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

Hey there everybody, and welcome to this week’s edition of The World’s Most Zaniest Desks, wherein we discuss outlandish desks of all shapes and sizes. You “wood” “knot” believe what we have in store! I’m just kidding, this is the first part of the eighth edition of The Worst Of The Best. For the first part of the seventh edition, from last Friday afternoon, go right here. And then keep on following links until you get all the way back to the first part of the first edition, which is important somehow. If you’d like to read about desks and desk types, here’s this link. I apologize for misleading you before. That was dastardly.

Here we talk about pitches that were far away from the center of the strike zone. You’re going to see five of them, and I eliminate intentional balls, because otherwise you’d just see five intentional balls, and I wouldn’t have anything interesting to say about them. “The pitcher wants to walk this batter intentionally, or ‘on purpose’.” It’s a PITCHf/x-based top five, and I think this time around I have 18 images. So get ready for all of those, if that requires preparation on your part. We’re covering May 24 – May 30. Some pitches that just missed: Cody Allen to Joey Votto on May 28, Gio Gonzalez to Adam Jones on May 27, and Rick Porcello to Clint Barmes on May 28. In Porcello’s defense, you don’t want to pitch Barmes anywhere in the strike zone. The list is coming; won’t you join me?

5

CuetoDeJesus5_1.gif.opt

This is an 0-and-1 fastball well above a hitter’s head. Seldom do you see pitches this wild, although they’re hardly unheard of. You’re going to see more this afternoon! Because this pitch was so high, it flew all the way to the backstop on the fly, untouched. Now look at the lady in the red shirt in the stands behind home plate, on the aisle. As the pitch unexpectedly approaches, she anxiously ducks out of the way, even though between her and the baseball there exists a near-impenetrable forcefield. That woman was, in effect, watching an interrogation through a two-way mirror. She was at no point in any danger, yet she still might’ve wet herself. There was a greater injury threat from the sudden reactionary movement than there was from the baseball. That woman didn’t understand her setting. Meaning that woman didn’t appreciate where she was sitting. Meaning that woman didn’t deserve to be sitting that close.

All right, fine, maybe she just has a long memory. That would be understandable — balls have gone through the screen before. That doesn’t explain the reaction on the other side of the aisle from the lady. Those people are just cowards. Big stupid cowards.

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Some background. Cueto faced DeJesus in the top of the first inning. DeJesus actually led off. Cueto tried to establish a quick tempo, but DeJesus kept stepping out of the box, slowing him down. Cueto displayed visible signs of frustration. He gestured, he turned his back, he shrugged, he stood and looked in. Within minutes, DeJesus had Cueto all annoyed. Announcers suggested that Cueto was immediately rattled. Cueto retired DeJesus and didn’t allow a run through six innings. Some rattling. Anyhow, whenever there’s a pitch somewhat close to a head, it can be interpreted differently by different parties with different loyalties. So it was with the Reds and Cubs’ respective broadcasts.

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“They’re getting warned! Bob Davidson is going to warn Johnny Cueto on that, the ball clearly slipped out of his hands. I cannot believe it. Watch this ball come out of Cueto’s hands. That’s not a intentional pitch to hit a guy or drill a guy.” –Reds broadcaster Chris Welsh

“And I think there should be [a warning]. I think Bob Davidson got it right. Cueto was clearly aggravated to start the game[...]The thing is, that was a fastball, 91 miles an hour. Was not a breaking ball that got away. Cueto with a big lead here. Just, it smells fishy.” –Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper

Welsh thought it was a mistake. Kasper suspected it might’ve been intentional. Emotions got involved. Meanwhile, DeJesus and Cueto laughed it off. Looking at that .gif, you wouldn’t think a fastball just sailed over DeJesus’ head. You’d think on the infield grass there was a squirrel playing with a squirrel. I have never seen a more positive reaction to a potentially life-threatening incident. We could all stand to learn something from Johnny Cueto and David DeJesus. If you almost kill or get killed, have a chuckle! Life! It’s wacky.

