words that pepper his website, in the videos that remind you the most brilliant people still get plenty wrong, in the iconoclast bingo card he filled. Most of all, it lives on in the game, this broad and beautiful universe in which he carved out his own little fiefdom that nobody wanted to visit but everyone knows about, even if they don’t realize it.

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Seattle Mariners acquire Jake Bauers from Cleveland Indians



The Seattle Mariners have acquired first baseman Jake Bauers from the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named or cash considerations, it was announced Thursday.

Bauers, who had been designated for assignment by Cleveland, has started 25 of the 43 games in which he’s appeared for the Indians this season, batting .190 with 2 home runs and 6 RBIs.

He was given Cleveland’s starting job despite being outplayed by Bobby Bradley in training camp because he was out of minor league options. Bradley has been recalled.

Bauers is expected to join the Mariners for Thursday’s game in Detroit, and he’ll be back in Cleveland on Friday when Seattle opens a three-game series.

In three major league seasons, Bauers has a .211 average with 25 home runs and 97 RBIs. He did not play for the Indians in 2020, spending the abbreviated season at the club’s alternate training site.

The 25-year-old Bauers was acquired by Cleveland from Tampa Bay in a three-team deal in 2018.

To make room on the roster, the Mariners designated infielder Jack Mayfield for assignment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MLB Power Rankings Week 10



Ten weeks into the MLB season, we have the fourth No. 1 team of the 2021 campaign atop our MLB Power Rankings.

Which American League team is playing well enough to bump the San Diego Padres from the top spot? Which National League club managed to pass the Padres in the Senior Circuit? Which National League Central team impressed our voters most as the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers continue to trade division leads? Just how far has a recent offensive slump dropped the New York Yankees down our list? And which struggling team fell to No. 30 in this week’s rankings?

Here is what our eight-voter expert panel decided based on what we’ve seen in the first two-plus months of the season. We also asked ESPN baseball experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with one Week 10 observation based on what they have seen recently for all 30 teams.

Previous rankings: Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Opening Day

Record: 39-24
Previous ranking: 2

The Rays look like one of the best teams in the sport despite not having any standout player in particular, which is as Rays as it gets. Starter Tyler Glasnow will factor into the All-Star conversation, leading the team with a 2.57 ERA, and Rich Hill has been a great offseason acquisition, with a 0.88 ERA in his last five starts, striking out 31 batters in 30.2 innings pitched. — Lee

Record: 37-24
Previous ranking: 4

With a .617 winning percentage and a run differential that suggests it should be more like .659 and a generally upward trajectory to this season, it might be time to glance down the line and wonder if the White Sox can break the franchise record for wins. Chicago’s mark is 100 by the 1917 club that won the White Sox’s first World Series and also was led in the dugout by Tony LaRussa. We kid! Pants Rowland, in fact, was the skipper of that club and acquired that nickname, we suppose, because he wore pants and must have come from a place where that was a novelty. Tied for second is the 99 wins the 2005 team won under Ozzie Guillen, and that big season was capped with the franchise’s only other World Series title. The Guillen team is tied for second with LaRussa’s 1983 club that won the AL West by 20 games, but lost to Baltimore in the ALCS. To add a second franchise-best team to the list and go on to win it all 38 years later would be a nice bit of historical symmetry for LaRussa and the White Sox franchise. It would also be an unprecedented feat in MLB annals.— Doolittle

Record: 38-23
Previous ranking: 5

The Giants stomached another major injury when Evan Longoria — boasting an adjusted OPS 50% higher than the league average through his first 50 games — was recently diagnosed with a sprained shoulder that will keep him out for several weeks. He joins an injury list that also includes Tommy La Stella, Mike Yastrzemski, Curt Casali, Darin Ruf and Alex Dickerson, among others. The Giants don’t have the position-player depth to necessarily absorb all that — no team does, really — and Longoria’s freak ailment will be their biggest test yet. How they navigate his absence could make or break their resurgent season. — Gonzalez

Record: 37-27
Previous ranking: 1

Among the more surprising elements of this season is that the Padres — still maintaining pace among the best teams in the sport — are simply not hitting. Through their first 60 games, the Padres possessed a .697 OPS that stood nine points below the league average. If you took away Fernando Tatis Jr., that OPS dropped to .666. It’s no secret that the Padres have been carried mostly by their pitchers. But their lineup is just as deep as their pitching staff, and their hitters are among the best at controlling the strike zone. Eventually, one would think, the offense will come alive. In other words: The Padres might not have played their best baseball yet. — Gonzalez

