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

Hey there everybody, and welcome to the first part of another edition of The Worst Of The Best. You’ll see in the headline it’s written as “The Worst of the Best” — with fewer capital letters — in accordance with our editorial policies, but I like capital letters because they make me feel important, so the first sentence of this post is my own form of stubborn protest. Now, this is obviously a departure from the news of the day. Yesterday, Ryan Braun released a statement of apology, and everywhere today you can find somebody’s hot takes. The consensus: the apology was a good step, but not enough. Not enough to make up for cheating and lying and accusatory behavior. A written, prepared apology was not enough to make up for that. That is the thesis of just about every article on the matter I’ve seen. So, yeah, I’m glad this is a departure from the news of the day, because the news of the day is stupid.

In this departure, we look at the wildest pitches thrown between August 16 and August 22. Here’s an archive of the whole series, if you feel like throwing your day away or destroying your processor. It’s PITCHf/x and simple math and identifying locations furthest from the center of the strike zone. Some pitches just missing our top five: Andy Pettitte to David Ortiz on August 16, Taylor Jordan to Freddie Freeman on August 16, and Rubby De La Rosa to Robinson Cano on August 18. The pitches that didn’t miss our top five are the top five, presented below. I should warn you: this is a particularly confusing week. I had some trouble with this, and Nationals and Braves fans can probably guess why. The rest of you will just have to wait, a few seconds.

5

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In the spreadsheet, this pitch was credited to one “Tanner Roark“, despite it having been thrown by the Stephen Strasburg. That’s because this pitch was the third pitch of a plate appearance that wasn’t over, and this pitch got Strasburg ejected, as you can see in the .gif above. So in came Roark to throw one more ball — albeit a more ordinary ball — and that one ball earned Roark four balls, at least as far as PITCHf/x is concerned. In this way, I have become aware of the existence of a Tanner Roark, who is superior to Tan Roark, but inferior to Tannest Roark, in the general tan-ness department. Tannest Roark, however, might be expected to live the shortest life. He could end up battling skin cancer, or he could die doing one of the many outdoor activities he probably enjoys. Alternatively, maybe Tannest Roark is the most active, and there’s nothing better for your short-term and long-term health than exercise.

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You probably know why this is controversial, as a “wildest pitch” nominee. Strasburg was ejected because the umpire had already issued warnings, and this was a fastball behind a guy’s back. A message pitch hardly counts as wild at all. Earlier, Strasburg drilled Justin Upton, as retaliation for the Braves drilling Bryce Harper. The pitch just before this one was another fastball behind Simmons’ back. It looked like Strasburg might’ve been sending a message, again. But then Strasburg claims he just lost it, and Davey Johnson thinks he lost it, and as Strasburg threw these wild pitches, a runner came around to score. You don’t usually see message pitches with runners in scoring position, and you don’t usually see them after a message has already been sent, and you don’t usually see them against batters as limited as Andrelton Simmons. Strasburg, ultimately, wasn’t suspended, as MLB determined these pitches were accidents. I’ve elected to agree, as frightening as that is to think about. What we do know, though, is that with tensions high, Strasburg threw consecutive fastballs behind a rival batter, and this is a screenshot of the second one, and WHY IS THAT WOMAN IN THE FIRST ROW NOT PAYING ATTENTION? WHY ARE THERE PEOPLE LOOKING ELSEWHERE? HOW INTENSE DOES A BASEBALL GAME NEED TO BE FOR YOU TO ACTUALLY WANT TO LOOK AT IT

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Strasburg didn’t say a word to protest his ejection, which one might interpret as curious. He just walked to the umpire, heard him out, turned, and left. But then, he didn’t really show any negative body language after his wild pitches. Not even after the first one, which was a wild curveball outside. There was no hint of frustration — there was just a pitcher going through the motions, having lost it completely. Strasburg seemed to be in a daze, which might have caused the wildness, or which might have been the result of it. Upon the ejection, Strasburg might have been relieved. Well we know he was relieved, by Tanner Roark. Ha! Words.

5strasburgsimmons3

Johnson: Remember how you just went out for a mound visit?
McCatty: Yeah
Johnson: Remember how that was followed by consecutive terrible fastballs?
McCatty: Yeah
Johnson: Stay right here.
Johnson: Stay right here and never visit anyone.

