Considering current events, let’s acknowledge something up front: I am not composing this with my full, undivided attention, and you probably are not reading this with your full, undivided attention. That’s just fine, and maybe because of the latter, you won’t be aware of the former. But I wanted to open with an excuse, and it’s weird enough to be thinking and writing about baseball right now, or even this week. Some of you certainly won’t be in the mood to read about sports, although I suppose those who don’t care wouldn’t be looking at FanGraphs right now in the first place. Here is baseball content on a Friday. Read it or do not, and I’m okay with your decision.
If you’re still here, and if you’re still interested, this is the first part of the third edition of The Worst Of The Best. Here’s a link to last week’s version of this, in order to bring you up to speed. Top five wildest pitches, relative to the center of the zone, derived via PITCHf/x. It’s not relative to intended location because we have no way of reliably measuring that. Yes, that would be better, in theory. No, that is not doable, in reality. Please do not complain about these .gifs locking up your browsers because you should understand by now that these posts have .gifs in them. All of the posts in this series will have at least five .gifs in them. You should know whether or not your browser sucks at .gifs. You do not get my sympathy. To be honest nobody ever gets my sympathy just because they have a frozen Internet window. This seems like enough of an introduction, so let’s advance to the more meaty bits.
- Pitcher: Jim Johnson
- Batter: Desmond Jennings
- Date: April 16
- Location: 55.8 inches from center of zone
I remember in college, in a freshman philosophy seminar, we got to talking about the nature of car accidents and vehicular manslaughter. Let’s say you have two people driving identical cars in identical settings. One of the drivers wants to listen to music, so he quickly glances at his radio and finds a good channel. Music comes on and nothing else happens. The other driver wants to listen to music, so he quickly glances at his radio and finds a good channel. While he’s quickly glancing at his radio, a child pursues a loose basketball into the street, and the car hits him. It’s a nightmarish situation, and the driver knows he’s made a grave mistake. But did he make any more of a grave mistake than the first driver? Their behavior was exactly the same. The results could not have been more different. How do we determine responsibility? How should we determine responsibility?
Here, Jim Johnson threw a wild breaking ball that Matt Wieters had to slide over to try to block. Wieters couldn’t block the ball, but it didn’t matter, and he was fine. But what if Wieters had torn his ACL, moving so suddenly? What if Wieters tears his ACL trying to block the next wild breaking ball from an Orioles pitcher? What if it’s thrown by, I don’t know, Chris Tillman? How responsible is Tillman for the injury? Is he more responsible than Johnson? Why, if they did the same thing? How does one divvy responsibility for Matt Wieters’ hypothetically torn ACL? Is it important to even divvy responsibility at all, considering what actually matters most is the crippling nature of the injury, for the player and for the team? The take-home message, I think, is don’t throw wild breaking balls to Matt Wieters. Nobody wants a torn ACL. Pitchers need to be more responsible.
Desmond Jennings thought about swinging at this pitch.
- Pitcher: Phil Humber
- Batter: Mike Trout
- Date: April 14
- Location: 59.3 inches from center of zone
There was nobody on base when Matt Wieters slid to try to block a wild breaking ball. Wieters, by all rights, could’ve just not moved, watching the ball fly by like it’s a leaf in a stiff breeze. It could’ve been interpreted as lazy, I guess, but there was literally no upside to Wieters successfully blocking or receiving that curveball. None at all. There was zero upside, and plenty of downside, entirely having to do with the potential for injury. Wieters, presumably, just reacted out of habit. Here, there’s nobody on base and Phil Humber throws a wild breaking ball. Carlos Corporan has been around. He’s got enough catching experience to know not to bother trying to slide to block this slider. And as it turns out, he didn’t even need to. Corporan didn’t have to move, based on the process and the result, and he kept his legs right where they were. The Astros might not have a lot of ability this season, but at least Carlos Corporan knows when to channel it, and when to not bother.
Alternatively, Carlos Corporan has already caught so many terrible Phil Humber sliders that he can predict ahead of time how they’re going to bounce. That’s what one might charitably refer to as pitcher-catcher chemistry.
