And we’re to the second part of our third edition of The Worst Of The Best. As earlier, this has been delayed on account of current events, which have been making it difficult to concentrate. As earlier, I’ll acknowledge that not everybody wants to be reading about baseball right now, and this is simply out there for those who do. As earlier, I’ll note that I have no sympathy for people whose browsers lock up, because you ought to know by now that these posts feature a ton of .gifs and images. And as earlier, I’ll detail what you’re about to look at! This is a top five of the wildest swings of the past week, or the full swings at the wildest pitches. Checked swings don’t count as wild swings, for my purposes, and really awkward swings where the hitter falls down don’t count as wild swings, either. It’s all PITCHf/x-derived, so if you want to blame something for something, blame technology. Just don’t expect it to respond.
Maybe you saw a swing over the past week that you thought was really bad. Maybe you think that swing should’ve made the top five, even though it didn’t! Instead of assuming PITCHf/x got something wrong, assume that you got something wrong. It’s true, sometimes PITCHf/x has glitches, and sometimes PITCHf/x misses pitches. However, far more often, you misjudge something you see with your eyes. Your eyes are pretty great, considering how things would be without them. But relative to the PITCHf/x cameras, your eyes are feet. By which I mean they’re things that can’t see. The list is going to start now. This, by the way, is a link to last week’s edition.
- Batter: Starling Marte
- Pitcher: Julio Teheran
- Date: April 18
- Location: 33.2 inches from center of zone
It’s the completely unnecessary tag that gets me. Teheran knows he got the strikeout. Gerald Laird catches the ball cleanly, right off the dirt. Marte looks down and sees that the baseball didn’t get away. The umpire doesn’t hesitate to call the out, so Laird didn’t need to apply a tag. But still, as Marte turns around to return to the dugout all dejected-like, Laird is there to gently tap him on the chest. To point a finger at him, as if you say “You are out. You are this out. You swung at a pitch bad enough that I have to play it safe by tagging you.” It’s one kind of bad to strike out and then get thrown out running down to first. It’s a different kind of bad to strike out and then get tagged out by the catcher. And it’s still a different kind of bad to strike out and get tagged by the catcher for no reason. That’s just bullying. Like the Pirates really need to be bullied.
The “agh cam” sounds about right for this particular slow-motion replay. One of the Pirates’ broadcasters asked the other, do you make a note of this for next time? To which the other guy responded, yeah, the pitcher will remember that the hitter chased a slider. It’s like, doesn’t everybody sometimes chase a low-and-away slider? Isn’t the book on every right-handed hitter to throw him a low-and-away slider in a two-strike count? Is there a single more obvious pitch in baseball? How little did the broadcasters expect that Teheran knew about pitching coming in?
Colby Rasmus has batted 51 times this season, and 23 times, he has struck out. Four times, he has homered, but 23 times, he has struck out, which explains how he’s hitting .239 and slugging .565. Everybody knows that Mark Reynolds strikes out all the time, but Reynolds has made more contact than Rasmus. Everybody knows that Carlos Pena strikes out all the time, but Pena has made more contact than Rasmus. Everybody knows that Pedro Alvarez strikes out all the time, but Alvarez has made more contact than Rasmus. So far, Rasmus has hit the baseball with about 54% of his attempted swings. Put another way, Rasmus has hit the baseball with about half of his attempted swings. Jim Abbott hit the baseball with about three-quarters of his attempted swings. Jim Abbott had one hand.
What do you do here? As a fan, as a coach? Okay, Jay Bruce struck out. Jay Bruce strikes out. It was the penultimate out of a game the Reds were losing by three, with no one on base. But after Bruce swung and missed, the umpire didn’t immediately signal an out. Bruce would’ve seen the baseball at his feet, and he would’ve seen the catcher trying to quickly recover it. According to the game’s rules, Bruce had an opportunity to try to run down to first base, and if he made it safely, the out would effectively be erased. Bruce didn’t bother, and from the looks of things, Bruce didn’t even consider bothering. He just turned and left and got tagged on the bottom. Understandably, Bruce was probably frustrated, and it’s not like the odds were good he was going to reach. It’s not like the odds were good the Reds were going to rally. There was practically no reason for Bruce to try to run to first base. But coaches always talk about the value of making them make a play. If Bruce took off, the catcher would’ve at least had to throw down, and maybe the throw gets away. Maybe Bruce does reach. The probability of an out wasn’t truly 100%, and Bruce just willingly gave that upside up. Does Bruce deserve to be disciplined for not giving it his all, or is this just a case of playing it smart and not risking injury for basically no point?
If the latter, where does the line get drawn? How slim do the chances of success have to be to warrant not busting your ass? 0.1%? 1%? 2%? I find this to be an interesting thought exercise. Dusty Baker would probably find it a lot less interesting.
Somebody get that kid right behind the umpire a couple phone books. I mean, not now. This is a game from five days ago. But somebody should’ve gotten that kid a couple phone books. Or maybe somebody did, and this was as high as he got. Should’ve used more phone books.
What do you know about Ramiro Pena? Okay, that’s what I thought, basically nothing. What do you infer about Ramiro Pena based on this .gif, and this .gif alone? Probably that he’s aggressive, probably that he doesn’t have a very good approach. But, probably, that he can hit for some real power when he makes contact. Why else would he swing like that? That’s a mighty big hack for a guy at the bottom of the order. Now, here’s what the numbers tell us: over 362 big-league plate appearances, Pena has slugged three dingers, with a .062 ISO. In the minors, over seven seasons, he’s slugged 11 dingers, with a .072 ISO. Pena, for all I know, might have tremendous power potential within his body. But he never actually hits for power, maybe because this is a semi-accurate reflection of his approach. That’s the swing of a backup infielder. That’s not the swing of a guy who’s going to be a starting infielder.
A fraction of a second from now, Pena will be standing where a left-handed batter would be standing, and the catcher will be standing where Pena was standing. It’s like the opposite of musical chairs.
- Batter: Ichiro Suzuki
- Pitcher: Matt Reynolds
- Date: April 16
- Location: 43.6 inches from center of zone
There’s something you can’t tell about this, based on the .gif.
This was thrown in a 1-and-0 count.
Ichiro, someday, is going to be in the Hall of Fame. There’s not going to be a lot of question about it, and while some of that will have to do with his being the first Japanese position player to make a big US impact, most of it’s going to have to do with his US performance. Though Ichiro’s career is winding down, in his prime he was an absolute bat-control magician, hitting almost everything and generating hits against almost everything. He owns the all-time single-season hits record, and it sounds laughable today that, at Ichiro’s first US spring training, Mariners team officials were skeptical he’d ever be able to produce. In hindsight, one could interpret that as a hysterical error in judgment. But I’ve watched Ichiro a lot in my day, and I think I get it. I mean, I understand the feeling, I understand the skepticism. Because if you’ve never really seen Ichiro up close before, and you watch the way he goes about his business, from time to time he can look like the absolute worst hitter that you have ever seen. In more than one way, Ichiro is a miracle.
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