4

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Think about the .gif of fans up above. Think about how people instinctively respond to nearby projectiles. At least, you flinch. At most, you bail completely, if you’re utterly terrified and completely unprepared. Grab an apple, or a tennis ball. Next time you see somebody, underhand it to the person when he isn’t looking, and then immediately get his attention. When he sees the lob coming his direction, he’ll probably turn away suddenly, shielding himself. It’s just how we’re wired. Even baseball pitchers aren’t immune, if you think about hot-shot comebackers. They’ll flinch, and cover their head, even if the baseball is nowhere particularly near. We are a naturally timid people. Now look up at Beltran. This is a wild pitch very close to his body. He doesn’t respond. He anti-responds, in that he doesn’t do anything. His upper body doesn’t flinch, and his lower body doesn’t move, even though the pitch was coming at his legs and could’ve taken an unpredictable bounce off the dirt. Beltran just stands in there, fearless. Maybe this is the fearlessness that allows Beltran to excel in the playoffs, when the stakes are at their highest. Alternatively, Beltran just stands in there, paralyzed by fear. What a yellow-belly! Maybe this is why Beltran has never won a World Series.

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It’s this week’s edition of Find The Baseball! If you find the baseball, you are to drive to a country town with a population no greater than 100. You are to sit down at the community bar (or “saloon”), order a drink, engage the nearest adult individual in conversation, and listen patiently to the story of his or her life. You are to then write up and publish the story, citing this post in the acknowledgments. This is bigger than you. This isn’t about you. This is about America, and the people in it.

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It’s this week’s bonus edition of Find The Baseball! If you find the baseball, hey, great, way to go.

3

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“I think he was aiming for their dinosaur mascot on that one.” –Astros broadcaster Geoff Blum

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It’s long been established that curveballs are impossible to throw in Coors Field. The humidor was of little help, and conditions are such that the pitch just cannot be executed like it can be elsewhere. This is why the Rockies have futzed around with sinker-ballers and changeup artists. It’s hard to pitch in Colorado, for a variety of reasons, and one of the reasons is that a curveball can’t be thrown. There’s not even any question. This, in fact, is the only curveball that’s been thrown in Coors Field in the last four years. As such, it’s both the best curveball and the worst curveball in Coors since 2010. The bigger question is why it was even thrown in the first place. You can’t throw that pitch there. It’s an automatic ball, if the pitcher can even manage to fling the ball forward. It’s impossible. I thought the Astros were supposed to be smart? Based on this, seems like they’re idiots. A curveball, in Colorado. Please.

clemens3tulowitzki2

The ball felt wrong coming out of Clemens’ hand. Which, well, I should hope so. Clemens’ response was to look at his fingers. I don’t know what he expected to see. Blood? The absence of any humidity? Just how good is Paul Clemens’ vision? Or how bad is his understanding of how the world works?

Clemens: Well that was a mistake.
Clemens: Are my fingers still normal?
Clemens: /looks at fingers
Clemens: My fingers are still normal.
Clemens: Whew.

2

  • Pitcher: Johnny Cueto
  • Batter: Alfonso Soriano
  • Date: May 26
  • Location: 59.1 inches from center of zone

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Cueto: An 0-and-2 count on Alfonso Soriano!
Cueto: This is going to be easy! Slider ahoy!
Cueto: /throws 0-and-2 slider low and away
Cueto: AWW
Cueto: WHAT
Cueto: HOW-
Cueto: MANNNNN
Cueto: I CAN’T BELIEVE IT
Cueto: HOW DID HE NOT SWING AT THAT PITCH

cueto2soriano

This was a pitch in the dirt. This was also a pitch way outside, in the opposite batter’s box. According to PITCHf/x, this pitch was 45 inches away from the middle of the plate, horizontally, when it crossed the front plane. The average four-year-old boy is something like 40 inches tall. An average four-year-old could’ve been lying down taking a nap, with his feet at the center of the plate. If he was sleeping fully stretched out, he still wouldn’t have been awoken by this pitch, or injured by it. Then people would’ve been like, “that’s amazing!” And also, “whose kid is that!” There’s just something about Dusty Baker.