- Pitcher: Michael Roth
- Batter: Darin Mastroianni
- Date: April 15
- Location: 59.8 inches from center of zone
Today I learned that Michael Roth is a person who exists. And not only is he a person; he’s a person in the major leagues! Or he’s at least very recently been in the major leagues, although his odds of sticking can’t possibly be that high, since I’d never heard of him before and I’m usually familiar with the good players. During this broadcast, I learned that Roth wasn’t even in major-league camp in spring training, and nobody really knew him, and he didn’t really know anybody. He certainly wouldn’t have been familiar with catcher Chris Iannetta, and shortly before this pitch, Iannetta and Roth met, maybe to talk about signs with a baserunner on second. There was speculation afterward that Iannetta was crossed up, that he was looking for a breaking ball instead of a heater. But there’s no way Roth would’ve thought Iannetta wanted a fastball almost seven feet off the ground. Unless he really is that new to the game that he doesn’t yet get the rules to it.
Michael Roth throwing a pitch to Darin Mastroianni. Not pictured: the baseball. Either something is awry, or this is another irresponsible journalist photoshop job. Somebody needs to hold these journalists accountable.
Maybe even better is the way this plate appearance ended:
It’s not uncommon to see players swing and miss through offspeed pitches in the other box, but those pitches are usually thrown by same-handed pitchers. Here a left-handed nobody whiffs Mastroianni with a pitch that was never anywhere close to being a strike.
Mastroianni: There’s no way that pitch is staying out there
Mastroianni: That pitch has to come back
Mastroianni: It wouldn’t make sense to throw a pitch that outside in this situation
Mastroianni: That pitch is coming back
Mastroianni: I am assuming that pitch is coming back
Mastroianni: There’s no way that pitch isn’t coming back
Mastroianni: I have learned something today
Roth: seriously though who am I
- Pitcher: Clayton Richard
- Batter: Dexter Fowler
- Date: April 14
- Location: 60.6 inches from center of zone
This is the second-wildest pitch of the last week. Considering it was thrown in a full count, this is a really legitimately bad pitch. We pause the Padres’ broadcast:
Mark Grant is talking to a representative of the local Marines. Only Dick Enberg is paying attention. Only Dick Enberg is watching the baseball game, and then immediately after the pitch is thrown and Fowler walks, Enberg starts to jot something down on a paper in front of him. One would assume that Enberg is simply keeping score. He’s an old-timey guy, and old-timey guys in the broadcast booth like to keep score. An alternative is that Enberg is handwriting the adjectives he would use to describe that pitch that he couldn’t repeat on the air. Another alternative is that Enberg is illustrating the pitch for Grant’s benefit during the next commercial break. Maybe you didn’t think that Dick Enberg is much of an artist, but I’m guessing you never actually bothered to ask. And he’s illustrating instead of leaning on video replay because when Dick Enberg was a young boy video and camera and color didn’t exist yet.
Start Time Weather: 34° F, Wind 7mph from Left to Right, Overcast, Snow.
It was a little chilly in Minnesota. When it’s cold out, it can hurt to hit a baseball, but it can also be hard to grip and accurately throw a baseball. You’ll notice that the score is 10-2 in the second inning. The pitchers all finished with a combined nine walks and seven strikeouts. Niese hit a guy. He threw a wild pitch. He threw this pitch. Immediately afterward, he slapped his hand on his leg, presumably out of frustration. Niese was mad at his hand for not feeling, even though it wasn’t the hand’s fault. It was circulation’s fault, which means it was evolution’s fault. Because of evolution, this ball got away from Jon Niese. Evolution and Minnesota. If Niese had his druthers, he wouldn’t have been pitching in Target Field, but because he was pitching in Target Field, if Niese had his druthers, his body would’ve been suitably unevolved. Then maybe that offspeed pitch finds the right home in John Buck‘s yawning glove. Way to go, science.
I remember in college, in a freshman philosophy seminar, we got to talking about the nature of car accidents and vehicular manslaughter. Let’s say you have two people driving identical cars in iden
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