Record: 36-25
Previous ranking: 3

The Dodgers were hit hard by injuries earlier this year, but now, with Tony Gonsolin recently activated off the injured list to fill their fifth-starter slot, they’re almost whole. The only major absentee is Corey Seager, who is trending towards returning from a broken right hand by early July. The Dodgers are currently navigating a soft spot in their schedule, with games against the Pirates, Rangers, Phillies and Diamondbacks — four teams that entered Wednesday a combined 54 games below .500 — before starting another highly anticipated series against the Padres on June 21. — Gonzalez

Record: 37-25
Previous ranking: 6

Boston bounced back from dropping three of four to the Astros by sweeping the Yankees in New York. The return of Chris Sale from Tommy John surgery looms as the left-hander has started to throw bullpen sessions. Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers rank in the top 3 at their respective positions in fWAR, while Nathan Eovaldi is in the top 10 among MLB starters in the same category — ahead of Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish. — Lee

Record: 37-26
Previous ranking: 9

No one player jumps off the page, but the Oakland lineup is packed with steady contributors. The team’s three best hitters so far are Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano and Matt Olson, with strong contributions from Tony Kemp. The team could take a turn for the better if Matt Chapman can pick up his performance at the plate after serving as a lineup anchor the past few seasons. — Lee

Record: 35-26
Previous ranking: 7

We admonished Jose Altuve in this space earlier this season for getting off to a slow start on the heels of his career-worst 2020 season. It wasn’t to rail on him so much as to point out the concerns that go with an undersized second baseman with so much mileage on his tires. Since we did that, we ought to acknowledge that Altuve has gone back to being one of baseball’s best players. Since May 6, he’s hit .331/.418/.545 with eight homers. Now Altuve’s 2020 stat line looks much less like a trend than a strange blip on the radar. — Doolittle

Record: 34-27
Previous ranking: 15

Milwaukee is the beneficiary of a light schedule in June, and the Brewers are taking advantage of it. Their ERA over the past week is tops in the NL and Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta easily give Milwaukee the best starter trio in the division. Though they still struggle to produce consistent damage at the plate, it didn’t stop them from sweeping a four-game series with the Diamondbacks and then keeping that winning streak going in Cincinnati. — Rogers

Record: 35-27
Previous ranking: 8

Some regressions were expected after a strong month of May and complete domination of their opponents at home. It came in the form of a west coast road trip where the Cubs dropped three of four to the San Francisco Giants. But the story of the team right now is 29-year-old Patrick Wisdom. He became the second player in more than 100 years to hit at least eight home runs in his first 10 starts with a team. David Ross rightly said Wisdom is “carrying them.” — Rogers

Record: 30-24
Previous ranking: 10

Marcus Stroman is quietly pitching great in the shadow of Jacob deGrom, with a 2.41 ERA. He sometimes gets overlooked because his 7.5 K’s/9 is not elite in today’s game, but he has the fourth-highest groundball rate among starters and has allowed two runs or fewer in eight of his 12 starts. — Schoenfield

Record: 31-28
Previous ranking: 12

It’s only the second week of June, but any conversation about the American League MVP should start with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. And while Guerrero deserves plenty of praise, don’t overlook the addition of shortstop Marcus Semien, who continues to bounce back from a poor 2020 campaign after signing a one-year deal with Toronto. — Lee

Record: 32-27
Previous ranking: 14

Cleveland cut bait with hard-hitting, underachieving first baseman Jake Bauers this week, designating him for assignment. He could certainly wind up returning if he clears waivers, but it might be time for Bauers to get some new voices in his head. As for Cleveland, the decision means that perennial power prospect Bobby Bradley should get a long look as Terry Francona’s semi-regular first baseman. With a single, two doubles and a homer over his first three games, Bradley already had a third as many total bases (nine) as Bauers did in 43 contests (28). The issue for Bradley, as with so many young hitters these days, is strikeouts. During his last full minor-league season, Bradley struck out in more than a third of his plate appearances for Triple-A Columbus. — Doolittle

Record: 33-29
Previous ranking: 11

There’s a growing sense of panic in New York, with the Yankees offense ranking among the worst in baseball. Few on the team are hitting other than Aaron Judge. After signing a six-year, $90 million contract this offseason, last year’s MLB batting champ, DJ LeMahieu, looks like a league-average second baseman. Certainly not ideal. — Lee

Record: 29-30
Previous ranking: 16

Freddie Freeman‘s .229/.355/.443 line entering Wednesday’s game is far below his MVP numbers of 2020, but according to Statcast measures, he’s been one of the unluckiest hitters in the majors based on his quality of contact, with a wOBA (weighted on-base average) 70 points below his expected wOBA. His expected average and slugging percentage are both in the 90th-plus percentile. Look for more of those hard-hit balls to start falling. — Schoenfield