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Sometimes after a wild pitch, pitchers look down. Sometimes they look skyward, or sometimes they look at their fingers. Generally, they look like they know they just made a mistake, and they’re kind of embarrassed. Cueto struts. He catches the ball, he chews, he looks around, and he struts. Johnny Cueto doesn’t make mistakes. Johnny Cueto just operates on a plane you don’t and can’t understand. Yeah, Cueto meant to do that. Why? Why is the hummingbird drawn to flowers? Actually, wait, no, we know that.

1

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I’ve always found these pitches by going through a PITCHf/x data spreadsheet. By getting the numbers and working a little super simple math, I’m able to identify those pitches one might consider the wildest. It takes but a matter of minutes. A lot of people know about these posts, though, and sometimes I get tweets, pointing out wild pitches and swings people just saw in a game. This pitch was pointed out to me a few days ago, after it happened. The other guy said something along the lines of “Aroldis Chapman just made it easy for Jeff to find the week’s wildest pitch.” As if I conduct all the research by going through video of every pitch that got thrown. If I didn’t have PITCHf/x, these posts wouldn’t be posted. Let’s say I were given a choice: watch every baseball pitch every week, for the purposes of generating these posts, or kill myself. I’d get through a few thousand pitches, then I would kill myself.

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This was a first-pitch fastball at 100 miles per hour. This was the kind of pitch that gets a hitter’s attention.

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It certainly got Swisher’s attention. How could it not have?

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Here’s the next pitch of the same at-bat.

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Another fastball at 100 miles per hour. As the Cleveland dugout came alive, Swisher backed out, looked at Chapman, and repeated “don’t do that” over and over. Twice in a row, Swisher nearly had his head taken off by triple-digit heaters. No one in baseball throws harder than Aroldis Chapman does. I can think of nothing more terrifying than the prospect of facing Chapman’s fastball when it seems like he doesn’t have a clue where it’s going. Swisher, understandably, took the next pitch. It went for a borderline high strike. Swisher had every reason to be rattled. Who wouldn’t be rattled? Swisher could’ve died, twice. That’s a give-up at-bat. This is an at-bat you just want to be over. If I were the hitter, I’d swing pathetically and I’d turn around and go away and my teammates would look at me with concern and relief.

Chapman threw Swisher a fourth pitch.

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Baseball players are amazing. And we think they wilt under pressure.




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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.

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

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  1. filihok says:

    Love this shit

    +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Every week I read the way you choose to introduce this column and think that you have possibly gone bananas.

    In the best possible manner.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • cass says:

      The thing I can’t figure out is why he puts in the first two paragraphs. Why not just start with the pitches, with maybe a link to the first one that explains the methodology?

      -8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Anon21 says:

    I do realize that Jeff is just having a spot ‘o fun, but… is ducking or flinching out of the way when one perceives an object flying at one even a conscious reaction? I would have thought it was reflexive.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Anon21 says:

      Okay, so I missed where he acknowledged this shortly thereafter. The gifs were taking a long time to load, and I just had to jump to the defense of those startled fans.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jay29 says:

        Yeah, Beltran and the other fans demonstrated that you can learn not to flinch at fast things flying towards you.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Sogard's Optician says:

    Here is a brilliant weekly column which I anticipate with the unmitigated glee of a toddler eating ice cream on a hot day in the park with my fuzzy black labradoodle, Julio Lugo.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Aaron says:

    These are can’t miss, and great links I can send to friends who aren’t as into baseball as me, everyone gets a kick out of them.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Nick O says:

    I don’t know why you’re so impressed by Swisher hitting that rally-killing home run.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. O says:

    I thought the same thing when watching that Swisher at bat – how he JUST missed that fourth pitch fastball and how amazing it was that he was right on it after getting buzzed. It ended up being a warning track shot, but so, so impressive.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Guy says:

    Honest question: in the future, can the GIFs on this site be like the ones on Lookout Landing, where you have to hover over it and it plays only that GIF? It takes forever, even with a good connection, to load these.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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