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

Hey there, whoever you are, and welcome to the first part of the 11th edition of The Worst Of The Best. Hereright here — is a link to the first part of the tenth edition, from last Friday. Meanwhile, this is a link to the section containing every post in this series. For a few minutes I debated with myself whether to write “11th” or “eleventh,” and I settled upon the former, as evidenced conclusively above. Please do not interpret this paragraph as an indication of the paragraphs to come. I promise that things will pick up, if only because there are stills and .gifs below that interrupt the words that I type. It’s the words that are the hard part for me and the relatively unpleasant part for you.

Here we talk about wild pitches in the form of a top-five list, showing the pitches furthest from the center of the strike zone. The data window analyzed is from June 14 through June 20, of this year. Yes, the load times; yes, I get it; yes, I don’t care. In the event that candidate pitches are missing, that’s PITCHf/x’s fault, not mine, so feel free to yell at PITCHf/x. Here are some pitches that just missed the top five: Jeremy Affeldt to Logan Forsythe on June 18, Yovani Gallardo to Trevor Crowe on June 20, and R.A. Dickey to David Murphy on June 15. The list below is presented in descending order because the other way would be stupid.

5

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First, some important context: the pitch before, when the count was 1-and-1, Downs got Machado to swing through a low, inside slider. So it made some sense to go back to the pitch, since now the count was 1-and-2 and Downs has only so many pitches he can throw to good right-handed hitters. Thrown properly, the worst that can happen when you throw that pitch is that it’s taken for a ball, and you try again in a new and slightly less favorable count. Therefore, one could make a not unconvincing argument that this slider was thrown properly. You hear that, Darin Downs’ family? He didn’t screw up! He’s not a screw-up!

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That’s Bryan Holaday. He blocked the ball, and he didn’t know where it went. I’ve always found it a little weird that, a lot of the time, when Brendan Ryan makes contact, he looks skyward, like he’s trying to find the baseball. You’d think a hitter would know where he hit the baseball. But for Ryan, skyward isn’t a bad guess, and the ball leaves the bat really quick. It’s different when a catcher doesn’t know where the baseball is. The catcher just stopped the baseball against his body, and a good guess would be “it’s on the ground somewhere close.” Holaday, for a few seconds, had no idea. Either Holaday is absent-minded (“like he’s always on mental holaday!”), or he was putting on a show to tell Downs “hey that pitch was really wild and even though you threw it in my direction I don’t know where it went.”

One thing’s for sure: Manny Machado wasn’t going to help a brother out. Look at him slowly turn away like he’s not even there. Veteran move.

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Fielder: Hey!
Fielder: Hey Miggy!
Fielder: Hey JV!
Cabrera: What’s up?
Verlander: Yeah?
Fielder: Check it out!
Fielder: /points
Fielder: Hundred-five million!
Fielder: Nine-figure lottery!
Cabrera: Huh
Verlander: Yeah that’s what that says
Fielder: Wow
Fielder: I’d enter…
Fielder:
Fielder:
-but I never really know what to do with pocket change.
Fielder: lol
Cabrera: hahaha
Verlander: ahahhahahah
Fielder: /air-five
Cabrera: /air-five
Verlander: /motorboats invisible pile of money
Holaday: Do you have to do this during the game

4

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It would be helpful, probably, to give you a little more information. Here’s what happened on the very previous pitch from Stults to Scutaro:

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That’s Yasmani Grandal getting clocked in the head, and that’s one of the last places you want to get clocked. They say Scutaro’s suffering from “mallet finger,” but it’s Grandal who felt like he got hit by a hammer. The concern when this happens is always that the catcher might have sustained a concussion. Sometimes the trainer will come out from the dugout to check for any symptoms. But there’s also the Mitch Hedberg-approved roundabout concussion test. Step 1: throw really terrible pitch, forcing catcher to react.

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Step 2: confuse the catcher and signal for a new baseball while he’s in the process of throwing back, to check on his situational awareness.

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According to the Eric Stults roundabout concussion test, Yasmani Grandal did not sustain a concussion when he was hit in the head by Marco Scutaro’s backswing. He responded to a bad pitch normally, and then he quickly exchanged baseballs upon request. Sure, the test cost the Padres an extra ball in a close game, but it’s not like the Padres are ever actually playing for anything. Wait what? Well I’ll be damned.

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We’ve talked about pitchers who screw up before. That’s kind of what this whole series is. Sometimes they’ll take responsibility, tapping themselves on the chest or saying something out loud. Sometimes they’ll look at their fingers. Sometimes they’ll look at their cleats and the mound. Sometimes they’ll just visibly express frustration. Sometimes they’ll do nothing and just move on. Stults threw a bad pitch and requested a new and different baseball, as if it was the baseball’s fault his pitch sucked. As if we should believe the baseball was too slippery, or the seams were too high or too low. It’s not as if these baseballs are mass-produced in a factory or anything. I’m not saying all the baseballs are exactly the same, but this probably didn’t happen because of the baseball. If I were an umpire, I’d keep baseballs like this in my back pocket and then put them back in play from time to time, just to experiment. If the same thing happened twice, I’d toss the baseball for good. If it were pitched normally, I’d chuckle smugly to myself, knowing I’d caught the pitcher on his bullshit.

