Oh, hello! I didn’t see you there. Well, welcome, to the second part of the 12th edition of The Worst Of The Best. Sorry for the mess. Here’s a link to the second part of the 11th edition, from last Friday. Now, many of you will have already read the earlier first part of the 12th edition, chronicling the wildest pitches. As such, you already know the punchline: this week’s wildest swing came on this week’s fifth-wildest pitch. So, there’s no more surprise there, but there is the satisfaction of finally seeing that overlap, as some people have yearned for. What’s next? The wildest swing on the fourth-wildest pitch? On the first-wildest pitch? More than one pitch/swing overlap? Complete, all-five overlap? We know it isn’t impossible; if one can be the same, five can be the same. It might just take forever. I think this would be good terms of a serious jail sentence. “You’re eligible for parole when the five wildest swings come at the five wildest pitches.” It might never happen. It might happen next Friday! Then there’s a murderer on the loose! Jail sentences should be more game-y.
Going to look at the five wildest swings, now, those being the swings at the pitches furthest from the center of the strike zone. Window: Friday, June 21 through Thursday, June 27. Once again, I went in intending to exclude hit-and-run swings, but I didn’t find any. I did exclude a few more check swings, and I hate them. I’ve already psyched myself out regarding how I’m going to write about the wildest swing, since I already did that in the post about the wildest pitches. This is not going to be easy. Maybe I’ll just write something short and stupid. The sooner I’m done, the sooner it’s my weekend! So long, suckers! I’m going to the woods!
- Batter: Andrelton Simmons
- Pitcher: Ervin Santana
- Date: June 25
- Location: 33.9 inches from center of zone
They say Simmons is a man with good instincts. This is why he’s such an elite-level defensive shortstop — not only is he quick to move, but he can anticipate the play and his preparation is better than most. He maintains almost perfect control of his body and the baseball instincts you see on display in the field, you see here in the box, as Simmons immediately takes off once he becomes an eligible baserunner. It’s like one fluid motion between swinging and starting to run, as Simmons looks back, tosses his bat, and sprints until he’s safe. So much in baseball is about the little gains and the little losses. Opportunity maximization. Simmons maximized this opportunity, right after he just about minimized it. You can’t reach safely after every out, but every out you avoid is an out you avoid, no matter how it’s done. Simmons is a pretty special player, in the way he reacts to things. Give him credit for a reached base here and his OBP climbs north of .280.
Today I have learned about BATS stock exchange, which is not what I wanted it to be. But what if players’ bats were stocks? I think there might be fantasy games kind of like this. What if Joey Votto‘s bat were a stock? What if Chris Davis‘ bat were a stock? If Andrelton Simmons’ bat were a stock, no one would own it anymore. Or maybe people would be trying to buy it low. I regret beginning a paragraph about the stock market when I know embarrassingly little about anything that isn’t baseball. What’s that? A current event that’s meaningful in real life? Wow, that’s really interesting! Just think about all of the potential factors and consequences, to it! If only we could trust the media. The media, let me tell you. Those guys, can’t trust ’em.
On the last pitch of his at bat, Andrelton Simmons reached base on a wild third strike. On the first pitch of the next at bat, Simmons was thrown out trying to steal second. The universe is interested in maintaining a particular balance between Andrelton Simmons and Salvador Perez. We don’t and can’t understand it, but given how quickly the balance was restored, it’s probably pretty important, so we probably shouldn’t try to mess with it. “What could possibly happen?” you might say. What could not possibly happen? It’s the universe. The universe is what was like, let’s turn caterpillars into butterflies. I’ll defer to it.
- Batter: Jonathan Lucroy
- Pitcher: Edwin Jackson
- Date: June 25
- Location: 34.1 inches from center of zone
Sometimes Jonathan Lucroy swings at pitches as if he thinks that Jonathan Lucroy will be framing them. There are lots of bad swings by batters at sliders from same-handed pitchers. Just like there are lots of bad swings by batters at changeups from opposite-handed pitchers. Low-away quadrant, that’s where pitchers like to pitch. There’s nothing all that unusual about this sequence of events, except for the part where Lucroy swings and ends up facing the home-plate umpire square. He even appears to pause for an instant before turning to walk to the dugout.
Lucroy: Oh, hello there.
Lucroy: I guess this didn’t go well.
Lucroy: I’ll see you.
About that “Vote Brewers” sign. The Brewers, by record and by performance, are a bad team. But Ryan Braun ought to be an All-Star. The same goes for both Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez. You could make a case for Lucroy if you really wanted to, although it’d be tough and pretty unconvincing. This doesn’t have anything to do with Lucroy’s swing, but which has been the best-represented bad team in All-Star Game history? I’d be interested in knowing the answer, then I’d be interested in discrediting the answer given how stupid a lot of the roster results can be. Stupid All-Star Games, you’re dumb and sometimes take too long.
After batters strike out, they go back to the dugout, unless there were already two outs, in which case they usually stay near the box and let someone else bring them their stuff. As they walk back to the dugout, they’ll look up, or they’ll look down, or they’ll look at their bats, or something. But it’s a surprisingly long and lonesome walk. This is only a part of Lucroy’s, for example. The camera stayed fixed on Lucroy as he walked, and I timed it at about 18 seconds between swing and arriving at the bottom of the steps. The whole time, he’s walking, knowing everyone knows he just struck out, and at a really bad pitch. There’s no high-five, no pat on the butt, no nothing. Just Lucroy, having disappointed, walking back to a room full of co-workers, being watched by thousands. That is a real walk of shame.
