He Blinded Me With Science

If your body pH is alkaline, you can not get cancer. ... If itís acid, you can get cancer. In ourómy personal observations, every single person who has cancer has an acidic body, acid pH.

-Kevin Trudeau, from the infomercial designed to sell the book Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About

There was only one guy in the history of baseball who could pitch every day without discomfort, and that was me. People said I was a freak, but it was how I threw. Give me Kerry Wood and Mark Prior and, after I train them, they will be unhittable forever. Nobody will worry how many pitches they throw. ... [Larry Rothschild and Tom House]sure as heck don't know how to apply Newton's first, second and third laws to the pitching motion. They don't know Isaac Newton from the Fig Newton.

-Mike Marshall, Ph.D. (first quotation from 6/24/05 Tribune, second from article linked below)

The Daily Southtown's Paul Ladewski wrote a doe-eyed piece about Mike Marshall and his criticisms of Mark Prior's pitching mechanics. With all the hemming and hawing about Prior's health, it's irresponsible articles like this one where we need to keep our sense of perspective and skepticism. Read the article for yourself, but in case you choose not to, here's my synopsis:
1. Paul wants to trade Prior for Tejada. 2. Because Prior gets hurt and Tejada doesn't. 3. Mike Marshall knows how to correct Prior's mechanics so he doesn't get hurt. 4. The fact that Mike Marshall has virtually been blacklisted by major league organizations and that he knows Newton's Laws means he MUST be right!
For all we know, Marshall might be right when he says there's a loop in Prior's motion. For all we know, Marshall might really have the secret to building every pitcher in his rubber-armed image, and there just isn't a single major league organization smart enough and bold enough to hire him and it's just a fluke that not one of his students has made it in the majors. But knowing Newton's laws of motion doesn't mean *#$% when it comes to building a better pitcher, and Marshall keeps pretending that it does in order to pass off his (currently) fringe, unaccepted theories as scientifically legitimate. Everyone, EVERYONE associated with the act of throwing a baseball understands that the trick is to apply the most force in the most efficient manner possible, and that a loss of efficiency requires the pitcher to exert more force in order to get the same effect, increasing the risk of injury. Whether or not Rothschild and House can name the three laws that first correctly described the relationship between force, mass and accelleration (in an idealized and pre-Einsteinian universe) is completely irrelevant to the issue of whether they can do more for Prior than Marshall could. And what about Marshall's claims that he could pitch every day, as demonstrated by his famous 1974 season, in which he appeared in 106 games and pitched 208 and 1/3 innings? The effects lingered, as he pitched in 57, 54 and 16 games the next three years. I'm sure Marshall's forgotten more about pitching mechanics and physiology than I will ever know. And I've been a bit unfair comparing him to Trudeau - the one mis-represents real science to sell his dubious theories, the other invents fake science to sell his patently absurd theories. But ultimately, we do not yet have one shred of evidence to suggest that Marshall's theories actually do build better pitchers. And in lieu of such evidence, an ignorant reporter with an ax to grind against Hendry, Baker and evidently Prior, lets Marshall spout off self-aggrandizing, scientific-sounding mumbo jumbo that does nothing to clear up the issues surrounding Prior, House, Rothschild, Baker, Hendry, or this insufferable trade talk.


mike marshall can also walk on water. he teaches kids in his "camps" in florida for $10 a day. that's about what his instruction is worth. seriously, if he didnt believe the only way is the mike-marshall-way...he might be working for a pro club as a pitching coaching making more a year than his playing days.

First of all, Marshall was blackballed for being pro-union, in a more extreme way, and major league clubs knew that signing him would cost them more than just his salary. I'm convinced that he, like Flood, could have played longer had they kept their mouths shut. He pitched in Semi-pro leagues for years after he retired from the MLB, which means his arm couldn't have hurt that bad. And there IS a flaw in Wood's delivery, and probably Prior's. Whether or not Marshall can fix it is another thing. He doesn't say if he's had any students make it to the majors; he claims he does, but also claims he does not want to take credit for their success. Maybe he has, maybe he hasn't, but you don't have the proof that he hasn't. He may not be as great as he says he is, but Rothschild hasn't quite been the best at keeping our pitching staff intact, and House's pitchers, including his son, have been injury prone. Marshall may be a quack, or he may be on to something. Jim Bouton spoke highly of him in Ball Four, and that was before he became anything. I wouldn't put it past him to have come up with a better way to pitch, or the baseball institution to completely ignore it, given their acceptance of new ideas... but until he proves it he shouldn't think as highly of himself as he does.

