Miami Marlins Reliever, Carter Capps: Kung Fu Pitching Motion

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Updated: April 15, 2015
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This guy has apparently thrown 105 innings in the Minor Leagues over parts of four seasons with the Mariners and Marlins organizations.  More baffling than his absurdly unorthodox delivery is that fact that I just learned about it today.  While there is no discernible explanation for his motion, I can justify the sad fact that I have yet to witness it. He’s been a career Minor Leaguer and it’s tough to keep up with the thousands of ball players not in the ‘Show.’  So deal with it.

Let’s address this kung-fu, step-motion. Is it legal?  The short answer is yes.  The long answer is that he’s already received two “automatic ball” calls from Pacific League Umpires for “disengaging the rubber.”  The problem with penalizing such an obscure delivery is that there is nothing in the MLB rule book that suggests his back foot has to remain on the rubber as he releases the ball.  The rule book does mention the phrase “disengaging the rubber” but only pertaining to what a pitcher can and cannot do with regards to pickoffs. There is no mention of a pitcher not being allowed to disengage the rubber during one’s natural throwing motion.

Capps has sought clarification from the MLB to ensure he wouldn’t be penalized with frequency. According to Capps:

“They just said they wanted me to make sure I dragged my foot and not get too elevated in the air, and make sure it’s more on a lateral plane,” Capps said. “As long as I do that, they have no problem with it. But it was very strange.”

Take a look at the delivery.  Mind blowing:

Who knows how this delivery made it to the ‘Big Leagues.’  There is so much room for variance and anyone who knows anything about any sporting motion, knows that however you accomplish your athletic move, the key is consistency.  A jump-step in the middle of a pitch seems like just about the last thing one would incorporate because keeping consistent timing on every throw would seem much more difficult than pitchers who throw from an orthodox perspective.  But, reviewing his body of work in the Minor Leagues and his control appears to be fairly decent.  He’s walked 39 batters in 105 innings.

The advantages of jumping toward the plate are obvious.  Capps gains 2 feet on his fastball, which would equate to nearly 4-5MPH extra.  He seems to hide the ball well, even through his jump move and the ball pops out from behind his ear at the last second.

Major League teams will do anything possible to “gimmick” their way through a 162 game season.  We’ve seen spit-ballers, knuckle-ballers, ambidextrous pitchers and even guys who sneak a couple of inches closer to the plate by covering the rubber with dirt.  Capps and his schtick have to be the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.  Believe it or not, he’s not the first to use ‘the jump’ in his motion.

Jordan Walden of the St. Louis Cardinals trail-blazed the way for Capps to an extent, as he’s already served 6 years in the MLB.  Walden’s motion is equally strange, but just not as pronounced. He does a bit of a hop-step, but it isn’t really forward and it’s nowhere near as high as Capps.

Those around baseball believe Walden set precedence for the allowance of Capps and his delivery.  Walden maintains excellent velocity with an average fastball of 96MPH, but control has become an issue of late and his coaches are hoping to lighten his quirky jump-hop.  I can’t wait to watch Capps pitch in a Big League game, as his delivery is literally the strangest thing I’ve ever seen in a major sport.

Jordan Walden delivery: