Hey there, people who hopefully aren’t the following baseball players, and welcome to the first part of the 12th edition of The Worst Of The Best. From last Friday, here’s the first part of the 11th edition. Meanwhile, here’s a link to all the posts in the series. Some time ago, I was given the advice to write as if the post were being read by the player or players I was writing about. The advice was invaluable, and I always try to keep it in mind, but the posts in this series are apparently my personal exception. It didn’t begin that way but now this series has a voice, and that voice can be mean. With luck, the players have no idea, or they have a sense of humor about themselves that I might have underestimated.
Following will be a top-five list of the week’s wildest pitches, the week spanning June 21 through June 27, and the wildest pitches being the pitches furthest from the center of the strike zone, according to PITCHf/x. Meaning we end up with a lot of breaking balls in the dirt, because I’m stubborn about my methodology. I was born this way. Lots of images are coming, and here are some pitches that just missed the list: Jhoulys Chacin to Ian Desmond on June 22, Jorge de la Rosa to Chris Marrero on June 23, and Jason Marquis to Ben Revere on June 25. Now let’s move on, because I’m excited. We’re encountering a season first. We’re going to see something we haven’t seen before.
The week’s fifth-wildest pitch generated a swing and miss. Now, this comes with some downsides. For one, now there’s no surprise in the coming post about the week’s wildest swings. Obviously, this was the week’s wildest swing. I’ll just tell you that, if you didn’t do the math yourself. For two, I’m going to have to talk about this twice, because this is showing up on two lists, and it can be hard to be doubly creative. I’m not looking forward to that afternoon burden. But, people have long been wondering when we’d see a pitch show up on both lists. Here’s your answer. Naturally, a swing-and-miss starter was on the mound. Naturally, Colby Rasmus was at the plate in a two-strike count. The ingredients were there, and Moore and Rasmus followed the recipe. Guess how many wild swings were close to this wild? None. None wild swings. Matt Moore made what can only be considered a mistake. Colby Rasmus was like, “that’s my mistake.” People have long told Colby Rasmus that he’s a mistake hitter, without telling him that pitchers make different kinds of mistakes.
In the introduction, I said we’re going to see something we haven’t seen before. We see Matt Moore throwing a wild pitch and Colby Rasmus taking a wild swing. I guess we’ve seen both of those before. Maybe not combined, but individually, these events are borderline unremarkable. “You’ve seen apples. You’ve seen bananas. But have you ever seen a banana on top of an apple?”
That brown mark in the dirt is where the baseball bounced, both in front of the plate and in front of the opposite batter’s box. Because of the blur, it doesn’t look like Colby Rasmus is holding onto anything. It looks like he’s swinging with empty hands. Which he might as well have been. Rasmus would probably still chase breaking balls in the dirt even if he stood in the batter’s box batless. The only question would be whether umpires still ruled his invisible swings at balls to be strikes.
Rasmus misjudged the baseball out of Moore’s hand, thinking it was a fastball instead of a breaking ball out of the zone. That’s why he swung. Moore, in turn, misjudged the baseball out of Jose Molina‘s hand, thinking he was throwing to second instead of first. That’s why he ducked. Hey look, everyone’s an idiot.
But Moore still got to look smug. That expression is what one might refer to as “quiet confidence.” Moore got a great results from a bad pitch, and that made him feel good and warm inside. He didn’t want to show it, because he’s a professional, but you can bottle these things up only so much, and so he wore the vaguest hint of a smirk. That was his emotional release. In the background, we see Yunel Escobar not giving a crap, because he’s a god-awful teammate and he can’t help being that way literally all of the time.
Baseball players are used to being in the public eye. On the field, they know they’re standing before tens of thousands, and they know there are a million hi-def slow-mo cameras. They know they can’t do anything on the field that doesn’t get noticed. They’re not constantly thinking about it, because that would be distracting, but it’s a thing that takes some getting used to upon one’s promotion to the bigs. There are few breaks a player gets from being on camera, at least when they’re not hidden in the clubhouse or the tunnel. Rasmus, surely, figured no one was watching him as he returned to the dugout and put his bat away after whiffing. There was a new guy at the plate, there was a game going on, and Rasmus wasn’t making a scene. But there still happened to be a camera pointed right at him, meaning we get to see Rasmus when he thinks he’s not being seen. What’s Colby Rasmus really like, away from it all? Fairly uninteresting. Uninteresting and curious. “I wonder if this bat could’ve hit that pitch.”
- Pitcher: Hector Ambriz
- Batter: Matt Carpenter
- Date: June 25
- Location: 51.2 inches from center of zone
If there’s such thing as a run-of-the-mill week’s-wildest-pitches pitch, this is it. It’s a pitch in an 0-and-2 count, and it’s a breaking ball in the dirt that bounces in front of the plate. Pretty ordinary, and these are getting increasingly difficult to write about in new and interesting ways. We know this was a mistake, based on Ambriz’s reaction. He looks away and mouths something to himself out of frustration, so this was, surely, a wild pitch. But was it that wild a pitch relative to what it was supposed to be? That’s why the perfect list would involve distance from intended target, instead of the middle of the zone. Alas, that’s impossible, so you can go ahead and get used to reading paragraphs like this about pitches like this. Oohhh, scintillating.
Ambriz does get some credit here. He threw a wild pitch, and he was frustrated. What he didn’t do was signal for another ball. What he didn’t do was look at his fingers, or patch up some perceived anomaly on the mound. Ambriz threw this pitch and subsequently owned up to it, where a lot of other pitchers would look for some excuse. Handled like a guy who’s thrown a lot of these pitches before in his life. Maybe not such a good player to have, Houston. You want your players to be able to handle failure, but, to an extent.
