Back in the '90s and even earlier this past decade, there was this big thing on the internet where you'd trick somebody into looking at a seemingly normal picture, and then after five or ten seconds a horrifying image would flash on the screen, sometimes accompanied by a scream. It was really awful and for a time I didn't trust any link that anyone posted. It was like the original Rickroll, except instead of being annoying it was annoying and made you shit your pants.
This brings me to Angels closer Jordan Walden. Facing Jordan Walden, I think, must be like staring at one of those trick pictures. At least the first time. It's normal, normal, normal, normal, then BAM! F***ED UP!
Walden, see, has a really unusual delivery. I'm ashamed to admit it took me until last night to notice, since last night was his 69th major league game and 28th major league save, but enough other people were surprised as well that it seems Walden's motion isn't as well-known as it ought to be. So let's get to it.
You'll see that most of it is normal, or at least not abnormal. That isn't the interesting part. You'll notice the interesting part.
High leg kick. Boring. Very stable here, nothing weird at all. There is a protrusion in his back pocket that's probably a tin of something, but I suppose it could be a surface growth, which would be interesting and gross.
Swinging the leg around. Not weird. It looks kind of weird as a still image, but then a lot of pictures of people doing normal things look weird as still images. Jordan Walden is pitching, and doing nothing any more remarkable than that.
Now Walden prepares to bring his arm forward. Still not real weird, although his front foot is pretty high off the ground. His arm is really lagging.
And this is where it gets f***ed up. Jordan Walden is flying! He is not touching the ground! Walden jumps off the rubber - he literally jumps - and if he is touching the ground here, it's only because I didn't pause the video at the right instant. He definitely makes himself airborne.
And now Jordan Walden is throwing, well in front of the rubber, having come back down to earth.
You are the hitter and you are facing this man, who throws 100 miles per hour.
And this man jumps at you while he throws.
It's the strangest thing. I'm sure I'll get used to it - I'm sure Angels fans are already used to it - but let's never lose sight of the fact that Jordan Walden hops in the middle of his throwing motion. Throwing motions are complicated enough as they are. Do you know how difficult it is to keep your entire body in sync when you're throwing 90-100 miles an hour, such that you can locate the ball with any kind of precision? Walden does all that, and he also leaves the ground, too.
It's easy to imagine that every pitching coach Walden's ever had has probably tried to eliminate this unique hitch of his. Every pitching coach Walden's ever had has probably assumed that the jump is the source of all of his problems.
Walden: My location is off.
Coach: You jump when you are throwing.
Coach: That is weird!
But Walden's still got the jump, and he's making it work. At some young age, Jordan Walden thought it would be a great idea to jump off the rubber, and it became so ingrained in his muscle memory that he finds doing this more comfortable than throwing conventionally.
The big question: Is this legal? Does Jordan Walden break the rules every time he throws a pitch? Personally, I'd prefer not to find out. If I found out it is legal, I'd wonder why other pitchers don't look for ways to get themselves closer to the plate. If I found out it's illegal, I'd wonder why Walden gets away with it. I like not knowing. It adds to the intrigue.