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

Hey there everybody, and welcome to whatever jokes I have left about the same swings at the same pitches we’ve been looking at for months. For the jokes I’ve already used, here’s a link to the whole Worst Of The Best series archive. With the wildest pitches, at least there tends to be a little variety. I don’t know precisely what to expect every week. With the wildest swings, almost invariably we end up with five swings at two-strike breaking balls in the dirt. That’s just the way it is, and of course all those swings are ill-advised, but part of the fun is supposed to be the surprise, and here we don’t really get many surprises. I don’t know what to do about that and it’s too late in 2013 to just up and change the methodology. On one hand, maybe it’s interesting to keep re-visiting the same stuff and seeing what ideas there might be. What’s still fresh and original after four and a half months? On the other hand, this is getting increasingly difficult to write about. Which, presumably, means it’s getting increasingly difficult to read. I am sorry. I am sorry. I’ll have to figure some stuff out before 2014.

So, yeah, here come five stupid terrible swings at pitches low that weren’t fastballs. They’re all from between August 9 – August 15, and they’re the swings at the pitches furthest from the center of the strike zone. I had to exclude a checked swing by A.J. Ellis that would’ve ranked No. 1. Also, DJ LeMahieu was called for a strike on a checked swing at a pitch-out during an attempted hit-and-run. That hits my exclusion double whammy, so you’re not going to see it, but I’m just happy to finally have encountered a busted hit-and-run. Now they’re not just theoretically excluded. Also the runner was safe. Padres!



Here’s a fun fact for you: Raul Valdes is 35, and he signed with the Phillies as a free agent in November 2011. At that point, he had 51 games of big-league experience, and an ERA in the mid-4s. His career Triple-A ERA, also, is in the mid-4s, over a few hundreds of innings. Over parts of two seasons with the Phillies, now, Valdes has thrown 66 innings, and he’s registered six strikeouts per unintentional walk. The last two years, 442 pitchers have thrown at least 50 big-league innings, and Valdes’ ratio of strikeouts to walks ranks tied for 14th. As a reliever in Triple-A in 2012, Valdes racked up 41 strikeouts and two walks. Another fun fact for you is that Raul Valdes is not Rudy Seanez. I know, I know, but trust me, I checked, they’re different.


I wonder if anyone’s ever tried to drop-kick a baseball from the mound to the strike zone. I’m sure no one’s ever tried in a game, but I wonder if anyone’s ever tried it just for fun, just messing around. Someone must have, right? Someone’s done everything. Summit a remote peak in Alaska. Rest your hand on the very highest boulder. Someone has smoked on that boulder. People have had sex on that boulder. You’ll find litter beside the boulder. Someone must have tried to drop-kick a baseball for a strike. Imagine, now, someone trying to get really good at it. Imagine someone practicing every day, for hours on end, to perfect the drop-kick fastball and the drop-kick changeup. It’d certainly preserve the shoulder. It’d certainly give hitters a different look. Imagine the guy then taking it into a competition. He wouldn’t be allowed to play because such a delivery would be against the rules. And that would be good for the guy because hitters would kill him. He’d get his ass kicked. Rockets everywhere. What a terrible idea!


You’re looking at the pitch right before the pitch that Freeman swung at for strike three. You’ll notice that he didn’t swing at this pitch, even though it was the same pitch, and even a little closer to the strike zone. 1-and-2 breaking ball, closer: no swing. 2-and-2 breaking ball, farther: swing. They tell us that players are humans, not just random number generators. They tell us that sabermetrics depersonalizes the game. Thing about humans is humans are basically random number generators.



It’s funny to look back. On Friday, June 21, the Dodgers were 30-42. They were in last place in the National League West, and they weren’t just 9.5 back of first place — they were 5.5 back of fourth place. By record, they were closer to the Marlins than they were to the Padres, and there was a lot of talk about the team firing Don Mattingly for collective under-performance. The Dodgers were supposed to be a high-payroll World Series contender. That’s the whole reason they put together a high payroll in the first place. After 72 games, they had the same record as the Cubs. What you see above is the only out the Dodgers have made at the plate since Saturday, June 22. Things turned around in a flash and the Dodgers started to just bludgeon people into submission and eventual forfeit. The Dodgers, now, aren’t playing like they were supposed to. Nobody’s ever been expected to play like this. The Dodgers are playing like they picked up an invincibility star. Note that Gordon was nearly safe at first base.


