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

Hey there, people who wish more days were like Friday, and welcome to this part of the Internet. There are many parts of the Internet, so many countless parts of the Internet, and the Internet is expanding every second of every day. Given the freedom, you can go to pretty much any part of the Internet that you want, which makes the idea of a dedicated audience laughable. Sure, people might like something, but the instant it disappoints, they might go to something else, something that hasn’t disappointed them yet. Because there are infinite options, so many of them with clickbait-y headlines, so why stand for disappointment? The Internet audience has high expectations and an unwillingness to lower them, and it’s a miracle anything ever succeeds over an extended period of time. So thanks a lot, Internet, for causing my sometimes unbearable, unmanageable anxiety. Here are all of the posts in the The Worst Of The Best series. I will do everything I can to keep you feeling reasonably satisfied.

We’re back to normal weekly intervals, now, with July decidedly behind us. What you’re going to see are the wildest pitches from between August 2 and August 8, as determined by distance from the center of the strike zone, as determined by mathematical calculation, as supported by PITCHf/x, as made possible by cameras, as made possible by magic. The process behind this post, the act of reading this post, the images within this post — magic. There are going to be a lot of images. Some wild pitches just missing this list: Samuel Deduno to Alcides Escobar on August 7, Francisco Rodriguez to Jesus Guzman on August 7, and Francisco Rodriguez to Rene Rivera on August 7. August 7 was a wild day, especially for Francisco Rodriguez. But I’ll tell you now for some reason, you’re still about to see the Rodriguez/Rivera delivery. Why? Felt like it. I’ll explain. Scroll down for baseball.

5

5QuintanaIchiro1.gif.opt

What we have here is a case of my own dissatisfaction. What we have here is a demonstration of the shortcomings of this methodology. The ideal version of this post would include the pitches that most badly missed the targets. That isn’t possible, so I use the center of the zone as a proxy, but pitchers usually aren’t aiming for the center of the zone. Look at this pitch, right here, from Quintana. Yeah, it was wild, but it was an 0-and-2 count and the catcher wanted a breaking ball low and away, in the dirt, to try to get Ichiro to chase. Quintana threw the pitch too low and too away, most definitely, but the pitch wasn’t really wild. It was more or less what it was supposed to be. If we’re going to be honest, this pitch doesn’t truly belong on this list.

5quintanaichiro1

But it goes on the list, right here, right in this slot on the list, because that’s how the system works. The most I can do is try to explain it away. Sometimes, this system will fail, because this system isn’t the ideal system. That’s just the way it’s going to be, and we have to live with it. What’s frustrating is that this pitch was 56.4 inches from the center of the zone. This pitch was 56.3 inches from the center of the zone:

6RodriguezRivera1.gif.opt

That’s Rodriguez throwing to Rivera, and that shows up as the week’s sixth-wildest pitch. That one was genuinely wild, considerably wilder than Quintana’s. Yeah, it was another 0-and-2 breaking ball, and it wasn’t supposed to be a strike, probably, but this pitch wound up several feet outside. It missed the list by a fraction of an inch. It missed the list because of a less-wild pitch that, numerically, looks like a more-wild pitch. I’m including the visual because I want you to know what you’re missing out on, by not actually missing out on it.

6rodriguezrivera1

Here’s maybe the saddest confession: for a minute or two, I thought about fudging the numbers. I thought about changing the math such that this pitch would make it instead of Quintana’s. I don’t know how I would’ve done it, but I would’ve found a way. In the end, I stuck with intellectual honesty, because I don’t want to go against my own system, but you should know how close I came to cheating. Nobody would ever think to check. Nobody would ever think to care. Only I would know what I did. Because this is a meaningless blog post within a meaningless blog series, the results shouldn’t really matter at all. All people want to see are jokes and funny pictures. But I apparently take this seriously enough to (A) think about cheating, and (B) talk myself out of cheating. “Can’t destroy the integrity of the series,” I apparently concluded. “The series, it’s entirely too important to cheat.” As a college sophomore, I cheated on a test. That had an effect on my grade, which had an effect on my transcript, which had an effect on my career outlook. I didn’t cheat in a blog series about wild pitches, where cheating would’ve been fudging one pitch by one tenth of one inch. If any of you are professional psychiatrists please send me an email. Please send me numerous emails. I think I might need all of your help.

4

4PeraltaSandoval1.gif.opt

Another consideration: should we ever count any pitches as being wild pitches when they’re thrown to Pablo Sandoval? Indeed, wild pitches ought to be considered independently of the hitter in the box, since this is all about location vs. intended location, but one might try a little less to hit the target with Sandoval at the plate. Pablo Sandoval’s swing is so wild they keep it in zoos. Never forget that, earlier this season, Sandoval swung at a pitch that went between his legs. To Pablo Sandoval, every pitch is a meatball. To Pablo Sandoval, every thing is a meatball.