3

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The tying run, here, was in scoring position, late, and on the previous pitch, Melancon gave Uribe a cutter right down the middle. Uribe, thankfully or unthankfully, fouled it off, so Melancon wasn’t made to pay, but the Pirates’ broadcast talked about how he couldn’t afford to do that again. I made a note of that, even though now that I think about it, duh, that probably didn’t need to be expressed. So this paragraph isn’t going anywhere promising. I’ll say this: Melancon didn’t want to throw another pitch down the middle. He very much didn’t throw another pitch down the middle. Pitchers can be really good about not throwing pitches down the middle, so long as they don’t really care by how much they miss. If the sole goal is to not throw a pitch down the middle, pitchers can be successful 100% of the time.

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If I’m Juan Uribe, I’m thinking “I’m behind in the count, he’s probably going to try to get me to chase.” Then Melancon tried to get Uribe to chase. Still, the count was only 2-and-2, so if I’m Juan Uribe, I’m thinking “he’s probably going to try to get me to chase again.” The next pitch was a curveball in the dirt and Uribe chased. Here’s where Russell Martin might as well have set up:

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It would make some sense to set up behind the other box with Juan Uribe at the plate. Would Uribe even notice? Would Uribe be able to help himself? The runner on second base would notice. What if that runner told Uribe, at the time or later in the dugout? Would it be considered off-puttingly over-the-top to set up behind the opposite box? Is there an unwritten rule about basically mocking a guy’s batting approach? Has this ever been challenged? Could this have turned into a beanball war? Do the Dodgers really need another brawl? Do the Dodgers just go looking for brawls? Is anyone going to correct me by noting that Uribe’s approach is much improved this season, and his O-Swing% is below the league average?

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“Whoa, hey everybody, whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Let’s not throw any more pitches that bad.”

2

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Did you notice what just happened? Maybe you didn’t notice. Pitch No. 3 was 58.0 inches from the center of the strike zone. This pitch was 70.9 inches from the center of the strike zone, making for a difference of 12.9 inches. You might recognize 12 inches as being equivalent to a foot, so this pitch was more than a foot more wild than the previous pitch on the list. And this pitch is the week’s runner-up! The catcher is Alex Avila. Avila is listed as standing 5-foot-11, or 71 inches. This pitch was a full Alex Avila away from the center of the strike zone. Porcello wasn’t aiming for the center of the strike zone, but that detail is less important than you might think.

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It’s this week’s edition of Find The Baseball! If you find the baseball, you’re lying. You’re lying to me, and you’re lying to yourself. The baseball cannot be found, not in this still image. It is obscured by Rick Porcello’s roughly average back. It’s blocked. It’s completely blocked. Why did you want to tell me you found the baseball? What do you think is in it for you? Even if you found the baseball for real, there would be nothing in it for you. But what’s the benefit of lying? That’s low. That’s sad. That’s desperate is what that is.

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Well no wonder the ball got away from Alex Avila. That’s not how we catch, Alex. Home plate isn’t an arrow toward where the pitcher is.

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Umpires are thankful when catchers prevent wild pitches from hitting them. If you look at the first .gif, the baseball still hit the umpire, but the umpire’s visibly thankful nonetheless, as he and Avila share a laugh that’s probably at Porcello’s expense. This, probably, is because the baseball only struck the umpire with the soft and gentle caress of a warm summer breeze. Avila didn’t block it, but he slowed it down. In movies, sometimes a character will jump in front of a bullet for another character. This is like that happening, with the bullet going clean through the first character, but slowed to a non-lethal velocity. Also, Avila comes away laughing and not dead.

1

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There is, between home plate and the seats, a protective netting, so that spectators don’t get murdered. Even so, more often than not fans will react instinctively when they see a ball headed in their direction. They’ll duck out of the way, because they’re not accustomed to being protected by a forcefield of synthetic fibers. In the third row, guy in white shirt ducks out of the way. Normal, and casual, in that he didn’t seem to panic. Guy next to him in blue shirt doesn’t move. He doesn’t move a single muscle. That guy is either fearless, prepared, or asleep. One notes he was attending a game between the Brewers and Astros. It’s not entirely out of the question that somewhere in the early innings he died of buyer’s remorse.

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This at-bat featured:

  1. a slider in the dirt
  2. a slider over the head
  3. a slider in the dirt
  4. a fastball at the letters

Barnes struck out swinging.

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Afterward, Jean Segura came in for a little chat with Figaro. Usually, these little chats are about restoring the pitcher’s confidence. The pitcher will throw a bad pitch, then an infielder will come in and say “hey don’t worry about it go get him,” then the pitcher will be normal and the two players will have their heads held high. Segura came in for a little chat with Figaro. They both left depressed.

After probably 90% of extremely wild pitches, broadcasters will eagerly quote Bob Uecker‘s Harry Doyle, as if it’s still fresh. At least in this instance, for the Astros broadcasters, they were broadcasting opposite Uecker himself. “Juuuuust a bit…high,” one of them quipped. The camera then cut to Uecker’s booth. Uecker seemed decidedly less eager to quote himself.

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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.


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