4

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Guy in the white polo behind home plate. He has a radar gun pointed forward, and then after the pitch is delivered, he lowers the gun and speaks into a phone or some kind of recording device. As the gun lowers, so does Brothers’ head. Brothers, by this point, has surely noticed that guy, so he knows he’s being observed and scouted. He also knows he just threw a really bad pitch, in front of some professional taking professional notes. This is, basically, the feeling of being in a job interview, and answering a question poorly, and having the interviewer jot something down. You don’t know what might have been jotted, but you suspect you probably just completely blew it. After throwing this pitch, Brothers spared himself the coming humiliation and voluntarily retired from the sport. I think. I don’t know, I don’t watch the Rockies.

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Maybe the best thing about this pitch is this pitch’s context. Brothers quickly got ahead of Brown 0-and-2. Then he threw a slider:

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Brown didn’t swing at the pitch low and away. With the count 1-and-2, Brothers threw a fastball:

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Brown didn’t swing at the pitch more low and more away. With the count 2-and-2, Brothers threw that slider even more low and even more away. “Oh, you think you can lay off of my pitches, do you? Good luck laying off of this worse one!” I don’t know if there’s a point at which a pitch is so wild it goes all the way around to looking appealing again, but think of Rex Brothers as a psychological explorer. Also, no, there is no such point, and I guess Brothers didn’t read Kyle Drabek‘s article in Nature.

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Rosario: hey man
Rosario: calm down
Rosario: settle down
Rosario: nice and easy
Rosario: just throw strikes
Rosario: don’t worry about it
Rosario: just a nice easy strike
Rosario: you’re making me work back here

3

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Some seasons are intense, exciting, forever memorable. Some seasons involve pennant races and first-round showdowns and World Series heroes. Some seasons feel magical, some seasons make a team feel like it really is the team of destiny. For fans of teams in contention, there really is nothing quite like the anticipation of October, or the anticipation of September if the race is still tight. The regular season is at its time of highest leverage, so every pitch, every at-bat matters, because any little thing could end up making all the difference. You never know what might lock up a playoff berth, so you plan your days around games at night, and all the time in the game between pitches and plays is filled by a sense of tension, never relenting. For fans of teams in contention, the stretch is electric and suspenseful. For fans of teams not in contention, at some point every season ends up at Ross Ohlendorf pitching to Donnie Murphy.

3ohlendorfmurphy1

It’s this week’s edition of Find The Baseball! If you find the baseball, go outside and make a new friend. A friend outside of work and your existing social circles. Everybody wants to make new friends, and everybody enjoys meeting new people. Strangers aren’t terrifying just because they’re strangers. It’s true, it can be hard to make friends when you’re grown up, but that’s no excuse for not trying. If anything, that’s a reason to try harder. Go try. Go introduce yourself to somebody and start talking and learn something about that person. Take a chance and interact with a fellow human being. You never know what that bond might become. Your current best friend is your best friend only of the people you’ve already met. Just only do this if you found the baseball though. If you didn’t then you’re an embarrassing failure and you should just keep to yourself. No one wants to know you.

3ohlendorfmurphy2

An unflattering and somewhat worrisome picture of Ross Ohlendorf

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What you see, in this image, is an umpire pointing at Ross Ohlendorf. No big deal; it’s a picture of strangers. What Ross Ohlendorf saw was a large grown man wearing a mask and pointing at him. It’s unsettling when you see people in masks. It’s unsettling to be pointed at. It’s extremely unsettling to be pointed at by people in masks. Wear a mask and go out and point at someone. You’re going to be in their nightmares. You don’t think you’re comforted by faces until the faces are removed from the situation.

Unrelated: Firefox gives me the red squiggly underneath “Ohlendorf”, suggesting “Splendor” instead.

2

  • Pitcher: Stephen Strasburg
  • Batter: Andrelton Simmons
  • Date: August 17
  • Location: 63.3 inches from center of zone

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And here’s the one before the one above. So if you think Strasburg was throwing at Simmons on purpose, I wouldn’t have to replace just one pitch on this list — I’d have to replace a pair. If you don’t think Strasburg was throwing at Simmons on purpose, a big reason is probably because of what happened with the first pitch of this plate appearance:

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Strasburg opened with a terrible breaking ball that missed in the dirt outside. Also, the batter before Simmons walked on four pitches. That batter walked on four pitches, moved to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a wild pitch. That batter gained one base on four consecutive pitches, doing kind of like the complete opposite of manufacturing a run. That batter didn’t so much manufacture a run as he accepted a run that had been manufactured for him. Now, you very, very rarely see a fastball miss behind a batter. By accident, I mean. And you very, very rarely see it happen twice in a row. By accident, I mean. You just — you don’t expect that from a big-league starter, and certainly not one like Stephen Strasburg. The argument for why this was all intentional is “that doesn’t happen by mistake.” But if it were to happen by mistake, you’d look for this kind of preceding wildness. I’m never going to solve this mystery, because I’m never going to crawl inside of Strasburg’s brain and plug together the appropriate neurons, but I do know Strasburg threw a couple really wild fastballs. Even if the location was somewhat intentional, he still missed Simmons twice and allowed a run to score. That’s pretty bad, regardless.