Ambriz is frustrated, even though it’s a nine-run game and it was one waste pitch with two outs in the ninth. Players never take a plate appearance off. The catcher looks at the ball like he has the yips and he’s afraid of what might happen should he pick it up. The guy in orange behind the plate wonders why he’s still the guy in orange behind the plate, instead of the guy in orange in traffic on the way home, with something informative and opinionated on the radio.
- Pitcher: Rex Brothers
- Batter: Omar Quintanilla
- Date: June 27
- Location: 52.2 inches from center of zone
I don’t have any kids, but I have been a kid, and I’ve known of other kids both in real life and portrayed on television. Children are excited by their achievements. Like, they’re over-joyed, and they can’t wait to tell their parents about what they did. A good example would be a drawing from class — kids will beam and show it to their mom or dad because they’re proud of the drawing, and they expect their parents to be proud of the drawing, too. Kids are excited about achievements because achievements are a sign of growing up, of not being babies anymore. Here, Wilin Rosario successfully blocks a ball in the dirt. Then he jogs out toward the mound, as if to show the baseball to Rex Brothers. “Look what I just did!”
Years and years ago I played in a kind of simulated fantasy league that also had minor-league roster spots because it was a keeper league. I wasn’t very smart yet, but I thought that I was, so I populated two of my minor-league spots with Ben Zobrist and Omar Quintanilla. I liked Zobrist because he was a shortstop with minor-league OBPs north of .400. I liked Quintanilla because he was a shortstop, too, selected by the A’s in the first round, and he promised to get on base a bunch. His first year in the minors, Quintanilla had a .414 OBP. His first year in the minors, Zobrist had a .438 OBP. Now Zobrist is one of the more versatile and valuable players in the game. Quintanilla is a no-hit reserve. Who do you hate more for this paragraph — me, for writing it, or you, for reading it?
Helton: bad pitch
Helton: another bad pitch by a Rockie
Helton: I’ve spent my whole career here
Helton: not getting that ring
Helton: I’m never getting that ring
Helton: but I have made a hundred sixty-one million dollars
Nick Markakis has been playing baseball for a lifetime. Over that baseball lifetime, he’s been in a lot of 3-and-1 counts, and in those counts, he’s been conditioned to look for a fastball right around the middle of the zone. That’s why the count is considered so hitter-friendly. Pitchers, not wanting to risk a walk, tend to come over the plate with something hittable. Dickey, though, didn’t throw Markakis a fastball in the middle. He threw Markakis a knuckleball at eye level over the opposite batter’s box. This is kind of why knuckleballers are so weird. It captures the whole essence. Batters have been trained in a certain way. Knuckleballers are like, “f*** that.” Batters adjust because big-league batters are amazing, but sometimes, just every so often, I wonder how Dickey doesn’t end games with 20 walks and 27 strikeouts. That pitch is crazy and he throws it all the time! Who could hit that!
Given what he puts his catchers through, I do wonder how often R.A. Dickey thinks to himself “I am such a prick.” Dickey’s fastballs aren’t thrown for strategic purposes. Dickey’s fastballs are olive branches.
Josh Thole doesn’t set a target. He doesn’t even pretend to set a target. He just sits back there with his glove over his knee until the pitch is on the way, at which point he decides it’s probably his job to make the ball stop. I’m guessing he does this all the time, although I haven’t paid close enough attention in the past to confirm. I wonder if other catchers are the same way with Dickey. It makes perfect sense — it’s probably not worth it to set a target because knuckleballs just can’t be commanded that well and any specific target would be optimistic. This way might look better to umpires. Thole doesn’t set a target because he just don’t know where the baseball is going to go, and he’ll react to Dickey. I wonder if this is also how Josh Thole would catch Ricky Romero. I wonder if that would piss Romero off.
Thole: New baseball, please.
Umpire: Whoa, chill out.
Thole: I didn’t…I am chilled out?
Umpire: Oh, here you go.
Thole: You all right?
Umpire: I’m dealing with some stuff.
I worked in a lab when I was in college, and in the lab I used an HPLC with a manual injection. You don’t have to know what all of that means — it’s just, I prepared samples, and then it was a manual process to run them and analyze them. I had to physically insert the samples into the instrument, and then the analytical software was limited so that also took a lot of work. Out of college, I worked in another lab with an HPLC, this one much better, and with much better software. I still had to prepare the samples, but the injection was automated, and so was the analysis. Basically, I made the samples, then I put them somewhere, then I was done. I remember the first time, thinking, “whoa. I’m done! I’m finished!” That’s Welington Castillo after blocking this pitch in the dirt. “The ball’s over there.” “He didn’t swing.” “I don’t have to go get it!” For an instant, life was easy, for Welington Castillo.
Depth perception is how we know that isn’t just a baseball on the end of Edwin Jackson’s right shoe. Depth perception and common sense and an understanding of the game of baseball and the .gif I embedded just above.
Sure, no problem, ball boy, Segura will go get it. It’s not like it’s one of your only responsibilities. Why not inconvenience the star major leaguer on the local team? He couldn’t possibly have any say in your continued employment and treatment. It’s cool, no worries, nobody likes a show-off.
Note the mild anger with which the umpire places a new baseball into Welington Castillo’s open glove. “Usually I don’t hold so many extra baseballs. I call this my ‘Edwin bag’.”
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