4peraltasandoval1

Fun game for you to do at your desk! Observe this screenshot of Wily Peralta. Now stand up from your chair and try to replicate his body position. Stand on one leg and bend down parallel to the ground. Make sure your right foot is the most elevated part of your body. Reach your left arm back, and with your right arm try to scratch your left shin. Once you have achieved the position, try to hold it for as long as you can. Recruit some friends or co-workers and try as a group. Make a game of it, where the winner is the person who can remain in this position for the longest! “The winner really held his Wily,” you could say, of the victor. This is, basically, baseball yoga. Holy hell, I just got an idea.

4PeraltaSandoval3.gif.opt

As we’ve observed in the past, pitchers have a variety of different reactions when they accidentally throw a really wild pitch. Some blame an object, some blame their grip, some blame the ball, some blame themselves and just act all frustrated-like. Peralta takes us through a whole spectrum of different reactions, such that it’s hard to tell how he feels, aside from embarrassed.

  1. look at mound as if to blame topographical inconsistencies
  2. lick fingers as if to blame dry grip
  3. look away as if to blame self
  4. wipe hand on pants as if to blame wet grip

It’s like Peralta was dissatisfied by the individual options, so he opted for the sampler tray. It’s like everything possible conspired to have Peralta throw a miserably terrible pitch. It’s like Peralta is so inexperienced with wild pitches he doesn’t really know what he’s supposed to do in the aftermath. Watch that .gif and you might come away thinking Peralta almost never does that. Watch this .gif of the very next pitch and you might reconsider.

4PeraltaSandoval2.gif.opt

In this game, Peralta allowed one run in 6.1 innings.

3

3CingraniCraig1.gif.opt

We were just talking about pitcher reactions to wild pitches. Pitchers generally have one, where they either express frustration, or indicate that something went unusually wrong, causing the unusual wildness. In other words, after a wild pitch, if you just watch the pitcher, you’ll be able to tell that something went awry. Cingrani, though, acts casual, reaction-less. This is a new reaction, in that it is no reaction, and Cingrani just kind of walks around until he can get a baseball back. There’s no sign that he’s frustrated. There’s no sign that he blames something for the mistake. There is, simply, reason to believe that Cingrani knew this was going to happen.

Cingrani: /turns to dugout
Cingrani: He knows I don’t throw a breaking ball, right?

3cingranicraig1

Over his career, Craig has batted .285 with a .787 OPS with the bases empty. But with runners in scoring position, he’s batted .394 with an OPS in the quadruple-digits. Cingrani probably just didn’t want to give him anything to hit, with a runner on second. Or he was trying to kick some dirt up into Craig’s eyes, to use to his benefit later in the plate appearance. It’s like snowing the goalie in hockey, only way dumber and virtually impossible.

3cingranicraig2

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Sam Miller has written about how few people at baseball games actually watch baseball games. If you pay close attention to the fans around home plate, you’ll observe that their own attention is frequently diverted. Fans tend to watch only a small fraction of what takes place immediately before them. By quantifying fan attentiveness, one might in theory be able to quantify levels of fan-base dedication. And who wouldn’t want to know who has the best, most focused fans in baseball? Look at this screenshot, from Cincinnati. Look at how many of the fans are looking at the baseball, on its way to the backstop. Those fans are paying an unusual amount of attention, so score one for Reds supporters. At least here, most of them are locked in. Maybe the only person not paying attention is Tony Cingrani himself. Which would go a long way toward explaining the pitch he just threw.

3CingraniCraig2.gif.opt

Baseball game in progress, with a live ball. Three men walking around near third base. None of them make eye contact. In this way baseball can be like a New York City street corner. In the next frame, Jose Oquendo steals Carlos Beltran‘s belt, and Jack Hannahan asks Allen Craig to sign an environmental petition.

2

2MinorLaRoche1.gif.opt

After I embedded this .gif, I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to write about it. I actually got up from my chair and walked around, trying to think of some kind of angle. There’s nothing, really, that Minor does. Brian McCann makes a good block, but that’s uninteresting. Adam LaRoche stands with a bat, and the fans just sit there, barely moving. The pitch is bad, basically a duplicate of the Jose Quintana pitch except in a 2-and-1 count instead of an 0-and-2 count. I couldn’t find a single remarkable thing about this .gif, and then that’s when I noticed that the home-plate umpire pokes himself in the eyes.

2minorlaroche1

And, just like Sammy Hagar and Gavin DeGraw, the Nationals were once told they were the best. Instead they became the kind of baseball team deserving of postgame concerts by Sammy Hagar and Gavin DeGraw. I understand that musical taste is subjective and I understand that these two particular musicians are probably incredibly talented, but when in doubt I think it’s always safe to assert that some given performer sucks. If everyone agrees they suck, then there’s no problem, and if people are of the opposite opinion, you’ll at least be lent their ears as a contrarian hipster.

