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On 2012’s Unforgivable Walks

With very rare exception, walks are bad, for the pitcher and for the pitcher’s team. Sometimes a pitcher will walk an opposing hitter on purpose, but sometimes that’s not even the right thing to do. Walks are just bad, as a general principle. But, of course, some walks are worse than others. There’s an entire spectrum, from okay walks to awful walks, from forgivable walks to unforgivable walks. It’s usually worse to walk a guy on four pitches, unintentionally. It’s usually worse to walk a guy with the bases loaded. It’s usually worse to walk an opposing pitcher, since pitchers are like the worst hitters ever. Now combine all three of those things.

It seems to me — and, upon checking, it seems to Dave Cameron — that the most unforgivable walk would be a four-pitch walk of the opposing pitcher with the bases loaded. Obviously, that’s something that wouldn’t happen very often, because you’re selecting for a few unlikely scenarios. But this past season, that happened two times. Two times, a pitcher was walked on four pitches to bring home a run. Once it even happened in a one-run game. Both times it happened, it happened in Arizona, in the Diamondbacks’ favor. We review, in no order. An order wouldn’t even really make sense. We’re reviewing two events. We have a list of two.

UNFORGIVABLE WALK #1

Pitching pitcher: Randall Delgado
Hitting pitcher: Ian Kennedy
Date: April 22
Score: 1-0 Braves
Inning: Bottom 2
Mistake: Four-pitch walk with bases loaded

The final pitch of Kennedy’s plate appearance:

We’ve written about Ian Kennedy’s patient batting approach around here before. Ian Kennedy does not like to swing, and against Randall Delgado, he didn’t swing once. All four of the pitches were balls, and Kennedy walked to tie the game. They weren’t even four bad balls. I mean, they were, because they were balls thrown to a bad hitter, but all four pitches were fastballs at 89-91 miles per hour, and all four fastballs barely missed the edge of the strike zone, according to Gameday. The first two barely missed outside. The third one barely missed low. The fourth one barely missed low and outside. Kennedy had the right approach, and Delgado couldn’t groove one even once. Look at the catcher. The catcher wanted Delgado to groove one.

The whole inning, incidentally, was a disaster for Delgado. You might’ve guessed as much since he walked the pitcher to drive in a run, but the inning began with two outs. Then Delgado allowed a single and a double, and he intentionally walked John McDonald to face Kennedy. After walking Kennedy, Delgado threw a high first-pitch ball to Gerardo Parra. The second pitch was a fastball for a strike that Parra drilled for a grand slam. Oh no! The Diamondbacks beat the Braves that day.

UNFORGIVABLE WALK #2

Pitching pitcher: Lendy Castillo
Hitting pitcher: Trevor Cahill
Date: September 29
Score: 6-0 Diamondbacks
Inning: Bottom 5
Mistake: Four-pitch walk with bases loaded

The final pitch of Cahill’s plate appearance:

Castillo’s walk wasn’t as “close” as Delgado’s walk above. Castillo’s first pitch missed well outside. His second pitch missed well inside. His third pitch missed low, and his fourth pitch missed lower. All four of the pitches were fastballs, and in a blowout, facing the pitcher, Castillo had no reason not to just try to throw one down the middle. He presumably was trying just that, and he failed, repeatedly. Look at the catcher, again. I don’t know which of these hypotheticals would be worse:

Catcher: down the middle
Castillo: okay
Castillo: /doesn’t throw anywhere close to down the middle
Catcher: youuuuuu

***

Catcher: down the middle
Castillo: no

***

The catcher was also named Castillo so those fake conversations could’ve been a lot more confusing. The catcher Castillo was none too thrilled with the sequence of events:

The Diamondbacks were more thrilled, if this is what they look like when they’re thrilled. I don’t really know what this looks like.

Cahill has a career .117 batting average and a career .117 slugging percentage. This past season he batted .119 with one walk. That one walk was on four pitches, with the bases loaded. After the walk, Castillo threw strikes with three out of four pitches to Adam Eaton, which is fortunate since Castillo might have confused Adam Eaton for a pitcher and apparently Lendy Castillo can’t pitch to pitchers. I guess with a name like Lendy you’d figure he’d be kind of generous.

That day in Arizona, Castillo threw 25 pitches, 16 for strikes. Against everyone but Trevor Cahill, he threw 21 pitches, 16 for strikes. Against Trevor Cahill, he threw four pitches, 0 for strikes. The bases were loaded at the time, and the Diamondbacks won 8-2. Cahill went the distance. He also went 1-for-3 with two RBI.

There were surely other walks this past season one might consider to have been unforgivable. But these two walks, without question, were the most unforgivable. Big-league pitchers and strike zones: they don’t have the relationship you’ve assumed your whole life that they have. Sometimes, at least.