Mark Eichhorn – 1989 Score
February 26, 2011
Sling It Sidewinder!
Many times, become a sidearm or submarine pitcher is akin to becoming a knuckleball pitcher. It’s the last resort before an exciting career in insurance sales or customer service for a siding contractor.
Those who can master the funky delivery get another life in baseball.
Eichhorn was a second round draft pick (albiet in the January draft) and he advanced rapidly up the chain one step at a time. Medicine Hat in 1979, Kinston in1980, Knoxville in 1981 and Syracuse in 1982.
It was after a 10-11, 4.54 mark as a 21-year old in AAA that Eichhorn was promoted for the September cup o’ Joe. Actually, he was called up in late August, but he was very much a typical “we’re out of it, let’s see what we got with these kids” callup. The Jays were on the rise, finishing at 78-84 and finally rid of the expansion garbage pitchers they carried for a few years.
Eichhorn struggled in the majors in 1982. He was 0-3 with a 5.45 ERA. But, he was a 21-year old kid, and four of his seven starts were ‘quality starts’. He was in the mix for the 1983 rotation behind Stieb, Leal and Clancy.
A funny thing happened on the way to Toronto. He didn’t make the club (Jim Gott was the 4th and later the Jays signed Doyle Alexander when the Yankees released him), and went into a funk. Or something. For two years.
1983, he was up and down between Knoxville and Syracuse to the tune of 6-17, 5.06. In 1984, it was Syracuse for 5-9, 5.97. Something had to be done, or Eichhorn would be out of the organization. So in the Instructional League he tinkered with a sidearm delivery.
He split time in 1985 with Knoxville and Syracuse but with better results. (7-6, 3.46). However, there still was skepticism whether Eichhorn could make it or not.
He made it. In 1986 he was one of the most valuable pitcher in the AL with a 6.4 WAR. He was third in ROY voting and sixth in Cy Young. He probably should have been the ROY, as he had double the WAR of Jose Canseco. Ah, well.
He never hit those heights again. He pitched a lot in 1987, which affected his arm in 1988. From then, he was a good, not great, relief pitcher for several years.
But he had a long career that would not have happened had he not been acting in desperation in the Instructional League in 1984 and decided to try a sidearm / submarine delivery.