Los Angeles Dodgers History: Mike Marshall Wins Cy Young Award

While it is still rare for a reliever to win the Cy Young award, it is no longer an honor strictly for starting pitchers. On this day in 1974, Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Mike Marshall became the first relief pitcher to take home the award.

When one goes back and looks at the all time greatest seasons for a reliever, there are a few that stand out. However, when one looks at both the pitcher’s success, and incredible workload, there is really one pitcher that stands out.

Pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974, Mike Marshall had the type of season that would give a pitcher Tommy John surgery just by looking at it. He literally pitched almost every day, appearing in a record 106 games, finishing 83 of them with 21 saves. In those appearances, Marshall had a relief record 208.1 innings, more than most starting pitchers have in this day and age.

Despite the workload, Marshall put together an excellent year. He led the National League in saves and had 36 more games finished than Randy Moffitt, who finished second. Marshal placed fourth with a 2.42 ERA and was third with a 2.554 strikeout to walk rate. He made his first All Star Game that year, and even finished third in the MVP vote.

To make this season even more remarkable, it followed a 1973 campaign where Marshall was heavily used by the Montreal Expos. That year, he pitched in 179 innings over 92 games, with 31 saves and 73 games finished. Yes, in two seasons, Mike Marshall, a reliever, threw 387.1 innings in 198 games. Baseball was a different game back then.

It also took this type of performance for Marshall, or any reliever, to be seriously considered for the Cy Young award. He had finished second the previous year with the Expos, as his workload made him almost a starter in terms of usage. However, he did not make the All Star Game that year, as his performance was looked upon more as a curiosity than anything else.

In the following years, Marshall’s 1974 performance has reached almost mythical proportions. Given the way pitchers are used these days, and the specialization that is so prevalent in the bullpen, it is difficult to imagine a player ever putting together that type of season again as a reliever. Some lefty specialist may well come close to that mark, as Pedro Feliciano did with his 92 appearances in 2010, but he only had 62.2 innings of work. Feliciano also missed the next two seasons with a shoulder injury due to that workload, so Marshall’s 106 games seems to be one of those unbreakable records.

On this day in 1974, Mike Marshall became the first relief pitcher to win the Cy Young award. Considering his workload, the Los Angeles Dodgers closer more than deserved this honor.

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