For some pitchers of the not-so-distant past like Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins, it was all about the windup.
Baseball is a cat-and-mouse game, and the movement provided another layer of deception between the pitcher and the batter. Willis’ strange windup fooled batters galore in his first year in the Bigs, leading him all the way to 2003’s Rookie of the Year honors. The San Francisco Giants’ Juan Marichal (see above) rode his deceptive windup all the way to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
There is a curve, though: A style known as “pitching from the stretch,” in which a pitcher lacks a windup completely, crouching and steadying himself on the mound—”stretching” in order to observe base-runners—before firing the ball into his catcher or over to first base.
This year, some star pitchers in the major leagues have decided to do away with the windup completely. One-time Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg, who has battled injury over the last few seasons, has ditched it, as has the Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish, who has also struggled to stay healthy.
Why? It has a lot to do with the health factor. Per the Wall Street Journal, “some believe the windup only creates excess movement, offering more opportunity for something to go awry.” It could even be a way to avoid poor play. “Without the extra and unnecessary motion, they can more easily replicate their mechanics, leading to better control and rendering the windup into nothing more than an elaborate way of pitching worse,” notes the Journal.
Below, watch a highlight reel of some of the weirdest windups in baseball history.