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

Let us begin with a few notes! First, hello, welcome to the first part of the fourth edition of The Worst Of The Best. Thank you for reading because without you I would be literally penniless unemployed. Second, this post has a lot of .gifs in it. All of the posts in this series have a lot of .gifs in them, and you have no right to complain about browser locking, because you should know what to expect by now. If your machine can’t handle .gifs, it’s not going to handle these posts, and you don’t complain about the river when you can’t float across in a measuring cup. Third, per usual, this is all PITCHf/x-derived, and we’re just examining the five pitches the furthest from the center of the strike zone. Here’s last week’s edition. Sometimes people like to ask why so-and-so’s pitch didn’t make the list. It’s because the pitch wasn’t bad enough. But to sate your curiosity, guys who just missed the top five include James McDonald, Cliff Lee, and Jaime Garcia. Over the course of a week, Cliff Lee threw baseball’s seventh-wildest pitch. All right.

And a final note: don’t look for these posts next Friday, because I’ll be away, attending none of your business. I figured it was probably for the best to give you guys a warning, and I haven’t yet decided if the Friday after that will review the previous week or the previous two weeks. I probably won’t make that decision until the morning of that Friday, because I don’t deal with things ahead of time. Now we should be all good to go, so let’s watch some really wild pitches, together. You can pretend we’re family.

5

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It was the bottom of the ninth, and Kimbrel was trying to protect a two-run lead. There was an out, but the Rockies had runners on the corners, and Coors Field has an awful lot of surface area. At this moment, the Rockies were an extra-base hit away from a tie game. But if the runner on first could successfully steal second, then the Rockies would be just a single away, and a single is a hell of a lot easier to hit than a double or a triple or a homer, especially off a guy like Kimbrel. This was a pretty obvious steal opportunity, so with the count 0-and-2, that made this a pretty obvious pitchout opportunity. Kimbrel was thinking strategically, so he threw a pitchout just in case. It all worked well, except for the part where Evan Gattis expected a normal pitch. Catchers usually prefer to be kept in the loop, being the ones responsible for the catching.

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Let us pause now and take a moment to consider the dinosaur.

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I watch a lot more AL baseball than NL baseball. I watch a lot more non-Rockies NL baseball than Rockies NL baseball. If I’m watching the Rockies, only half the time will they be playing at home. So I’m only very infrequently exposed to the whole Dinger phenomenon. Which makes me feel like I’m missing out a little, because people I know who watch a lot of the NL West know Dinger, are aware of his various mannerisms, and hate him. My understanding is that he’s almost always behind home plate trying to cast some sort of voodoo curse, and here he seems to be implying that Craig Kimbrel has “gone crazy”. That would explain why he spins his own head and dances somewhat tauntingly. This is a normal, familiar, accepted part of Colorado Rockies baseball. This is an inextricable part of the viewing experience. I’m a proponent of constant self-evaluation. I think people and businesses should more commonly take time to step back and figure out if they’re still on the right path. The Rockies are no exception, and if they were to consider where they are, the front office would be left to wonder why the team is represented by an animated, juvenile purple dinosaur. Mascots are a thing, still. There are still mascots. Why are there mascots? Why are there mascots like this?

4

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If a pitcher and a catcher wanted to send an umpire a message, they could work together, where the catcher “misses” with the catch and the baseball hits the umpire flush in the body. That would probably be conspicuous and nobody ever actually does it, but it’s a possibility, if a pitcher and a catcher are on the same page. If only a pitcher wanted to send an umpire a message, the task becomes a lot more difficult. The catcher will be back there trying to block the baseball, so the pitcher would have to find a way to get the baseball by him while still keeping aim on the ump. The easiest way to do this would be bouncing a ball, since you’re unlikely to get it past the catcher on the fly. Bounces are unpredictable and they cause catchers to get out of their crouch. Here, Greg Holland bounces a slider, and the ball catches the umpire on the shoulder before escaping to the backstop. From one perspective, this is one of the wilder pitches of the season. From another possible perspective, this pitch was deadly accurate. If Greg Holland is an ass. But the umpire didn’t seem too bothered.

