The Worst of the Best: The Month’s Wildest Pitches

Hey there everybody, and welcome to the first part of the year’s fourth edition of The Worst Of The Best. Here is a link to all of the previous editions, if you like the feeling of completeness. Now, let’s all agree on something: there are few things in the world more important than your own happiness. Your own happiness is a function not of your possessions, but of your psychological and possibly spiritual health. Many people consider themselves perfectionists, and might end up upset because they can’t meet their own impossible standards. All right, so, you’re going to see some pitchers. These pitchers are amazing! They have to be to be where they are. You’re going to see these pitchers make huge, obvious, embarrassing mistakes, and yet it doesn’t change anyone’s opinion of them. In the grand scheme of things, these mistakes are irrelevant, and evaluations are based on the entire body of work. Here are some of the best professionals in the world, messing up and having it not really matter. If you’re a perfectionist, then, give yourself a break. You’re allowed to screw up. More: people probably won’t even notice if you do somehow screw up. Or they’ll just forget right away, because everyone else is wrapped up in their own business. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Chris Tillman isn’t. (Spoiler alert)

Here will be the wildest pitches thrown in July, following the usual methodology of PITCHf/x and math and sorting. It’s all determined by distance from the center of the strike zone, and you’re going to see a top-five list, and a next-five list, and there’s also a bonus entry in there based on a tip I got from a few people on Twitter. Thank you, Internet friends! You’re all welcome to come over to my Internet house. But please not my actual house, I don’t have enough chairs. Also the actual reason. Something that will matter to you more in a few minutes: Chris Tillman also just missed the next-five list, by two spots. Here we go, together.


Pitcher: Felix Doubront
Batter: Juan Francisco
Date: July 24
Location: 58.0 inches from center of zone



Pitcher: Mike Morin
Batter: Adam Jones
Date: July 22
Location: 58.8 inches from center of zone



Pitcher: Jeremy Affeldt
Batter: Coco Crisp
Date: July 9
Location: 60.0 inches from center of zone



Pitcher: Hiroki Kuroda
Batter: James Loney
Date: July 1
Location: 60.1 inches from center of zone



Pitcher: Dan Jennings
Batter: Gregor Blanco
Date: July 18
Location: 60.2 inches from center of zone




Pitcher: Zach McAllister
Batter: Don Kelly
Date: July 19
Location: cannot be calculated


I’m glad that people told me about this on Twitter, because the pitch wasn’t captured by PITCHf/x and therefore I never would’ve found it. There’s one clue that a pitch was really terrible: it didn’t even register on the PITCHf/x cameras. But sometimes the PITCHf/x system just has its glitches and a pitch or an at-bat or a whole inning can just go by unrecorded. Immediately after the fact, the broadcast talked about whether the play would be ruled a ball or a balk. The runner on first advanced to second anyway, so it only mattered with regard to the count and the record books. There’s another clue that a pitch was really terrible: people aren’t sure whether it was an actual pitch. This is a pretty strong clue.



Pitcher: Will Smith
Batter: Chase Utley
Date: July 10
Location: 60.8 inches from center of zone


I bet that, if you taught him how to skate, Jonathan Lucroy would make a pretty good hockey goalie. I bet that, if Jonathan Lucroy tried to be a hockey goalie, in the early going he’d cough up a lot of goals on rebounds. That’s just sloppy, exaggerated lateral movement. Stay within your goalposts, idiot. You’re talking yourself out of your own crease and leaving the net completely wide open. I bet that Jonathan Lucroy would actually make a pretty terrible hockey goalie! I take back what I said before.


Will Smith threw one of the wildest outside pitches of the season and Chase Utley still made an effort to try to get hit by the baseball, in a three-ball count.


