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

Hey there everybody, and welcome to what you’re doing now. If you’re reading this, this is what you are doing. This is not what you were doing before — I don’t know what you were doing before. This is not what you will be doing soon — I don’t know what you will be doing soon. There is, literally, a world of options. But what you’re doing now? It’s this. Maybe you intended it this way. Maybe you just wound up here, somewhat unconsciously, because you’re distracting yourself from work or you’re distracting yourself from boredom. Do you know how many things you do a day you don’t think about? Of course you don’t. You don’t think about them. But there are a lot. Quite a lot, for some. Reading this today might be one of them. Or if you’re here on purpose, thanks! You are sweet.

It’s time to look at five wild swings, from between August 23 and September 5. As a reminder, I was away last Friday; as another reminder, I’ll be away next Friday, so the following edition of this will also cover two weeks. What did we get from the last two weeks? Some wild swings, and some regular swings that don’t get talked about here. And lots of pitches that weren’t swung at, even a little bit. Here, five awful swings at breaking balls out of the strike zone. A couple checked swings I excluded: Wilkin Ramirez vs. Danny Duffy, and Evan Longoria vs. Ivan Nova. I’m pleased with what we’re left with. I still wish I could write about someone swinging at a pitch at his eyes, but those don’t really come up under this methodology. And that seldom happens. I’ll probably have to dedicate a post specifically to that in November. For now, not that! For now, this! Also, here’s the series archive. Links are important on the Internet.

5

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I want to back up a little bit. Dan Uggla recently had midseason LASIK eye surgery. He had it done for the same reason everyone has it done — he wanted to be able to see better. If I wanted, I could launch into a discussion regarding what is and what isn’t unnaturally performance-enhancing, but instead I’ll just allude to that. Anyway, Uggla was having vision problems, so he took time off to address them. It’s easy to see how that could be important for a hitter; it’s easy to see how that could be practically everything. You know, seeing. On both broadcasts, during this at-bat after Uggla’s return, they talked about Uggla’s procedure, and the effect it could have. Below, a transcript from the Braves broadcast:

I asked him if, those two games — there was an obvious difference in his ability to see the baseball. And he didn’t come out and go ‘oh, yeah, there was 100%, it was 180 degrees better than it was’, so all the spin, all that stuff — he didn’t say that. But what he did say was that what the surgery is going to do is give him confidence. He knows it when he goes to the plate. He’s going to be able to see the pitch. He’s not going to have to worry ‘am I going to see the ball out of his hand clearly this time?’ He said that is what’s going to make the biggest difference for him.

Literally the very next pitch:

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I’m always a sucker for the injury excuse. I’m always willing to give players the benefit of the doubt, so I’m always willing to buy that under-performance could’ve been a consequence of playing through some ache or pain. It works the same way with illnesses. It’s why I continue to believe in Franklin Gutierrez, when he isn’t actively dying. You’re not going to do as well when your body refuses to cooperate. Similarly, I’m a big believer in the benefits of laser eye surgery. It’s laser eye surgery! You’ll come away able to see the baseball better! How could that not help? Yet historical results suggest it hasn’t done much. The procedure presumably improves everyone’s vision, but maybe it doesn’t make a significant difference when it comes to hitting a pitched baseball. In this way, is LASIK like steroids or HGH? Wait, I already said I’m not going to get into this. Expect Dan Uggla to keep striking out, is the point.

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Both broadcasts talked about Uggla’s recent laser eye surgery. After the strikeout, both broadcasts basically made the same joke about it apparently not working. One broadcast was from Atlanta, while the other was from Cleveland, many miles away. See, we’re not that different. See, we are united, at least on the matter of Dan Uggla, and eye-surgery jokes. Did I just compare the city of Atlanta to the city of Cleveland? Not really, but, sure, why not? Can’t even tell the difference between the two. Practically twins. Probably why their city names share so many letters in common. L, A, N…more letters than I can count.

4

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Look at Darin Ruf. Consider what you might automatically think about a baseball player named Darin Ruf. Watch the .gif above, featuring Philadelphia Phillie Darin Ruf. Congratulations, now you know all you need to know about Darin Ruf. At least as far as what he is as a player. Some of you might have come into this not knowing anything about Ruf. You think certain things about him now. Yes. Yes, you’re right, you’ve got it. That is what he plays like.

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Ruf, clearly, was expecting to get a fastball. Ruf, clearly, didn’t get a fastball, but swung anyway, because, dammit. As such, he missed the baseball by at least one literal foot, and one could conclude that Ruf is something of a guess hitter. In this instance, he paid the price for guessing wrong. Think about the best hitters, and they aren’t guess hitters. They are identify-and-react hitters. But, stepping back, and speaking generally, don’t we all go through life as guess hitters? We guess at our partners. We guess at our locations, at our schools, at our jobs. We might change our minds after the fact, but that’s after the fact. We’re all guess hitters. Darin Ruf is all of us. Darin Ruf is humanity, and Tyler Clippard is the universe throwing humanity a curveball. Or whatever the hell Tyler Clippard’s breaking ball is.

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This is a slow-motion instant replay of Ruf’s swing, but imagine if baseball were actually this slow in real time. That would be completely unwatchable and it also wouldn’t make any sense. Sometimes it’s fun to engage in weird thought experiments, but sometimes it’s just stupid and the person suggesting it is just stupid. It can be hard to tell the difference between a deep thought and a stupid thought, but it’s not always hard, and stupid should be called out, in every circumstance. People get away with stupid, and then people develop egos, and then people can’t be fixed. And then we have society. It’s like, ugh.