Transmission: Amen! I am so sick-and-GD-tired of Marshall shooting his mouth off.

Two responses: 1. Thanks for pointing out that he was blacklisted over union matters. But if you read the article, Ladewski says "who has been blackballed by the big leagues because he has a lot of goofy ideas and isn't afraid to speak his mind." That isn't playing to the idea of Marshall being blackballed for union matters, it's playing to the idea of Marshall as an unrecognized genius, a radical who is ahead of his time. If Marshall's blacklisting has nothing to do with his pitching theories, then Ladewski's piece becomes even more responsible for suggesting it does. Second,"you don't have the proof that he hasn't." True, but it's not my burden of proof, it's his. If he doesn't want to take credit for all the anonymous pitchers who have found success in the major leagues, that's his prerogative. What you're asking is that I prove a negative, that I prove the absence of his success. That's impossible. The best I, or anyone can do, is look at every single pitcher who has pitched in MLB, and note that none of them have success they credit to Marshall. If Marshall wants to present something to oppose this complete lack of evidence, he's the one that needs to do it - how would I?

"Ladewski's piece becomes even more responsible" should be "Ladewski's piece becomes even more IRresponsible". I suspect you already figured that out, though. Really, if Kiniack is right and the blacklisting has nothing to do with Marshall's views on pitching, then Ladewski is flat-out deceiving readers for the purpose of building up Marshall's status as a brilliant scientific renegade.

Kiniack = Kinanick, even. I'll go do something else, now.

Sheesh, it's a palindrome :-p Kinanik kinaniK

Wow, that's right, even my CORRECTION got it wrong. I am the idiot savant of TCR. What can I say? ~grin~. My apologies, Kinanik, and a ~fwap~ up the side of your head for creating a name that exposes my disease: Harry Carayitis. Now, back to the topic....

OK, back to the subject... There are pitchers who can throw an inordanite number of pitches, and I don't think that Livan Hernandez, Nolan Ryan and crew are all genetic anomolies (Randy Johnson might be). If they're not anomolies, then there are only a limited number of reasons they can throw so many pitches without hurting their arm, luck, work distribution and mechanics. If Marshall was indeed one of these people who could pitch alot and not get hurt, maybe he should be listened to. If he was hurt, then it doesn't look like he was on to anything. If he was spared injury due to his own pitch management, and innings management by his managers, we can learn from that too. I do think that there is too much coddling of pitchers in many cases, and not enough with others. There's no reason a 22 year old Prior or Zambrano should throw 141 pitches in a game, but a 26 year old Prior or Zambrano, with no injury history, shouldn't be treated like a kid.

I think I agree with everything in that post, K. I would say that while I do not know if Marshall was outright hurt, just fatigued, or just used less in the three years following his 109 appearance year, the evidence seems to suggest that he WASN'T as durable over the long term as he claims. (Who COULD be as durable as he claims - he says that he never ever felt fatigued and could pitch every single day. That first quotation of his is just absurd.) So I think everything you say there makes perfect sense. I also think Marshall is trying to position himself as the Pied Piper - the mysterious, outsider guru who has all the answers. Once in a long while, they may be right. But most of the time, they're either cons or they're delusional. And when I look at Marshall's claims about his own career, compared to reality, and when I look at the ways he is using his scientific training and his Ph.D. - to pointlessly browbeat people without scientific training or letters, instead of to enlighten - I conclude he's more likely a con or delusional. I don't necessarily want to trust Prior's arm to Rothschild and House, but I darn well am not going to turn his arm over to a guy that seems to relish sounding like a quack.....

Exactly, I wouldn't send Prior to one of his camps, but if he wants to diagnose a flaw in his mechanics he has at least enough credibility that Rothschild, or the trainers, should check to see if there's any truth to his claims. Especially if it's for free.

Einstein was a percived quack and kicked out of mainstream schools as a child. Anybody glad you have heat from electricity if you live above the Mason Dixon line? Point is....how the hell do any of you know...correction...how the hell do any of us know...if Marshall is right or nuts? Second point is....why does it matter if nobody in MLB listens? Get on a real topic...AZ Phil..start something smart again, please. Joey from Newton.........freezing my ass off with X's mongoloid cat that wandered over....name of Earl (pay attention, the name WILL come up again). X, the wife doing okay?