Sometimes a ball is a ball, and sometimes a ball is a part of an unintentional intentional walk. Smith actually got out ahead of Utley 0-and-1, but then he kept throwing the same pitch and the broadcast noted after the walk that Smith didn’t look like he wanted any part of Utley in that situation. Why would a lefty like Smith pitch around a lefty like Utley in a close and late situation? Standing on deck was Ryan Howard. So that’s kind of what people think of Ryan Howard these days. It’s a wonder he couldn’t get moved at the deadline.

And now we turn our attention to Faces Matt Garza Made Afterward In The Dugout In the Span Of Literally Five Seconds.


Matt Garza is standing and annoyed


Matt Garza is sitting and I don’t know


Matt Garza is whelmed


That is Matt Garza’s tongue now


Matt Garza can’t bear to watch the nothing that happens between plate appearances


what’s up, hat


maybe something is under the hat


Matt Garza is bored

Now contrast Matt Garza with the guy leaning on the table in the foreground. I’ve never before diagnosed anybody with attention deficit disorder but then I’ve also never before felt the compulsion. Matt Garza’s brain is a frog on a synthesizer.


Pitcher: A.J. Burnett
Batter: Christian Bethancourt
Date: July 18
Location: 60.8 inches from center of zone


You can hardly blame Burnett for this one. Just as he’s about to throw a curveball — a pitch requiring attention to detail and absolute mechanical precision — a man appears out of nowhere right behind his target, walking up stairs and holding cups. Who possibly wouldn’t be distracted by the sight of a man’s head where previously there was no head to be seen? Sometimes I think it can be easy to forget that baseball doesn’t take place in a vacuum, or in front of a green screen. There’s a lot of random crap going on right where the pitcher and all the defenders are looking, and with that much activity and commotion I think you have to forgive just about every pitching mistake that ever has been made. It’s overwhelming, the ballpark.


Time for Grown Man And Teenager: A Representative Interaction. Here we have a teenager paying zero attention to the spectacle before him. The grown man takes umbrage and sends a message to the boy.


The teenager’s caught off guard, this being proof that his attention was elsewhere. It’s like a teacher calling the name of a student she catches doodling, or whatever kids do in class now. Sext?


Oh, but the teenager causes a scene. He is quick to temper and aggression, trying to show up the grown man so as to save face and thump his chest in front of his peers. Look at how tough this teenager is. It takes a real man to be confrontational.


The teenager’s friends make fun of him because all teenagers are mean-spirited little shits.


And the grown man doesn’t care about any of this because at some point you reach an age where you just stop noticing that teenagers are even around and trying to communicate. Burnett tried briefly to get a young boy to shape up, but once the ball was out of his hand he didn’t even see him anymore. It was right back to doing the work that men do. Men work for themselves and their spouses, and their children in theory.


Pitcher: Chris Tillman
Batter: David Freese
Date: July 29
Location: 62.3 inches from center of zone


In the time this play took to develop and complete, people died. Deaths are often preventable, at least at some point along the line. Also, crimes were committed — crimes against property, crimes against strangers, crimes against family and friends. People got sick. People said cruel things to other people. Bad things happened while this baseball happened, and further bad things happened while this baseball was being re-examined and written and read about. We’ve watched this baseball and done nothing for the greater good aside from not actively doing harm. What is the matter with us? Why don’t we even try to do enough? Is it ever possible to feel like you’ve done enough? Maybe we’re by and large inactive because we don’t want to feel like the little good things we try to do are irrelevant. Why help one person eat when you know another ten thousand are hungry? Let’s just think about Chris Tillman instead. Sometimes he throws a good accurate curveball but sometimes he throws a less accurate curveball and then that’s bad for Tillman’s baseball team run by the wealthy for profit.


Nick Hundley can’t believe what he’s seeing. He’s never seen a baseball like this before in his life. He didn’t even think it was possible for a baseball to do what this baseball is doing at this very moment. Nick Hundley wears an expression of absolute amazement, in response to the baseball that is unfortunately hidden from view behind Chris Tillman’s follow-through. Oh well, I’m sure it’ll happen again.


