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

Hi everybody and welcome to the second part of the first part of a new recurring Friday series. The series began with the week’s wildest pitches, and now we move on to the wildest swings because batters need to be ridiculed for their humiliating failures too. So often, we celebrate these players for being extraordinarily talented, for regularly doing things of which we’re not even capable. Consider this your weekly reminder that ballplayers are humans and sometimes, if only for fleeting instants, humans suck. Consider this also your weekly reminder that, the overwhelming majority of the time, ballplayers are terrific.

As with the wildest pitches, identifying the wildest swings is done using PITCHf/x and basic math. I confirm everything by going to the video, and I’m not going to include checked swings, because I’m looking for full, ill-advised commitments. I’m probably also not going to include swings during hit-and-run attempts, since the hitter generally feels like he has to swing at everything so the decision is practically out of his hands. I don’t want swings attempted because the hitter feels like he has to swing. I want swings attempted because the hitter thought the swing would be productive. Each week, there will be featured a top-five list. Each week, starting RIGHT NOW.



There are two things, I think, to notice about this .gif. One is the might with which Todd Frazier swings. A by-the-book announcer would probably remark that Frazier “doesn’t get cheated” even though I’m still trying to figure out just exactly what that means. Frazier doesn’t want to hit the baseball — Frazier wants to destroy the baseball, he wants to break the late tie with the most impressive dinger anyone in Cincinnati has ever seen. Frazier’s heart is in the right place, but good intentions never got anyone anywhere. Actually that’s entirely untrue, but good intentions aren’t enough to stand on their own. Good intentions matter only if you can follow through, and Frazier doesn’t look like he had a reasonable plan of execution.

The second thing to notice is Chris Iannetta. Giving Iannetta the double-screenshot treatment:



Iannetta is covered, head to toe, in protective equipment. Over the course of a lifetime, he has caught so many thousand of pitches in so many thousands of places from so many thousands of pitchers (or something). Here, instead of just dropping down and blocking the pitch with his body — there’s no one on base — Iannetta responds as if he’s never caught before and can’t believe someone just threw something so hard in his direction. You know what’s hard to control? Your instinct to be afraid of things coming at you fast. Catchers, and hockey goalies, are amazing. Except for in this instance. In this instance, Chris Iannetta was one of us, except with a super pick.



Oftentimes, we see players express disappointment in themselves after the fact. After a pitcher throws a really wild pitch, he’ll usually look at the ground and then apologize to the catcher. If a pitcher coughs up a dinger on a mistake, he’ll make a face. If a defender commits an error, he’ll do any number of things, but most of the time you’ll be able to tell he just screwed up. It isn’t uncommon to see a player acknowledge that he screwed up. But that’s after the pitch, or after the swing, or after the play. After the mistake. Here, Daniel Descalso realizes in the middle of his swing that his swing is a really bad idea. That’s why he pulls up only after his bat does a near-270. In the course of this one swing — this one fraction of a second — Descalso travels the range of emotions from confident to regretful. Did he pass directly from one to the other, or did he pass through all other transitional emotions in between? We’re going to need a physical chemist.

Also, hey look, another weird receiving job by the catcher.



Iannetta caught the ball low and dragged the ball high. Miguel Montero caught the ball inside and dragged the ball outside. From these behaviors we can conclude nothing. They are probably completely meaningless and pointless to even point out.



Look at the exaggerated reactions of some of the fans. This swing ended the game, a 2-0 loss to the Phillies by the Braves. It was a two-strike count, there was nobody on base, and Papelbon is one of the league’s best closers. The Braves had already won the first two games of the series. By this point, one should’ve simply assumed a loss and been content with the series win. The win expectancy for Atlanta when Heyward stood in 2-and-2 would’ve been microscopic. They’d almost never come back, and indeed Heyward whiffed to end it. But then arms go up, faces contort to express anguish. “This, of all things?!” As if Heyward were a disappointing player who choked in a critical spot. You know what: it was cold and awful in Atlanta this night. This particular pitch was never close to the strike zone, horizontally, and Papelbon doesn’t really ever throw a slider to lefties, so anything coming was going to break away. Still, Heyward swung to conclude the action. Heyward’s a perfectly intelligent hitter, so I can only conclude that he did this on purpose to allow everyone to go home and get warm. Jason Heyward did all the fans a favor. And they thanked him by issuing a collective groan. Some gratitude.