OOPS...percived=perceived. Joey

I do not want to defend Marshall, who seems like a self-promoting crank to me. The main result of the article will no doubt there being a number of new "students" from the Chicago area whose parents will "insist" that their son absolutely, positively "must" go to Marshall's school this next spring break. But I did peruse his web page today after seeing the article. Some of his advice for youngsters seems sound -- principally his recommendations that boys under 13 should NOT face live batters or even try and throw hard more than twice a week. He has a lot of criticism for Little League Baseball for having high mounds at younger ages, etc. While Marshall does seem like a crank, I do think that for some inexplicable reason, baseball severely undervalues good pitching coaching. Leo Mazzone routinely made $5M pitchers perform at $10M levels -- and he got paid not even $1M by the Braves. Ray Miller made Bruce Chen a serviceable starter last year...and was effectively told to retire. I don't understand this blind spot because a good pitching coach can pay his salary many times over simply with one or two successful students. Marshall may be a paranoid crank, but with many paranoids, there is a kernel of truth.

Joey - The myth about einstein being a quack who was bad at math and kicked out of regular schools is just that. A myth. We LOVE to mythologize the geniuses so that they sound more like us - misunderstood people struggling from day to day. And certainly, they had their struggles. But neither Einstein nor Edison fit that mold.

I also agree with everything DC TOM says. Marshall's heart is probably in the right spot, where his little league critique is concerned.

by all means, boys under 13 should not be facing live batters. That sounds fun. Should really pique interest in the sport. :) I suppose he means the legit athletes who have a future, but how do you really know that at age 13? I do recall him saying that he doesn't think a young pitcher should throw a breaking ball until after age 18. Probably a good idea, but once again, good luck convincing a kid not too. I think I spent most of my downtime in baseball trying to throw curveballs. I suppose if I was a high school coach, I'd certainly encourage my pitchers to throw just fastballs and changeups and rely on location, but theory doesn't always hold up to reality.

i cant really watch the LL world series anymore cuz there's always one coach (lately, and horrifically more) that has a kid that will throw a slider or some sliding/curve pitch after pitch after pitch. seriously, gimmie a youth coach that will throw a kid 100 pitches with almost exclusively his fastball over a coach who will let a kid throw 50+ moving breaking pitches a game just for the sake of winning. i dont have kids, nor do i live in a highly competitive youth baseball area, but a lot of the more competitive youth baseball programs out there are pushing the breaking pitch to the point of obsurdity...at least judging by what i keep seeing on espn.

Will Carroll wrote an interesting piece at BP today in response to the recent Mike Marshall article. He points out that unlike other, non-blacklisted pitching experts, Marshall cannot point to any of his deciples as MLB sucess stories. He's careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but he argues against most of the points raised by the "doctor" in the daily southtown article. Most interesting to me was Carroll's point that there is probably nothing wrong with this "loop." "...[The loop] Marshall is describing is what a biomechanist would call external rotation...the action is standard. The work of both American and Japanese biomechanists, using both standard and double-spin mechanics, show that this motion does not create undue force." Here's a few more snippets from today's under the knife colum at baseballprospectus.com. It's a good read. "Simply put, Mike Marshall knows what he's talking about, yet is the wrong messenger for getting that message out..... His continual attacks and refusal to be measured by any reasonable standard undermine any good that he could have had....His refusal to adjust, integrate, simplify and modify likely leaves the good parts of his work on the shelf--like far too many pitchers."

yeah, that article was BS, I'm glad you's guys pointed it out.

Why hven't the Cubs looked to Fergie Jenkins. Whenever I hear him talk, I'm amazed. Maybe he should not be a pitching coach, but an advisor. Someone like him could end a team's treating their pitchers like they wer made of glass

I have nothing against Will Carrol, but didn't he publish a book about pitching? It wouldn't really be in his best interests to say 'Mike Marshall's a genius, use my book as a coaster' now would it?

I don't think that Rothschild or House knowing nothing about Physics is any issue about their pitching knowledge. I mean Indycar drivers probably don't know the physics or engineering behind building a sportscar engine, but they can surely drive those things really well. However, when you do look at the track record of Larry with the Cubs, he doesnt look to be a very effective pitching coach anymore.

Fergie had a one year stint as Cubs' pitching coach and wasn't rehired.