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With the first pitch of this plate appearance, Strasburg took aim at one of the Napa ads. With the second pitch of this plate appearance, Strasburg took aim at the other one of the Napa ads. If you ignore the baseball part of the screenshot above, it looks like Andrelton Simmons is about to get surprise-tickled by a backstop with a sense of humor. “Everyone’s vulnerable in the ribs!”

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After the first wild pitch, the catcher went to his right and then had to turn and go the other way. After the second wild pitch, the catcher went to his left and then had to turn and go the other way. Andrelton Simmons remained perfectly still. When he’s batting is the only time you’ll get a picture of Andrelton Simmons in which he isn’t blurry.

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The first pitch was a wild curveball in the dirt. That followed a walk on four consecutive balls. After those five balls, there was this mound meeting, which was followed by two fastballs that, together, got Stephen Strasburg ejected. My best guess is that Steve McCatty went out to the mound, forgot what he was going to say, paused, turned, and left.

1

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This pitch hardly went by unacknowledged. On the Angels’ broadcast, they talked about the state of Richards’ developing curveball. However, they talked about it rather matter-of-factly, saying that Richards needs to find more consistency and basically ignoring that this particular curve missed the center of the strike zone by more than five and a half feet. They treated this like any other curve thrown for a ball, and there was no sense that the announcers appreciated the magnitude by which this pitch was awful. They sounded, simply, like they were desensitized to bad pitching, which gives you an idea of what the season has been like for the Angels.

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Meanwhile, on the Astros’ broadcast, with Alan Ashby and Geoff Blum:

Ashby: You know you’re not seeing the ball well as a hitter if you take a half-swing at that one.

Blum: It happens.

Ashby: It does.

Blum: Early in the game we’re gonna blame it on shadows but now no shadows involved at Anaheim Stadium so that one’s on poor Matty.

Dominguez didn’t take a half-swing at that curveball in the dirt. As a matter of fact, his bat barely moved — he simply took a step with his front leg, which he does to prepare for every pitch. That’s a timing mechanism, and it allows Dominguez to transfer energy into a potential swing, whether he actually swings or not. Dominguez will initiate a potential swing at every pitch. The decision on whether or not to swing is separate, and his decision here was to lay off. Still, the Astros announcers criticized him, for a mistake they made up. They accused him of a mistake he didn’t make, which gives you an idea of what the season has been like for the Astros.

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Scioscia: (from dugout) Garrett!
Scioscia: (from dugout) Hey, Garrett!
Richards: Coach?
Scioscia: (from dugout) I’m not going to come out there.
Richards: Okay
Scioscia: (from dugout) Just read that Don Julio sign.

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A pitch was thrown, seconds before this screenshot was taken. The catcher is looking toward the backstop, arm outstretched. The batter is looking toward the backstop, too, arm outstretched. The umpire is flinching, fearing a dangerous ricochet. Look at those three people and imagine what must have happened. Imagine what was necessary in order to create that scene, captured here. Imagine how bad the pitch must have been. Imagine, then, what would be appropriate body language for the pitcher to have in the aftermath. Now look over at the pitcher. Nailed it.



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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.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
@indifferentdrum
Guest
@indifferentdrum
2 years 10 months ago

Regarding man in white polo with radar gun in #4: sometimes when a stadium’s radar gun display is not working correctly, it must be done manually. This means some poor intern or ops guy sits behind the plate with a radar gun, gets a number for each pitch, and immediately radios it to a guy who is quickly typing the number into the display.

Granted, I have only seen this happen in Minor League parks, and I would assume that that is not what was going on in Philadelphia that day, but it is what came to mind.

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 10 months ago

Glad Ohlendorf’s ok. That still shot is downright scary.

Hank
Guest
Hank
2 years 10 months ago

I really like the kid with the foam finger behind the plate in #4. like, “whoop de doo, major league baseball. rex brothers. this is awesome. i’m really enjoying this.”