Just so you understand exactly how wild a swing this truly was:


Heyward’s brain (to self): You are not Ichiro.
Heyward’s brain: SWING
Heyward’s body: /swings
Heyward’s brain (to self): You are not Ichiro.
Heyward’s brain (to self): Not Ichiro.
Heyward’s brain (to self): Did I stutter?



I’ve talked before about how it’s going to be interesting to look at Stanton’s numbers, given that he has zero in the way of lineup protection. Keep in mind, the Marlins have scored one run in three games, and Stanton’s been followed by Placido Polanco. If there’s anything to the protection idea, it follows that Stanton should see precious little to hit, since no one else in the order represents much of any sort of threat. Stanton should often be pitched around, if not outright walked intentionally. But then what about the rest of the numbers? What if Stanton feels pressure to deliver all the offense on his own? Is he going to try to put the team on his back and over-extend himself? Is he going to be over-aggressive because he figures if he doesn’t do the job, no one will? Is Giancarlo Stanton going to try to do everything, and if so, how will that be reflected? What could it do to his value? Because less than a year from now, he’s going to get traded. This is a fascinating experiment, mostly at Stanton’s expense.

The absolute best part of this sequence: the rest of this sequence.


Shown differently:


Umpire: Run to first!
Stanton: why
Stanton: no

For Stanton, it’s going to be a year of navigating the thin boundary between trying to do everything and total indifference. To be completely honest, perhaps Mike Redmond‘s greatest challenge will be trying to keep Giancarlo Stanton motivated all summer. Other young guys on the Marlins will be trying to establish themselves as big-leaguers. Stanton knows he’s a star, and he knows he’ll get traded somewhere regardless of how he performs. He doesn’t care how much the Marlins get back. I’m not saying that Stanton can’t motivate himself, since he did get all the way to where he is today, but this Marlins team is going to try his drive. Stanton might occasionally need a little help.



A lot of the time, you’ll see these swings attempted in two-strike counts, when the hitter is forced to expand. Here Jones was even in the count 1-and-1, and still he swung at this, from an opposite-handed pitcher:


Jones responded with frustration in himself, because he knew he swung at a bad pitch. He flipped his bat to himself, he tucked it into his armpit, he walked out of the box, and he made a grimace. He probably figured he gave Bowden a break. In reality, it was all by design. Watch Welington Castillo:


Bowden didn’t accidentally bounce a changeup in a 1-and-1 count. Bowden deliberately bounced a changeup in a 1-and-1 count, at Castillo’s suggestion, because Castillo figured Jones was guessing fastball. One of the broadcasts talked about Garrett Jones having “premeditated swings”, and this would be compelling evidence in support of the theory. Garrett Jones appears to be a guess hitter. Garrett Jones owns a career 111 wRC+, and last year he slugged .516. Is it that difficult for pitchers and catchers to out-think Garrett Jones? The only reasonable conclusion is that Garrett Jones is some sort of impossibly perceptive genius.

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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.

36 Responses to “The Worst of the Best: The Week’s Wildest Swings”

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  1. D says:

    In Heyward’s case, the prior pitch was a foot outside but was called a strike. Heyward must have thought he has to chase everything close and got too aggressive.

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    • Brendan says:

      Yeah that was my first thought, I think the fans reaction was partly based on that. It wasn’t a foot outside of course but it was easily 3 or maybe even 4 inches off the plate and potentially low as well.

      That next one was so far outside that there still isn’t an excuse for Heyward swinging at it, but I remember feeling a moments pity for him last night. Get a called strike on something low and away that was definitely a ball, then you’re paranoid with 2 strikes and the pitcher goes low and away again.

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      • D says:

        Watch it on – no way that it is usually called a strike.

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        • Hank says:

          It was low sure…. but there’s no way that is a “foot outside” as you are characterizing it, in an attempt to make excuses for Heyward.

          That width is indeed normally called a strike (it was just a height issue). Perhaps you misunderstood my wording.

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      • Brendan says:

        If we’re taking that data as gospel the close edge of the marker is showing 1 foot off the center of the plate, which makes it ~3.5 inches off the plate. There’s some give or take for accuracy of course. But something 3.5″ off the plate, at the very bottom of the strike zone is a pretty bad call.