Startled by a sensation of blinding agony, Nick Hundley screams and squats as he feels blood and bile rise in his throat, while a mysterious and magical baseball hovers nearby, almost undetected.


This is what baseball looks like with a concussion.


Pitcher: Chris Tillman
Batter: Carlos Pena
Date: July 2
Location: 62.9 inches from center of zone


So, it’s Chris Tillman again. We know he just missed the next-five. Above, he missed low in the dirt. Here, he missed high above the level of the batter’s head. One conclusion, which you are free to draw, is that Tillman is just a wild sort of pitcher. And, certainly, he’s not known for his pinpoint command. This is the thing he has to work on the most. But in the interest of fairness, Tillman is seen pitching in Baltimore in July. Have you ever tried to do literally anything outside in Baltimore in July? It’s a miracle Tillman didn’t just fall down dead.


That’s a pretty bad frame job. Catcher took the ball even further away from the strike zone. Never going to get a call with that technique.


Sometimes you can learn a lot about a pitcher’s delivery by examining his follow-through positioning. As part of Tillman’s follow-through here, he wound up facing his own second baseman. I am far from an expert on pitching mechanics but I’m pretty sure this little technique isn’t taught in any schools or clinics. “When you finish, make sure you’re balanced and in good fielding position, and oriented completely away from where the baseball went.”

That’s a two-strike breaking ball that didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Usually I find that, when this happens, the catcher will call for a different pitch to follow. But here, the Orioles went right back to the breaking ball, perhaps figuring that Pena wouldn’t expect it since he’d just seen a terrible one. So he got to see another terrible one.


The next pitch was not a breaking ball.

Pena, by the way, has a little routine in between every pitch that he sees. It’s why he has a career Pace of about 28 seconds, against a league average of more like 22 seconds. Pena is superstitious, and among his superstitions is apparently smelling his own shirt?


Second-pitch confirmation:


In between every pitch, among other things, Carlos Pena smells his own shirt. Every quirk has to come from somewhere. I always double check for my credit card in my wallet now because I remember one time I didn’t have it and needed it. Checking for it a few times turned into a habit that I’m no longer able to cease. It’s out of my control; it’s an idiosyncrasy. One of Pena’s idiosyncrasies is smelling his own shirt all the time. So who that knows Carlos Pena has the story of the one time Pena had a smelly shirt? It must’ve been devastating.


Pitcher: Alfredo Simon
Batter: Brian Roberts
Date: July 19
Location: 69.0 inches from center of zone


What we’re seeing here is the wildest pitch thrown in July. And it’s not just the wildest pitch thrown in July: it’s the wildest pitch thrown in July, by more than six inches. It’s thrown before a vast television audience, and it’s thrown in Yankee freakin Stadium, and still, where you’d think this would be humiliating, you come away impressed by how coolly Simon plays it off. He kind of stumbles forward off the mound in a controlled way, then he turns and catches the baseball behind his back while he returns to the mound with a little bit of swagger. The way you’re usually told to get over a mistake is by being able to laugh at yourself. An alternative is to act like you still believe you’re the baddest motherf***er around. Simon retroactively makes his pitch seem less bad, by the way he handled it afterward. Or by the way he framed it. Eh? Ehh?? Nah, no. Handled.


For some reason, this was the exchange that immediately followed on the Reds broadcast:

Brennaman: Where and how did this guy get where he is?
Welsh: It’s command of his pitches, it’s as simple as that.

MMA fighter: /fights
MMA fighter: /breaks leg
Announcer 1: Where and how did this guy get where he is?
Announcer 2: It’s being able to not break his leg, it’s as simple as that.
MMA fighter: /bloodcurdling shrieks


I’m not sure what the good is of a super-slow-motion camera if the camera just immediately loses track of the baseball. “And here you see some patterns in the grass. They’re alternating patterns — it’s a checkerboard, of a sort. Green — baseball is played on this grass. You currently cannot see any of it, but it’s there.”