Hurtlocker
Guest
Hurtlocker
2 years 10 months ago

I was disappointed to see that the pitch that drilled ARod was not included.

cass
Guest
cass
2 years 10 months ago

My theory for what happened is that Stephen Strasburg felt he had lost his command and decided to try to get first place on your weekly list. After throwing the pitch that ended up second on the list, he worried that it was so wild that it wouldn’t show up on pitch f/x, so he threw another just a little behind Simmons. That was the fifth pitch on the list. As we know now, thanks to Garret Richards, Strasburg actually needed to throw the next pitch even wilder.

Perhaps he’s learned his lesson and will try again next week. Watch out, Marlins players. The ones in the dugout, not the ones in the plate. It’s time for Stephen to get in touch with his inner Matt Chico.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 10 months ago

I love how there are just 6 or 7 guys in white all bunched together in #4.

Kimberly Kardashian
Guest
Kimberly Kardashian
2 years 10 months ago

I thought I’d see some Brothers in that shot.

:(

Kyle
Member
2 years 10 months ago

So in the first gif, Strasburg throws a wild pitch with a runner on third and then runs towards home plate to cover the base. As he’s running, the umpire ejects him from the game. What would happen if Strasburg went on to cover home, receive a throw from the catcher, and actually tag the runner out trying to score? Is he ejected officially at the conclusion of the game action or is he ejected official at the very moment the umpire signals?

Bip
Guest
Bip
2 years 10 months ago

I thought the exact same thing. I can’t imagine that ejections happen in real time, so I have to believe that had Strasburg made a play, it would have held. It seems too absurd to me that he could make a play on the runner, and then the runner would be called safe because Strasburg technically wasn’t in the game. As if he should have immediately sprinted off the field upon being ejected? Still, I’m curious to know the actual rule.

Jamey Carroll
Guest
Jamey Carroll
2 years 10 months ago

I would imagine it’s exactly the opposite. You’re ejected, you are done.

And yeah, I would enjoy clarification.

berychance
Guest
berychance
2 years 10 months ago

As per rule 9.01 (d) the ejection doesn’t take effect until no further action is possible on the play.

So to answer your question, the runner would be out and then Strasburg would be removed from the game.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
2 years 10 months ago

I was pretty sure that was the correct ruling, but I wish it wasn’t. What fun could be had!

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
2 years 10 months ago

Question about Strasbourg and the ejection. The umpire clearly ejects him immediately based on the gif, but the play is still live. Is the play then dead or does it continue? If it continues, can Strasbourg participate? If he fields a throw at the plate trying to get the runner what happens? It seems the easiest thing would be to have him be an eligible player till the play is done but what is the rule?

Bip
Guest
Bip
2 years 10 months ago

Well the play isn’t called dead, because the runner did come around to score. As for Strasburg, I assume he could complete whatever play is in process when he is ejected, but I don’t know.

berychance
Guest
berychance
2 years 10 months ago

9.01(d) “If an umpire disqualifies a player while a play is in progress, the disqualification shall not take effect until no further action is possible in that play.”

anhonestmess
Member
anhonestmess
2 years 10 months ago

You always go negative with your hypotheticals. Smoke bombs might improve the game! There might be a pitch so wild that it becomes good again! You never know.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
2 years 10 months ago

A really wild pitch is a good pitch in an at least one alternate universe.

PackBob
Guest
PackBob
2 years 10 months ago

The last GIF actually shows a game of keep the ball from the catcher. Richards throws a pitch he can’t catch, the umpire offers him a ball then pulls it away, then Dominguez grabs the ball before the catcher gets to it. Baseball is mean sometimes.

Scraps
Guest
Scraps
2 years 10 months ago

plug together the appropriate neurons

Synapses!

I’m not correcting the sentence or making the sentence more specific or anything. I just like the word “synapses”. Synapse synapse synapses!

Jitfarrku Isbah.
Guest
Jitfarrku Isbah.
2 years 10 months ago

I prefer “snausages”, personally

Darien
Member
2 years 10 months ago

I decided to take your advice and go out and make a friend today. Furthermore, I decided to take even more of your advice, and I elected to undertake this venture by putting on a big black mask and pointing at people.

Turns out the bank is not the best choice for that.

Rallyk
Member
Rallyk
2 years 10 months ago

On #5, the woman in the front row not paying attention is actually a waitress for the Suntrust seats at Turner Field – not that working serves as an excuse!

I sat there once last year which is how I know. Yes, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

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