        I sincerely doubt that ‘D’ was suggesting the ball was actually 12 inches off the plate, it was an exaggeration to make the point that it was clearly a ball, which it was.

        It doesn’t excuse Heyward swinging at the next pitch anyways, so irrelevant. But it perhaps gives some context to the crowd frustration.

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        • Chaos Path says:

          Watching the game, it was very obvious after that call that everyone on the field knew Papelbon was going to throw a pitch in the other batter’s box and that Heyward was going to swing at it. You could see on Heyward’s face that he said to himself, “Well, apparently I have to swing at literally anything here, so I’m going to.”

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  2. Bryan says:

    Great series! I expect Pablo Sandoval to appear regularly.

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    • MFYG says:

      hitting dingers on balls over his head

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      • B N says:

        I’m waiting for him to swat one down with a two-handed chop, where the ball bounces off the ground directly in front of him and then bounces over the right field fence for a ground rule double.

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  3. George says:

    The camera angle at PNC Park is a thing of beauty.

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    • stevenam says:

      Everything about PNC Park is a thing of beauty.
      Everything, that is, aside from the home team.

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  4. White Blood Cells says:

    Regarding the catchers stabbing at the balls in the dirt:

    Whenever that happens, it’s a less than 2 strike count, no runners on base. In that case there’s no incentive to block the pitch and keep it in front of you. So rather than risk having the ball possibly smack you in an unguarded place, they just stab at it. Maybe they snag it, maybe they don’t, but they don’t really care.

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    • teakayfortoowon says:

      It looks like a bit of flair to me. Why not when nobody’s on base and you just got a swinging strike on a bounce?

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  5. Shlum says:


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  6. TheGrandslamwich says:

    By the article title I assumed this would be nothing but Josh Hamilton swinging at sliders from lefties.

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  7. Eric says:

    I’d say that we are seeing pretty good evidence that confident and regretful are singlet state emotions, while the in between stuff may be in a triplet state so your going to have a much speedier transition from confident to regretful.

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    • W. Pauli says:

      You are assuming that the emotions of confidence and regret are fermions. What if they are bosons having spin 1? Then the triplet state could be a solitary representation of each emotion, and the singlet state may represent either an orthogonal combination of the two, or a previously undiscovered emotion that has a predicted mass energy of 125.3 Gev/c^2?

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  8. scb says:

    If somebody actually makes contact on one of these swings, would that still make this list? Because it wouldn’t really fit the theme, but it would be awesome.

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  9. BossDogg says:


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  10. ben says:

    One or two of these pitches are actually “wild,” the rest are just really effective breaking balls. Especially that Ian Kennedy pitch…I actually don’t blame the batter for check swinging on that.

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  11. Jason says:

    Love this. Thanks for putting it together.

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  12. alecthegreat says:

    “The only reasonable conclusion is that Garrett Jones is some sort of impossibly perceptive genius”

    Love It.

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  13. fang2415 says:

    Um, did nobody notice Castillo’s reaction after the pitch?

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  14. Scott says:

    These swings look like what happens when I play MLB The Show and the opposing pitcher throws one of the approximate six balls they throw all game. I’m more geared up to swing than Garret Jones because all they throw is strikes, and things like that seen above is the result.

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    • Billy says:

      I’ve played over 1000 games on the Show and by standing around waiting til I have 2 strikes to start swinging I’ve walked 8 times. I definitely feel your pain on that one. Even a guy with a 6.50 ERA and more walks than K’s on the season suddenly has a 80%+ strike to ball ratio when he faces me. Still, amazing game!

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Must adjust sliders.

      Had Jon Jay walk twice last game, not sure he’s ever done that in real life. *grin*

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  15. Schuxu says:

    Would be interesting to see Heywards hussle to first in case the pitch ended back at the backstop.

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  16. Soomars says:

    You know what I love about the Papelbon/Heyward GIF? Papelbon’s fist pump at the end. You know he wears his emotions on his sleeve. You know this pitch ended the game, which usually constitues some celebratory gesture on his part. But the pitch is so bad and the swing so unexpected, Papelbon doesn’t seem to know if he should celebrate or be embarrassed. It’s like he’s hiding his fist pump, keeping it close as he whispers “yeah?” under his breath.

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  17. CircleChange11 says:

    My favorite part was the catcher trying to figure out how to tag Stanton without pissing him off. Well played.

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