3

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The interesting thing is that Pillar’s timing wasn’t bad. He had the curveball timed, and he swung appropriately, in that regard. It seemed like he identified this as a breaking ball out of the hand. If he identified it as a breaking ball, that means he wasn’t necessarily fooled. And that means this swing came from a batter who wasn’t necessarily fooled by a breaking ball. He saw a breaking ball, topping out in the lower part of the zone, and he thought, “yeah”. A lot of times, batters fail to break through because they don’t know how to hit a breaking ball. Less often, batters apparently just don’t know what breaking balls do, as if there’s no “breaking” part.

Pillar: fastball or not-fastball?
Pillar: not-fastball
Pillar: so, slow fastball
Pillar: fast or slow
Pillar: those are all the options
Pillar: hitting

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Previously, I didn’t know anything about Kevin Pillar. Had never seen him. Had never heard of him. Had never even heard of his surname. When I saw his name in the spreadsheet, I drew a total blank. Now what I know of him is that he’s a Blue Jay, and he attempted this swing. That’s pretty much the entirety of my knowledge, and from eyeballing his minor-league numbers, I suspect there won’t be much Kevin Pillar to watch in the majors down the road. What I know about Kevin Pillar is this .gif. All I might ever know about Kevin Pillar is this .gif. I wonder how long that memory will last. I wonder how that would make Kevin Pillar feel. I know Kevin Pillar for one fleeting glimpse of his existence. This is, similarly, how countless people know us. Those glimpses might not be representative, but how should those doing the glimpsing know better? Be at your best. There is so much pressure to be at your best at all times. You never know when you’re making an impression.

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Strikeout of the opponent. Reasonably close game. Among the fans we can see, not one person is giving a shit. Those ladies toward the right just seem mad. Everybody hates baseball. At this instant, Kevin Pillar hated baseball. Baseball games are basically prison.

2

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Among qualified batters this year, Adam Jones has baseball’s second-highest rate of swings at pitches out of the zone. Among qualified batters during the PITCHf/x era, stretching back to 2007, Adam Jones has baseball’s ninth-highest rate of swings at pitches out of the zone. A week or two ago, I was conducting some research, and I found that Jones is the 2013 league leader in hits on pitches out of the zone. Clearly, he’s getting some positive reinforcement, as those swings at balls aren’t for nothing. He’s a pretty good out-of-zone hitter, as those guys go. But even the best out-of-zone hitters would be better if they were just in-zone hitters, and aggressive types end up with swings like these. A swing like this might be followed by a pitch like this:

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That might be followed by a pitch like this:

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Jones sure wanted to swing at that slider three times. You could say he trended “better”, but just from that sequence, you can tell that Jones’ discipline could be exploited, as it was exploited here even by basically a lefty specialist. I don’t know why I’m doing actual analysis in a Worst Of The Best wild swings post. This is supposed to be a mindless break for frivolity. I saw a really funny shirt in Leavenworth the other day. I don’t have a picture to upload and it’s not worth explaining. Trust me though, it was a funny shirt. Ha-ha!

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We can identify that kid in the green as unsettling. He was making weird gestures, too, which I didn’t .gif, for your sake. Marc Rzepczynski could also identify that kid in the green as unsettling.

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“Just hangin’ out here, tight green tank top, lookin’ at you.” It’s fine to watch adults act like adults. It’s fine to watch children act like children. Those are familiar roles, being fulfilled. It’s not fine to watch children act like adults. That’s a direct violation of something I understand about society, a direct violation of the lessons of my own life experience. If children act like adults, why wouldn’t this desk act like a shoe? Why wouldn’t this apple act like a carrot? I’m too old to have my fundamentals challenged. I’m too old to re-define.

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Umpire: Everybody hold up one second
Umpire: Just one second
Umpire: Everybody hold up and look at this guy
Umpire: Look at what this guy did

1

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Some pitchers are overly emotional on the mound. Maybe I shouldn’t say “overly” — some pitchers are just emotional, demonstrative. Some roar, like Felix Hernandez, and some dance, like Francisco Rodriguez. Some swear, like Gio Gonzalez, and some just yell or fist-pump. Some other pitchers keep it all in. They either aren’t emotional, or they manage to keep their emotions bottled up. The most available example might be Cliff Lee, who always seems cool, calm and collected, even when he isn’t. It’s with that in mind that I love this .gif of Cole Hamels. There is just the smallest fist-pump, the faintest whiff of smugness and superiority. That’s the emotion of someone who doesn’t want other people to see it. That’s the emotion of someone who wants to express himself, but doesn’t want to get in trouble. The story this .gif tells is that Hamels used to be really demonstrative, and it rubbed people the wrong way, and everyone asked him to stop, and instead of stopping completely, now he just tries to keep it to himself while still making a point to express something. The word that comes to mind here is “meek”. But it’s almost defiantly meek, if that even makes sense. In short, this makes Cole Hamels look like a weenie.

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In fairness to Werth, he was distracted, having spent the entire at-bat wondering why there was a car on deck.



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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.


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CubsOfTheNorth
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CubsOfTheNorth

You’ll be seeing a lot more of Kevin Pillar in the majors. I bet he will be on the 2014 opening day roster.

Darien
Guest

Big Kevin Pillar fan, if only because I cannot hear his name without imagining he’s just Kevin Millar with a cheesy fake mustache and the world’s worst pseudonym trying to make it back into the majors.

Ballfan
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Ballfan

As a Jays fan….I surely hope not

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