2minorlaroche2

McCann: ow
McCann: my arm hurts
McCann: I blocked that pitch and now my arm hurts
McCann: and now I have to do this again
McCann: no time out for the catcher!!
McCann: just block and catch, block and catch
McCann: block block block
McCann: catch catch catch
McCann: blocky catchy blocky catchy
McCann: who gives an old f*** about some catcher
McCann: just a human being in pain
McCann: just a human being in pain who sacrifices his own body
McCann: all the dang darn time
McCann: with nary a word of encouragement
McCann: I don’t know why I’m doing this
LaRoche: I don’t know why you’re saying this out loud

2MinorLaRoche2.gif.opt

Between pitches, some batters step back and take a few deep breaths, and some other batters step back and habitually re-adjust their equipment. Adam LaRoche goes dim. When the pitcher begins his next wind-up Davey Johnson has to remember to wave his hands in front of LaRoche’s abdominal motion sensor.

1

1MartinSimmons1.gif.opt

This isn’t really complete without context. What we see from the .gif is a wild pitch with two strikes. But for one thing, this was Martin’s big-league debut. The former first-round draft pick was just up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. And for another thing, immediately preceding the pitch above:

1MartinSimmons2.gif.opt

That’s not a casual, purposeless sweep of the ground. That’s a sign, by the catcher, for Martin to bury the next pitch in the dirt. So Martin proceeded to bury the next pitch in the dirt, just like the catcher told him. Granted, he buried it in the dirt in front of the opposite batter’s box, such that Simmons was never going to so much as think about taking a swing, but if the catcher didn’t want Martin to throw something absolutely terrible, well he should’ve thought of giving a sign for that too.

1martinsimmons1

And here we have the latest edition of Find The Baseball! If you find the baseball, no, don’t worry about it, there is no prize, you’re never going to find the baseball, the baseball doesn’t exist in this two-dimensional screenshot. The latest edition of Find The Baseball is impossible. Some games are just going to be impossible. Literally, genuinely impossible. You have to live with said impossibility. You have to live within constraints. You can’t do anything you set your mind to. It’s humbling but necessary to have some reminders.

1martinsimmons2

And now here’s what I wonder: would it have been permissible for Simmons to attempt a swing? Like, right here, at the moment of this screenshot? Not when the ball was first crossing the plane. The second time, after the ball bounced off the ground and the catcher and flew back forward toward the mound. Look at Simmons. He’s got his eye on the ball, so he knows it’s right there, in front of him over the plate. He has a bat in his hands and a defensive alignment that most certainly wouldn’t be expecting a ball in play at this point. Would a swing and contact there have been against the rules, or maybe the most heads-up baseball play in the history of the game? This right here is a missed opportunity for maybe literally the coolest thing.

1martinsimmons3

“Keep your eye on the ball,” a coach once told Andrelton Simmons. The coach, though, never told him when it was okay to take his eye away from the ball. And so to this day, Simmons keeps his eye on the ball, forever. Simmons knows what he’s been told, and Simmons does what he’s told.




Print This Post



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.


13 Responses to “The Worst of the Best: The Week’s Wildest Pitches”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. bdhudson says:

    These make Friday afternoons bearable. Thank you, sir.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. jld says:

    If only there were a way to include Raul’s ‘pitch’ from left field to center field.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Baltar says:

    You have disappointed me. I’m going to “To Knit or Knot to Knit.”

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Reddickulous says:

    Hilarious! Well blogged, blogger.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Roger says:

    Ever consider using distance from the closest border of the zone instead?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. triple_r says:

    Sandoval does seem like a free swinger–and yet his career K% is a very solid 13.2%. One of the great mysteries of life, I suppose.

    Anyway, good column–this week and all others.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ian R. says:

      Vladimir Guerrerro was infamous for swinging at anything remotely hittable, and his career K% was a mere 10.9%.

      Free swingers can keep their strikeout rates down if they have the contact skills to get away with it, which Sandoval does.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Hot Girl In The Bad Idea T-Shirt Ad says:

    Hi Jeff!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. joel e says:

    what about john axford’s wild pitch on an intentional walk?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. zenmadman says:

    I think Peralta hit his target in the 4th wildest pitch. He just happened to bounce the baseball on the way to its target. If the catcher didn’t move at all, he could have caught the ball easily. Poor framing, imo!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Jay29 says:

    I looked all over [a search engine] for a ruling on the Simmons hypothetical and couldn’t find any ruling about hitting a ball after it bounces off the catcher. My guess would be that the umpire would call dead ball and keep any baserunners where they are, since he’s presumably already called the pitch a ball, making the swing technically not an attempt at an actual pitch.

    But then again I scored 2/10 on that tricky MLB rules quiz a few weeks back, so my intuition isn’t the most reliable.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. jacob says:

    honorable mention.
    left fielder raul ibanez throws ball to centerfield. 300 feet away from center of plate.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>