- Batter: Garrett Jones
- Pitcher: Charlie Furbush
- Date: June 26
- Location: 34.2 inches from center of zone
That’s Henry Blanco back there behind the plate, and Blanco is 41 years old. He’s still going strong, or at least as strongly as Henry Blanco can go. He’s long been known as a defensive specialist, and look at the way he receives this pitch out of the dirt. He catches it softly with the glove, and while he doesn’t catch it cleanly at first, he calmly juggles the ball to himself before handing it to the umpire all cool-like. If I were an old-timey scout and if Blanco were an amateur, and this happened, I probably would’ve made a note about how Blanco is so calm and talented a backstop. He makes everything look intentional. My impression is that old-timey scouts made a living off making extrapolated mountains out of subjective molehills. Maybe that’s way off from the truth but I’m not interested in learning more. I prefer my impressions to reality.
Strike two, by the way, not strike three. Jones wasn’t protecting because he had to protect because he was on the verge of striking out. Jones put himself on the verge of striking out. Same-handed sliders are so lethal for pitchers. So lethal and so easy to pick up. You don’t even need to have really good command of the pitch. You just need to be able to make it sharp and you need to be able to not telegraph it when it’s coming. Are you concerned about baseball’s rising rate of strikeouts? Do you wish that something would be done? MLB could limit the percentage of sliders thrown to same-handed batters. They could put it at, say, 10%, and then we’d really see who has the edge. I don’t see any possible downside to creating and enforcing this rule. Nope, clear sailing ahead, problem solved.
Garrett Jones is both a player for the Pirates and a fan of the Pirates, and for a moment, after swinging and missing, both of his identities were visibly disappointed.
Fan Jones: I can’t believe he did that
Player Jones: I can’t believe I did that
- Batter: Mark Reynolds
- Pitcher: Samuel Deduno
- Date: June 21
- Location: 38.0 inches from center of zone
Now this is what this series is all about. The wildest swings don’t always look that wild, but this is the definition of flailing. Mark Reynolds didn’t just strike out — he struck out against a Twin, which is worthy of note. Perhaps equally remarkable is that Reynolds managed to keep both his hands on the bat while he swung all the way around, even though usually you’ll see one hand come off when the swing is sufficiently ill-advised. After striking out, Reynolds looks at his bat, wondering why it couldn’t hit the baseball. The answer, of course, is that the ball was too far away, and no bat could’ve hit that baseball. The pitch shouldn’t have been swung at. The only reason, then, for Reynolds to look at his bat is if the bat suggested to Reynolds that it was going to do the job. Which means the bat lied to Reynolds, which means Reynolds thinks the bat is capable of communication. Sometimes we describe these people as “quirky” or “idiosyncratic.” What we mean to say is “ill.”
Mark Reynolds doesn’t so much try to hit baseballs with bats as he tries to fend baseballs off with what he thinks of as bat-shaped swords. “Don’t you dare come any closer!” Home runs are strictly accidents. Reynolds is just trying to defend his personal territory. This is why he doesn’t really mind all the strikeouts — the goal isn’t reaching base. The goal is fending off a baseball assault.
Deduno didn’t only strike a batter out — he struck a batter out with a non-strike, and he struck a batter out with a pitch he shook to. As a member of the Twins starting rotation, therefore, Deduno finds himself on thin ice, because that shit is unacceptable.
Now that this series has been going for a while, sometimes on Twitter I’ll get live notices of candidate pitches and swings. People let me know what they see as games are taking place, and most of the time, the candidate pitches and swings don’t make it, because they aren’t bad enough. There is, after all, a lot of baseball that people don’t see. I got a few notices after this Rasmus swing and miss, and I was looking forward to checking it out, just in case. Not only did Rasmus take a wild swing — he took the wildest swing, and he took the wildest swing by 13 inches. This pitch was more than a full foot wilder than the previous pitch, and still, Rasmus swung and he swung with confidence. I’ve already talked about this swing and miss today. I’ve given it some hundreds of words and I don’t know how much is left to be explored. But think about what we’re looking at. This isn’t a run-of-the-mill wild swing. This is a complete misjudgment of the baseball that was thrown. This is worse than it actually looks in the .gif, because in the .gif, Rasmus maintains normal balance. The ball’s just nowhere near.
It’s not just that Rasmus misjudged the pitch. Happens all the time, to everybody. Hitting is hard. But at no point during Rasmus’ swing did he even slow down or attempt to hold up. He took a full cut like the pitch was a fastball, and the pitch wasn’t a fastball, and Rasmus just never reacted to that. It’s not that the ball didn’t register as a curve out of the hand — it never registered as a curve until it was in the catcher’s possession. It’s like a Rasmus swing at a different pitch was isolated on a computer and overlaid onto this pitch like someone’s making a Colby Rasmus or Matt Moore propaganda film. The swing and the pitch just don’t belong together. Colby Rasmus has a 114 wRC+, the same as Ben Zobrist.
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