On countless occasions — albeit decreasing occasions — it’s come out that a player was older than advertised. It all always goes back to falsified documents, as young players try to market themselves as being more appealing. A 16-year-old with skillset X is going to attract a hell of a lot more attention and money than a 19-year-old with skillset X, so players have tried to get away with deception. Sometimes they get away with it for a while, and sometimes maybe they’re never found out. Dee Gordon is a similar kind of case, except the opposite. According to the Dodgers, Gordon was born April 22, 1988, making him 25 years old, but Gordon is actually six. He’s entirely too young to be playing professionally, and too young to have signed a contract with an organization. His numbers, also, are bad, but not for somebody his age, because he is six.



I actually fought this one for a little while. As you should all know by now, I make a point of excluding checked swings, because I don’t think they should count the same. A bad checked swing is still bad, but it’s less bad than a bad full swing, because it shows a hitter got the right idea a split-second too late. With Perez, it looks like he tries to hold up, so on that basis maybe I should have excluded this attempt. But he actually goes around. Not all the way around, like a hitter normally does, but that bat doesn’t stop near the front plane of the plate. It looks like maybe he wants to check his swing but doesn’t know how to. Like he’s never done it before. The end result is that the first half of this swing sucks, and the second half of this swing sucks differently. It’s basically the swing equivalent of letting go of a balloon you didn’t tie shut. This is Hernan Perez, actively deflating.


A thing about Hernan Perez: he’s occupied the Tigers’ bench, and the Tigers are a really good team. I’ve been paying the Tigers a lot of attention for a while, because their collective numbers got my eyebrows raised. I literally, genuinely only know Hernan Perez for his appearances in this series about miserable swings. Were it not for these posts, and for the back-end research, I probably wouldn’t know that Hernan Perez exists. He’d be like…he’d be like Donald Lutz. Who the hell is Donald Lutz?


Hernan Perez has more hits against John Danks in three at-bats than Adam Jones has in 27. Perez has as many hits against Chris Sale in six at-bats as Shin-Soo Choo has in 12 and as Josh Hamilton has in 11. Perez has as many hits against Cole Hamels in two at-bats as B.J. Upton has in 14. Perez has batted .296 in the minors, and he was better in Double-A than he was in Single-A. Baseball is super difficult. Pitchers are always trying to trick you! And they throw really hard! One of the things that rubbed people the wrong way about Barry Bonds was how he was so full of himself. I mean, why shouldn’t he have been? Look what he did!


  • Batter: Adam Jones
  • Pitcher: Patrick Corbin
  • Date: August 14
  • Location: 38.4 inches from center of zone


Look for this .gif on two different lists:

  • The Worst of the Best: The Week’s Wildest Swings
  • The Best of the Best: The Week’s Best Picks

This .gif features two players executing perfectly, and one player making a huge stupid mistake. Corbin and the catcher were banking on Jones taking an aggressive hack at a slider out of the zone, and the slider is Corbin’s bread and butter. Sure enough, Jones chased, and the pitch was perfect, so Corbin got himself ahead in the count 0-and-2. If there’s one thing you can say about major-league hitters, though, they adapt, they learn quickly. They don’t often make the same mistake twice, not back to back, because they pick up on pitcher strategies. To the eye, baseball is a game between bodies, but in truth it’s a game between minds, each trying to out-think the other. Everybody who plays at the big-league level is a genius, as far as baseball is concerned. Everybody is constantly learning and remembering for future application.


This is probably why some players think it’s easy for there to be information overload. Let’s take a hitter a pitcher might face. Where are that hitter’s hot zones? Where are his cold zones? How do those zones break down against different pitches? What about handedness? What about fastballs that follow changeups? What about changeups that follow curveballs? What about 12-6 curveballs, instead of slurvier curveballs? Does it make a difference what the arm angle is? Break it down enough and are the sample sizes even meaningful anymore? What if you’re just getting numbers that caught a hitter on a bad day or two? Once you start digging, there’s always going to be more earth to dig up. And that’s for any given individual player. It’s so easy, so understandably easy to end up feeling paralysis by analysis. Maybe all you need to know is “hey this guy likes to swing a lot, so try to take advantage of that.” Kind of does the trick.