RE: 15 FWIW, I think a more analogous scientist would be Einstienís predecessor Georg Riemann, who developed the coordinate system which Einstienís general relativity is based on. Riemannís genius was recognized by very few mathematicians at the time though he still was recognized as a competent scientist. It wasnít until after his death that Einstein showed the scientific community the significance of what he had done. Although it seems that Riemann wasnít the vocal advocate of his own work that Marshall is of his. http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/M...

Amen Trans! I'm sick of bad journalists giving people like Marshall a forum. Mike Marshall is the one with the radical claims - he should prove it! It doesn't work the other way around. Somebody has pointed out that Edison not Einstein "invented" electricity right? Oh and Kinanik let's not forget how House got famous in the first place. It was teaching Nolan Ryan.

What about the tolerance for pain factor? IE: Test tube athlete running to the doctor for an evaluation of a hangnail. Doc's evaluation including the word "inflammed", which takes said test tube athlete out of the game mentally, more so than physically.

Until I see Wood and Prior prove that they have the ability to take the ball every 5th day, I will choose to believe that Marshall (and Stone) are right on their assessment of him. Groin, arm, elbow, whatever else has bothered him the past few years...that's enough for me. We are doing something wrong in how we manage and train pitchers. I'm not smart enough to know what it is - but what we are doing isn't working.

If you distribute the pain that Roy Oswalt has pitched through over the past 3 years, evenly, to each of the Cubs pitchers, we would have to forfeit each of those seasons.

I vote the Cubs ship Koronka to Marshall in a large pet carrier with return postage and some Combos for the journey. What have they (or Koronka) to lose?

Wood clearly has an acidic shoulder.

Transmission.....actually it is a fact that Einstein was "an odd duck" and not able to stay in mainstream schools. I have no idea about Edison....and why the hell do I/we care anyway? I get nuts over this stuff, that's why. Now... the fact is that me and Earl (X's mongoloid cat) were hitting the Irish Coffe too hard when I wrote that ugliness....and did indeed cross my genius misfits......which reflects poorly on us cornfed boys in Iowa. Sorry guys....my cuteness backfired.....but I was in fact trying to make a point with a story. I'll suck my thumb and curl up in the fetal position in the corner for awhile. And for those who take my garbage literally and argue for arguement's sake, I'M BEING FACETIOUS....I LIVE IN A ROUND HOUSE WITH NO CORNERS, SO I CAN'T LAY IN A CORNER...GEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZZZZZ! Joey

House may have taught Nolan Ryan, but he started coaching him in 1980, and Ryan's numbers before and after that are very similar. Ryan had been throwing a huge number of pitches before being instructed by House, and would continue to afterwards.

Mechanics aren't instantly fixable, either. Successful and durable pitchers do NOT all look the same. Try comparing Greg Maddux's mechanics with Nolan Ryan's, I really don't think they're gonna be identical. Biomechanics are tailored to the individual and are not for mass reproduction because they are unique to a person's build, proportions and experience. Anyone that thinks they have a perfect (and theoretical) biomechanical model that can apply to any pitcher is making stuff up. Basically, because it worked for Mike Marshall does not mean it will work for Mark Prior or anyone else.

Yes it's true that the same biomechanical solution doesn't always work for everybody and it's quite obvious since no two people have identical bodies (no not even "identical" twins). I believe though the point that was mentioned by Marshall in the article is that Prior is doing something WRONG biomechanically that was causing stress on his arm. The wrong movement is something that is more universal in that it is probably the wrong movement for almost every pitcher. For example, if you bend your fingers backwards far enough then it's going to hurt. It doesn't matter that every person's hand is shaped differently, if you bend the fingers backward then it will hurt. So the flaw in Prior's delivery will probably be a flaw also in most other pitchers. The differences will come in HOW TO CORRECT the flaw's since no two bodies are the same.

I did not give the article a great deal of weight since this is old news. This stuff about a loop in Wood/Prior delivery has been discussed before. However, Trans I think your ability to frame an argument about Marshall is a bit weak. You basically say that Marshall may know what he is talking about and you don't know as much as Marshall about pitching but you beleive he is a quack so we should't believe what Marshall has to say. Personally as a Cub fan I would hope the Cubs do anything they can to make sure Wood and Prior can pitch at least 200 ininngs this year. If it means listening to a "quack" I am all for it since nothing else seems to be working.