One thing to understand: Simon does kind of have his version of an eephus, which is a “slow splitter.” It’s one of his little gimmicks that allows him to squeeze the absolute most out of his ability. The one referred to in the linked article, thrown to Brandon Crawford, was clocked at 70 miles per hour. The pitch seen here was clocked at 57 miles per hour. It’s the slowest pitch Simon has thrown all season, by a considerable amount. All the others are pretty well grouped together, suggesting that this baseball very literally just slipped out of Alfredo Simon’s hand. That doesn’t mean we have proof that Alfredo Simon doesn’t use pine tar. It means we have evidence that Alfredo Simon didn’t use pine tar. Might have extra more of a reason to use it, now.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

21 Responses to “The Worst of the Best: The Month’s Wildest Pitches”

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  1. Eminor3rd says:


    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Bryz says:

    Regarding the bonus GIF, I’m pretty sure the rule is that the thrown ball must pass the foul lines in order to be counted as a legal pitch. No balk, it should have just been a ball for the hitter.

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  3. Schuxu says:

    The whole scene in #9 is gold.

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    • Randy Wodriguez says:

      Yeah, 9 is beautiful but riddled with mystery. Did Mike Morin ever walk again? Why is the Angels’s catcher doing a keeper dive? Is Adam Jones attempting an abbreviated, impromptu golf shot base hit (surely not legal)?

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    • Thanks, Comcast says:

      I didn’t notice the catcher lunge until you mentioned that. Now I can’t stop watching it. I’m quite partial to the crab scuttle in #7, though.

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    • steex says:

      Agreed. Love Posey’s hold for effect in #8 as well.

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    • AC says:

      “Oh $#!%, that was a really bad pitch, maybe it I fake-fall-down, people will think I slipped on the mound.”

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  4. Max says:

    In Saturday’s Tigers/Rockies game, I rewound a pitch several times to see if it bounced in the grass, or if it made it to the cut-out (it turns out it made it). This series has literally changed the way I watch the game.

    I believe the pitcher was Rex Brothers — anyway, he uncorked 2 in a row that could make next month’s list. One was too high, one too low. Baseball is a game of adjustments.

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  5. Mitch Williams says:

    Zach McAllister is AWESOME

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  6. Bertrand Russell says:

    Great column! A family favorite!

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  7. Walter says:

    I think you’re missing the obvious here — Tillman’s pitch in #2 isn’t wild – this is just the natural extension of “left-handed strike zone” we’ve been seeing lately…Tillman just wanted to see HOW far into/above/beyond the right-handed batters-box he could throw a pitch, and still get a strike call against a lefty.

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  8. vince says:

    Watching the catchers was my favorite part. Jonathan Lucroy is a beast!

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  9. hscer says:

    What about the wildest wild pitches? The ones where guys score from first; where fielders have no idea which base to cover; where the catcher passes out before he can recover the ball. The ones that make pitchers sweat, managers scream, umpires duck for cover, and opposing players unsure whether to laugh or high-five each other after 2 more runs have scored off Carlos Marmol.

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  10. Dub Giles says:

    Thanks for the stories Mr. Sullivan. Enjoyed your work as always!

    P.S. I love the Jeremy Affeldt and Buster Posey reactions in number 8! Priceless stuff…

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  11. BMB says:

    I swear Posey’s motions in #8 remind me of something but I can’t figure it out.

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  12. nard says:

    I’m sure Jonathan Lucroy, grown man and professional athlete, knows how to skate.

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  13. Miles says:

    My favorite part about these gifs is how the catcher in #9 dives to catch the ball like it’s the world series and there’s a runner on third… Since the batter is equally concerned with not allowing that baseball to roll past home plate again, I can only assume that event would have opened some sort of demonic portal spewing harpies, chimeras, and other pleasantries. I think we can agree, knowing all of the facts, that the dive was necessary.

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  14. SamF says:

    as a current teenager, your guess at what teenagers do during class is frighteningly accurate

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