Hey there, and welcome to the second part of the sixth edition of The Worst Of The Best. Here’s a link to last week’s second part, which happened to cover twice as many weeks as usual due to reasons. This post would’ve gone up sooner in the day, but MLB.tv chose this afternoon to be obnoxiously buggy with the archives, and this series is completely, utterly, helplessly dependent on MLB.tv functioning like a reliable service. Which it normally does, because it’s great, but that only makes it all the more frustrating when it doesn’t, especially when you need it for part of your job. If MLB.tv were to never work again, I, too, would never work again, here. I’d be stripped naked. When the archives are malfunctioning, I lose my cool. I yelled at my computer because I couldn’t watch Jeff Locke throw a two-strike breaking ball to Kyle Lohse for 20 minutes. There’s an ugly side to me, and MLB.tv knows just how to reveal it to the world.
Anyway, I was eventually able to obtain everything I needed, so off we go with the week’s five wildest swings, or five swings at pitches furthest from the center of the strike zone. I don’t count attempted hit-and-runs, and I don’t count checked swings that were judged to have gone too far. That Lohse swing I waited 20 minutes to see? Checked. We’re looking at games from between May 10 – May 16, and of course there are going to be .gifs ahead. I hope you like two-strike breaking balls, because we’ve got a lot of ’em. And only three pitchers! Unless you count a fourth pitcher, who was serving as a hitter. Whatever, you’ll see what I mean. Let’s get this over with.
- Batter: Ramiro Pena
- Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner
- Date: May 11
- Location: 34.9 inches from center of zone
I don’t think I lift my feet up high enough when I walk. It’s not like I shuffle around or anything, and I move quickly, but I’m unusually prone to stumbling over roots or unevenness in sidewalks. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember, and as a response mechanism, instead of learning to step higher, I’ve tried to make it look more graceful. I’ve learned, over time, to rapidly regain control of myself and turn a stumble into a kind of dance move or spin. So now when I trip I look weird, but I don’t necessarily look like a complete idiot who tripped on the sidewalk. I just look like a guy who likes to move abruptly and spontaneously. This came out of experience — entirely too often, I found that I would trip. The response developed gradually. I notice that Ramiro Pena looks pretty graceful in spinning around after whiffing at Bumgarner’s breaking ball in the dirt above.
In this screenshot, you can’t really see the baseball. It’s the best I could do and after a few minutes I got frustrated of trying to get a better screenshot and quit. It’s not that there wasn’t a baseball — it’s that it was moving too fast, and bounced, and what hints there are of a baseball are faint and blurry. Maybe it’s partially lost in home plate. You can see where the baseball just bounced. When I was a kid, my brother and I used to play imaginary sports. We’d play football with a football, or basketball with a basketball, but there would be imaginary teammates and opponents and we’d simulate realistic action. In football, we’d tackle ourselves, or bat passes away. In basketball, we’d block ourselves, or give rebounds to the other team. I don’t know how realistic it actually was but it felt realistic, dammit. The image above looks like the Giants and Braves were playing imaginary baseball, with an imaginary baseball. In this situation, Bumgarner was “pitching” to Pena. Though Bumgarner didn’t throw an actual ball, in the interest of being realistic, Pena chased what he imagined to be a breaking ball in the dirt. Because even in his imagination, Ramiro Pena is undisciplined.
- Batter: Edinson Volquez
- Pitcher: Stephen Strasburg
- Date: May 16
- Location: 37.0 inches from center of zone
Honestly I’m surprised that every week this isn’t just a list of pitcher swings against Stephen Strasburg. Some of you might want for me to disqualify pitcher swings, on account of pitchers aren’t hitters, but pitchers are hitters at least as long as the National League is the National League, and I’m not going to think about disqualifying them until or unless they become a problem. Which they aren’t. I think they’re like candy. Too much candy is always a bad thing. I don’t mean in the long term, for your health — I mean, after you eat too much candy, you immediately feel ill. Candy is straight-up short-term upside. But a piece of candy every now and again? Consumed sparingly, in the right situations? It’s hard to beat, and it’ll keep elevated your level of candy appreciation. Candy isn’t a problem. Our self-control is a problem. Given self-control, candy can be a part of any healthy, happy lifestyle. I forgot what we were talking about.