Record: 32-30
Previous ranking: 13

Sometimes things in baseball are predictable. The Cardinals were motoring along in first place, then got hit with injuries on the mound, and haven’t won since. Jack Flaherty is one of the latest to go down, leaving St. Louis vulnerable at the top of the rotation. Carlos Martinez has been a disaster, and their offense has done virtually nothing to make up for the pitching woes. This is a team in trouble. — Rogers

Record: 29-31
Previous ranking: 18

Going into spring training, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Royals was whether Adalberto Mondesi could build on his big finish to the 2020 season. To refresh your memory: Mondesi hit .356/.408/.667 during 24 September games with six homers and 16 stolen bases. That’s MVP-level performance. The good news is that Mondesi’s performance has kept right on shining, as he’s hit .360 with an 1.080 OPS this season. The bad news is that the big question was the wrong one. We should have been asking if Mondesi is too injury prone to ever reach his potential. Mondesi suffered an oblique injury during spring training, didn’t make his season debut until May 25, put up the above sparkling numbers of nine games, then wound up back on the IL with a hamstring strain. If Kansas City is going to emerge as a surprise postseason contender, Mondesi must figure out a way to stay on the field. — Doolittle

Record: 29-31
Previous ranking: 19

The National League is loaded with pitchers having big seasons, but don’t overlook Zack Wheeler, who has been on a strikeout binge with 44 in 28.2 innings over his past four starts. And note that he went at least seven innings in all four of those outings. His strikeout rate is up from 18.4% last season to easily a career high of 31.1%. — Schoenfield

Record: 29-30
Previous ranking: 22

Whoever said hitting is contagious probably didn’t watch the 2021 Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are a two man show right now. Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker are dominating, but it hasn’t really rubbed off on the rest of the lineup — though Jonathan India is coming off a good week. Having said all that, the Reds just swept the Cardinals in a four-game road series, so whatever they were doing, it was enough. But do they have any staying power? Remains to be seen. — Rogers

Record: 26-35
Previous ranking: 17

A 1-8 road trip to Boston, Toronto and Pittsburgh has put the Marlins in a deep hole. The record is disappointing given how well Trevor Rogers, Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez have pitched, with a 2.71 combined ERA. Despite that, the Marlins are just 19-19 in games started by those three. — Schoenfield

Record: 31-32
Previous ranking: 24

With Jarred Kelenic 0 for his last 39, the Mariners had little choice but to send him back down to the minors. Chris Davis owns the longest hitless streak for a non-pitcher, going 0-for-54 for the Orioles, but that was over two seasons (2010 -19), as was Eugenio Velez’s 0-for-46 in 2010 -11. According to Elias, the longest in-season streaks are the 0-for-45s from Craig Counsell in 2011, Dave Campbell in 1973 and Bill Bergen in 1909. — Schoenfield

Record: 25-33
Previous ranking: 20

As the Nationals continue to slide out of the race, they’re going to have to put together a big winning stretch in the next three weeks or Mike Rizzo will have to consider unloading talent for the first time in his tenure. Max Scherzer, Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson and Josh Harrison are the free agents with some trade value, or lots of it in Scherzer’s case. Kyle Schwarber has a mutual option for 2022 and hasn’t been hitting better, so he’s a possibility as well. — Schoenfield

Record: 30-32
Previous ranking: 24

Shohei Ohtani continues to dominate — on both sides — and Anthony Rendon might finally be turning the corner, but the most encouraging development for the Angels in recent days is probably Justin Upton, whose bat has come alive since moving into the leadoff spot. In his first 14 games hitting first, Upton batted .327/.410/.769 with 11 extra-base hits, six of them homers. His resurgence is helping the Angels creep back towards .500 as they wait for Mike Trout‘s strained right calf to heal. — Gonzalez

Record: 24-37
Previous ranking: 21

The Twins were 11-19 and already struggling when Byron Buxton last played for them on May 6. Though Buxton was enjoying an MVP-caliber season, Minnesota went 13-17 during its first 30 games without him, a period ending with Tuesday’s loss to the Yankees. That’s better, but not nearly the level of winning the Twins needed to crawl out of their early hole. Buxton, after recovering from the hip injury that put him on the IL, was sent out on a rehab assignment this week, which has gone well. He appears to be on track to rejoin the Twins in the next few days. During his absence, Minnesota’s chances at the postseason dropped from about one-in-three to one-in-10. His return is welcome, but it may already be too late to save the season. — Doolittle

