The Worst Pitches of 2011

Our braintrust is hard at work identifying the game’s best pitches for all of your February needs. Now it’s time to uncover some of the worst pitches in the game — with as little snark as possible. Because even the worst pitch in the big leagues is way, way better than most of us can manage. And if a pitcher owns a pitch on this list, they must be doing something else right in order to remain in the big leagues. Either that, or they’re not long for the bigs.

At least identifying poor pitches can be a useful and enjoyable exercise. And you’re supposed to do thirty minutes of that every day, so that’s an extra benefit for us.

Kyle Lohse
PITCHf/x: 3.6%, 88.9 mph, -7.1 H-move, 9.4 V-move
Results: 0% SwStrk, 64.4% Strk, -3.2 wFB, -0.2 FB/C

Four-seam fastballs are not usually about whiffs. And obviously there’s some sort of classification thing going on with his sinker and his fastball — he probably didn’t just drop his fastball usage down to under four percent last year. He’s probably been using his sinker like other pitchers use their fastballs for a while now. But his lack of usage and whiffs still does mean something. (It means he knows that fastball isn’t very good.) Sure, it gets an okay strike rate, but in our PITCHf/x database he didn’t get a single whiff on the pitch (n=101). Even if the fastball isn’t usually about ground balls either, Lohse only got grounders on 26% of his four-seamers. To make matters worse, the Cardinals starter only got ground balls on 41% of his sinkers — and barely any whiffs either. Back to the four-seamer — know that if you’re seeing it, be ready to swing because you’ll make contact and that contact won’t burn worms. John Lackey had a two-seamer that didn’t get a single whiff (n=68), so he deserves an ‘honorable’ mention.

Video: How are you going to get video of a bad pitch? By searching for ‘home run, Kyle Lohse, fastball.’ Look at this nice, straight, 81 MPH meatball served up to Laynce Nix in 2009.

Ryan Vogelsong
PITCHf/x: 15.8%, 87.7 mph, 0.5 H-move, 6.3 V-move
Results: 5.4% SwStrk, 67.7% Strk, -9.5 wSL, -2.04 SL/C
Drew Pomeranz actually threw 41 sliders this year without garnering a single whiff, but that’s not a huge sample size. Ryan Vogelsong threw more than ten times as many sliders (n=464) and only got 25 whiffs for his trouble. Even if the pitch is a cutter, as some might call it, it’s pretty terrible. ‘Normal’ sliders get whiffs on 14.9% of pitches on average, and cutters about 10.1%. Oh, and both pitches get grounders over 44% of the time. Vogelsong only induced ground balls 39.5% of the time with his version of the pitch. Sliders and cutters are notoriously hard to separate, though. If you want a pitch that you can be 100% sure is a slider and 100% sure is not a great pitch, take a look at Nelson Figueroa, who threw 199 slide pieces to get 11 whiffs and 16 ground balls (41%) last year.

Video: Even after opening this up to the less-than-excellent but better-than-worst sliders thrown by James Shields, Livan Hernandez, and Mike Pelfrey, did not have video for us. So you’ll have to imagine a slider that doesn’t break much, has so-so velocity, and makes for tasty slugging. Like the one I’d throw if I could even throw one.

Wade Davis
PITCHf/x: 6.8%, 78.6 mph, -3.2 H-move, 8.8 V-move
Results: .5% SwStrk, 50.2% Strk, -4.7 wCH, -2.32 CH/C
This time, it was Chris Resop who threw 38 changeups without getting a single whiff, but Wade Davis went to the same pitch 201 times to get one whiff according to our PitchF/x database, so his sample size was more ‘impressive.’ Alex Rios, that dude has some egg on his face for his April 20th whiff on this pitch, doesn’t he? The changeup is a pitch that is meant for whiffs (15.1% on average) and grounders (50%), and Davis failed terribly on the first. At least he gets ground balls on about half of the changeups that were put into play… but he didn’t have a good strike percentage on the taken changeups. Are 15 ground balls worth throwing 201 below-average changeups (and almost 100 non-strikes)? Maybe not. This changeup is not the reason Davis has struggled in the Major Leagues — it was always supposed to be behind his other pitches, after all — but it’s also not the reason he’s done well, either.

Video: You know why Alex Rios should feel even worse? Because, just two innings after he supplied Davis’ changeup whiff, Carlos Quentin did this to a Davis changeup. It’s a GIF, not a video, but you can see the pitch doesn’t break down enough, it’s a little too fast for a guy with a 92 MPH fastball, and that Quentin is not the slightest bit fooled. Yes, according to other systems there might have been as many as four whiffs on the changeup all year for Davis — that doesn’t change the Rios/Quentin same-game egg/face situation.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

30 Responses to “The Worst Pitches of 2011”

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  1. David says:

    Laynce Nix was on the Nationals for all of 2011… so that video is not from 2011.

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  2. bossman jr says:

    Lot of complaints about this piece. Factual inaccuracies, hyperbolic language…poor writing

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  3. dan says:

    To be fair, Rios was taking part in the festivities of 4/20

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  4. sc2gg says:

    Cmon, Worst Eephus of 2011!

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  5. Ben says:

    Really surprised Phil Hughes’ fastball didn’t show up on this.

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  6. Charles Strnad says:

    Actually, Alex Rios would probably show up on just about anybody’s worst pitch, of any kind, from 2011.

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  7. jim says:

    since when does drew pomeranz throw a slider?

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  8. Benjamin says:

    How about any pitch that Mariners rookie Anthony Vasquez threw last year?

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  9. Jthom17 says:

    Matt, I Believe Whiff % is calculated on number of strikes thrown for a particular pitch type–not total of number pitches.

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  10. EnricoPalatzzo says:

    You can’t declare a pitch bad just based on the swinging strike rate. I also don’t see how you’re declaring Ryan Vogelsong’s slider as worst, since he didn’t throw a single slider in 2011 according to this site.

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