Now that’s how you miss a breaking ball. The barrel of Volquez’s bat is at the level of his thigh. The end of Volquez’s bat is at the level of his knee. The pitch to Volquez is at the level of his ankle. Volquez, in his career, has batted 219 times. He has three walks and 97 strikeouts. He’s swung at more than 38% of pitches out of the zone, and less than 52% of pitches in the zone. His three walks came against Trevor Cahill, Tommy Hanson, and Jeff Locke. All were six-pitch plate appearances; all were full counts. Pitchers suck at throwing strikes. (Especially Edinson Volquez.)
You’ll notice that Volquez could’ve tried to run to first. You’ll notice that he didn’t, and was easily tagged out. Did Volquez just forget what to do in this situation? Here’s the first pitch of the at bat:
I’m pretty sure Volquez just had zero interest in actually getting on base. I’d love to know what Volquez was thinking about during this at bat, because I’m pretty certain he wasn’t thinking about this at bat.
Jean Segura has seven multi-hit games since May 4. On the year he’s batting .353 with a near-four-digit OPS, and as an additional surprise, he’s already launched seven home runs. Segura has been rated a good prospect in the past and he was an important get for Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade, but even still he’s been one of the National League’s bigger surprises, contributing consistently both at the plate and in the field. As good as Segura has looked, though, here we get to see him be an idiot. Because no one in baseball is immune to being an idiot from time to time. Good players look like idiots far less often than bad players, but the magic of .gifs is that we can see good players look like idiots however much we want. Jean Segura sure has been on fire this season. Jean Segura swung, confidently, at this curveball. How good could he be?
Whenever a catcher calls for a two-strike breaking ball in the dirt, I wonder if there’s any hesitation. “I’m probably going to have to chase this.” The assumption I’m making is that on some level catchers are lazy. When a catcher calls for a two-strike breaking ball down, and the pitcher executes perfectly, the catcher has to do a bunch more work. Being a catcher sucks.
- Batter: Alfonso Soriano
- Pitcher: Stephen Strasburg
- Date: May 11
- Location: 41.3 inches from center of zone
All of these have been two-strike breaking balls in the dirt. Which means all of these have presented opportunities for the batters to run down to first base, after whiffing. This one’s no exception, and I want to pause for a moment to acknowledge how a routine out isn’t always a routine out. Generally, when the ball gets away with two strikes, we still assume the out. Look at the play that Wilson Ramos had to make here to get Soriano by a hair:
Ramos barely had time to set his feet and concentrate on his target. He threw a strike to first base from 120 feet away, and his throw wasn’t just on target in isolation — it was on target with a baserunner in the way. That’s incredible to me, and while you could say that maybe Ramos shouldn’t have let the ball get away in the first place, this was a Stephen Strasburg breaking ball in the dirt and Ramos had his body square. It just took a funny bounce, and then Ramos recovered to get Soriano out a second time. Being a catcher sucks and it is hard. When you’re a catcher and you make a play like this you don’t even get enough love from fans and observers. Kudos to you, Wilson Ramos. This is good. You are good.
You’d think, after all of these years, that Alfonso Soriano wouldn’t pause before taking off for first base after a bad swing with two strikes.
Segura was gone instantly, above. Soriano hesitated. Alfonso Soriano. Soriano should probably attempt all of his two-strike swings on the run, just to be prepared.
Pretty appropriate facial expression for Alfonso Soriano right here.
- Batter: Chris Johnson
- Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner
- Date: May 11
- Location: 41.6 inches from center of zone
We’re going to try something different here. Which of these Chris Johnson swings against Madison Bumgarner from May 11 is the wildest swing of the week?
It’s the first one. The first one is the wildest swing of the week. But Johnson faced Bumgarner three times. Johnson struck out swinging against Bumgarner three times, all on low breaking balls, which you see above. Don’t mind the fact that the third .gif looks different from the other two — that’s more evidence of today’s MLB.tv obnoxiousness. LOOK WHAT YOU REDUCED ME TO MLB.TV, YOU REDUCED ME TO GRAPHIC IMAGE INCONSISTENCY
I don’t know what else to say. Chris Johnson got owned. A lot!
“Life’s better when we’re connected” would’ve been a twisted tagline for The Human Centipede. I never saw The Human Centipede and I have approximately zero interest in changing that, since I’m pretty sure it would be unpleasant and horrible. In a way you could say Chris Johnson had The Human Centipede of baseball games against Madison Bumgarner. This might read like I made a bet with a friend that I could weave The Human Centipede into the body of a baseball post on FanGraphs, but, no. I’m just a bad writer.
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