Record: 25-36
Previous ranking: 26

One thing progressive organizations do in baseball in 2021 is turn journeymen into good players through targeted MLB-level development. This is not something that’s been a strength for Detroit over the years, but it is an area in which there was hope for improvement when A.J. Hinch was brought in to manage the club and build a coaching staff. It’s just one player, but the emergence of catcher/outfielder Eric Haase is a good sign that the Tigers are getting better at this process. Haase entered the season with a .122 average over 53 career plate appearances through the age of 27, though he’s been in professional baseball since 2011. This season, Haase had an OPS of 1.014 over his first 78 plate appearances, spurring Hinch to vow to play him as often as possible. — Doolittle

Record: 25-37

Previous ranking: 27

The Rockies are expected to activate Trevor Story off the injured list on Thursday, essentially starting the countdown to his final few weeks with the franchise that drafted him 45th overall 10 years ago. Story was batting only .255/.322/.424 through 50 games until being placed on the shelf with elbow tightness. Within the next seven or so weeks, Story will likely become the second franchise pillar to be traded in less than five months, following in the footsteps of Nolan Arenado. The Rockies have no choice but to trade Story, who will enter a star-studded free-agent class of shortstops over the offseason. This is a mess of their own making. — Gonzalez

Record: 24-39
Previous ranking: 25

The Rangers may be signaling they’re open for trade deadline business after DFA-ing Khris Davis this week. Joey Gallo should draw interest, if you can put up with the strikeouts. He leads the AL in K’s but also in walks. He’s coming off a decent week at the plate where he only struck out twice while producing a 1.250 OPS. — Rogers

Record: 23-37
Previous ranking: 29

First, they botch an easy out at first base on the Javy Baez play, and now, Ke’Bryan Hayes misses first base on a home run. What else could go wrong for Pittsburgh? The Pirates will go into trading season ready to deal as the rebuild continues. — Rogers

Record: 22-39
Previous ranking: 30

Cedric Mullins is performing on another level. The Orioles outfielder, who reached base in 11 consecutive plate appearances over the weekend, currently leads all American League batters in hits. With John Means landing on the injured list with a shoulder strain, Mullins is at least one reason left to tune in to Orioles games. — Lee

Record: 20-43
Previous ranking: 28

The D-backs will undoubtedly need to unload players before the end of July. The question is: How aggressively will they do so? Pending free agents such as Eduardo Escobar, Asdrubal Cabrera and Josh Reddick can certainly be had. But what about someone like Carson Kelly, who has emerged as one of the game’s best young catchers? Or a young starter like Zac Gallen, assuming he returns relatively soon from a sprained elbow? Or Ketel Marte, who is signed to a very team-friendly contract? Given the state of the NL West, where the Dodgers, Padres and Giants all loom as long-term threats, would the D-backs go into a full-scale rebuild? Given their talent-rich farm system, that rebuild might not take so long. — Gonzalez

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San Diego Padres’ Yu Darvish honors former Chicago Cubs teammate Anthony Rizzo with walk-up song



Yu Darvish‘s name was announced at Petco Park to begin the bottom of the third inning on Wednesday afternoon, and “Intoxicated,” a popular house song by Martin Solveig and GTA, blared over the speakers.

Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who famously uses that song as his walk-up music, threw his arms up in the air in mock disgust. Darvish, the former Cubs starter in his first season with the San Diego Padres, cracked a big smile as he approached the batter’s box.

Darvish, making his first start against the Cubs since an offseason trade, wasn’t trolling Rizzo.

He was paying homage.

“I used that song because it was Rizzo who kind of took care of me when things weren’t really working my way in Chicago,” Darvish said through his interpreter after the Padres’ 3-1 loss. “It was, in a way, to say ‘thank you’ to him. And obviously I have a good relationship with him.”

Darvish continued his remarkable season in the rematch against his former team, allowing only two runs over seven innings to put his ERA at 2.28 through his first 13 starts with his new team. But the Padres, collectively struggling offensively in recent weeks, lost for the 10th time in their last 17 games.

Darvish, 34, finished second in National League Cy Young Award voting last year and has been among the game’s best pitchers since the start of the 2020 season, going 14-5 with a 2.15 ERA, 185 strikeouts and only 33 walks in 155 innings.

Darvish’s time with the Cubs got off to a rough start. He joined them on a six-year, $126 million contract in February of 2018 and was limited to only eight starts that season. But he turned it around in 2019, posting a 3.98 ERA in 178 2/3 innings, then reached another level in the pandemic-shortened season.

“Looking back, I had some ups and downs in Chicago,” Darvish said. “Good times and bad times, looking in retrospect. But what I find is that the fans, the organization, and even the media members there — I had tremendous amount of support to get through my years there. So there’s a sense of, I guess, gratefulness there.”

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