Jones: What’s this place called again?
Showalter: “Chase Field.”
Jones: That’s right up my alley!



Everything you need to know about Tony Cingrani and Juan Francisco in one .gif. Cingrani throws a breaking ball a little wilder than he would’ve liked. He’s so pleased it didn’t get to the backstop he does a little hop on the mound. Francisco takes a huge, powerful hack, putting everything he has into generating bat speed. His arms get extended, and he swings with the confidence of a man who doesn’t simply want to destroy a section of bleachers — he knows he’s going to destroy a section of bleachers. The ball is in the dirt and Francisco hopelessly and helplessly misses. This .gif tells you that Juan Francisco didn’t get the pitcher this time, but it also tells you Juan Francisco believes Juan Francisco will get the pitcher the next time. Juan Francisco would tell you to bank on it.


Juan Francisco has about the same swing rate, the same out-of-zone swing rate, and a higher contact rate than Yasiel Puig.


Betancourt: I didn’t see anything wrong with any part of that sequence.


This is what Tony Cingrani looks like after he registers a strikeout with a breaking ball instead of with a fastball. You’ll notice that he looks identical to normal Tony Cingrani. This is because he’s exactly the same person, and one’s appearance doesn’t change as a consequence of what takes place in a baseball game, unless one becomes either dirty or wounded. Neither of those would happen after a Cingrani breaking ball, unless he were to fall down. Which, granted, might happen, given the relative infrequency with which he spins the ball off. But odds are he would’ve gotten over that in the minors. “We want to promote this kid, but we should probably leave him be until he stops literally falling over on the mound when he tries to throw a slider.” If you were expecting Cingrani to look different, that problem is on your end. It also might be indicative of a much bigger and more serious problem.

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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 Swings”

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  1. Greg W says:

    Adam Jones is always playing at Chase Field.

    Your tangents are the thing you need to keep for next season, Jeff. What those tangents diverge from doesn’t matter much to me.

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  2. A Man, A Plane, Jupiter says:

    “On the other hand, this is getting increasingly difficult to write about. Which, presumably, means it’s getting increasingly difficult to read. I am sorry. I am sorry. I’ll have to figure some stuff out before 2014.”

    This series has recently become my favorite on Fangraphs, and I feel like the writing gets better every week. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

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    • Baltar says:

      Also, if you must keep only one of these, make it this one. I love the conjunction of a pitcher making a really, really bad pitch and a batter actually swinging at it.

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  3. BaseballbundesligaFan says:

    Donald Lutz, first German-born major leaguer!

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      • Darien says:

        Don’t bother me with details, man!

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      • TheRoundestHead says:

        Has a german mother and a german passport though, and moved to Germany when he was one year old. He speaks german and learned to play baseball there, I’d say he’s german enough. One could say he is the first german big-leaguer who was actually not born in Germany.

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      • Ian R. says:

        I suppose it depends on your definition of ‘German-born.’ I wouldn’t count someone like Ron Gardenhire, who was born to American parents at a U.S. Army base and went to high school in Oklahoma, as German-born.

        Even if you filter out guys like Gardy and include Lutz, though, he’s far from the first MLB player of German extraction.

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        • TheRoundestHead says:

          I think what matters with Lutz is that he learned to play baseball as a 14-year-old in Germany. He wasn’t brought up in the sport, like most americans, didn’t go through Little League and High School etc. The extrordinary thing is that he learned to play baseball like a german kid, and most of them don’t end up in the MLB. As a matter of fact, only he did so far. That’s why he is the first German in the big leagues for most people.

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  4. Baltar says:

    Is anybody even close to Cingrani for the Sigh Young Award?

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  5. Utah Dave says:

    I liked the balloon deflating comment. It seems somewhat unfair to your efforts that Clint Hurdle replaced Clint Barmes with Jordy Mercer. You could always count on Clint swining at a slider in the middle of the left hand hitter’s batter’s box at least once every couple of weeks. Keep doing what you’re doing.

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  6. JJ Putz says:

    I got a suggestion for these columns.. Make the pitching one the “real” funny one and the hitting one intentionally not funny. Like it’s trying to be funny but isn’t funny at all. It will be so unfunny, that it starts to be funny again and may actually be funnier than the “real” funny one. That could get you through a few weeks.

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