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Umpires and catchers really do share a unique relationship, since the umpires put a lot of trust in the catchers to not let baseballs hit the umpires. Even though this particular baseball hit the umpire, he still appreciated Salvador Perez‘s attempt to stop it. Then, right after the nice pat on the back, the umpire lifted his mask and spit. People on and near baseball fields are just always spitting. Who spits? Why is this a thing? It’s like with mascots. Why are there mascots, and why is there so much spitting? How many people during your ordinary day do you see spit, in public, when they aren’t jogging or walking through a cloud of small bugs? Spitting is gross! In Singapore it can get you fined or jailed! We accept this as a part of baseball even though it is inarguably disgusting! Why did that umpire spit!

3

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Here’s the way I’ve been conditioned. Watch Gonzalez right after the pitch. He seems to be trying to stretch his shoulder, as if it isn’t quite loose. A shoulder that isn’t loose is a shoulder that’s tight. A tight shoulder means shoulder discomfort. Shoulder discomfort means a shoulder problem. A shoulder problem means a trip to the disabled list and eventual surgery. Shoulder surgery means a career is in jeopardy. After preparing this .gif, my mind decided that Gio Gonzalez is in a whole heap of trouble. I am more afraid of shoulder problems for pitchers than I am of wasps, and in retrospect I should’ve explained that first. When I was very little I got stung by a wasp in the eye. Wasps are stupid mean bastards and I’d delight in setting them all on fire. I can’t open the window in my bedroom because there’s a wasp outside that always gets in. He got in two weeks ago and I quite literally spent 15 minutes on the floor, watching him and holding a plastic t-shirt folder for protection. I am not a strong man.

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We talked above about the relationship between catchers and umpires. After this pitch, the Nationals’ broadcast talked at some length about how Kurt Suzuki is unusually kind to umpires by always sliding around even when there’s nobody on. It was suggested that Suzuki goes above and beyond to keep the umpires from getting hurt. The problem, in this instance:

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That umpire wasn’t getting hit. Not by this pitch. This pitch was too terrible. Because of Gio Gonzalez’s career-threatening shoulder injury. Sorry you guys, you can’t ignore the signs.

2

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This is a low breaking ball with the bases loaded, meaning a low breaking ball with a runner on third. The previous pitch was a curveball in the dirt, and Gerald Laird had to block it, but the runner didn’t score. This pitch is a curveball in the dirt, and Gerald Laird had to block it, but the runner didn’t score. The next pitch would be a curveball in the dirt, and Gerald Laird would have to try to block it, but the ball would get away and the runner would score. So, congratulations, Anthony Varvaro, you did it. You can do anything you set your mind to, and you should set your mind to less self-destructive things.

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This at bat between Varvaro and McDonald lasted four pitches. Three of the pitches were low curveballs in the dirt. McDonald struck out.

1

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Wow, what an unusual view! Let’s look at a more usual view, because we don’t like when we can’t watch baseball from familiar camera angles. Here’s the pitch again, much slower:

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That pitch didn’t hit Bryce Harper, but this is what it would look like if Dillon Gee were frighteningly accurate, and trying to drill Harper on the top of the foot. This is also what it would look like if Dillon Gee were inconsistent and threw a really terrible breaking ball in a two-strike count. After Harper got out of the way, one of the Nationals’ guys said, paraphrased, “the way Harper’s seeing the ball right now, even if he got hit, he probably would’ve stayed in the box.” This was literally one pitch after Harper swung right through a high 90 mile-per-hour fastball from an opposite-handed pitcher. Just on the off chance the Nationals announcer was right, this little bit of evasive footwork robbed us of the chance of seeing something unprecedented. Imagine the balls. Who would have the balls? If I were a pitcher, and I hit a guy, and he stayed in the box instead of taking his base, I’d probably just hit the guy, with something faster.

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Bryce Harper doing his best impression of Derek Jeter taking an inside fastball.

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Gee: my bad
Buck: gee, you don’t say
Gee: let’s try that again
Buck: gee, I trust you
Gee:
Gee:
stop doing that
Buck: sorry, sorry
Buck: just trying to have some fun out here
Buck: didn’t realize you were so oversensitive
Buck: I guess I’ll just knock it off though
Buck: don’t want to offend anybody
Buck:
Buck:
Buck:
Buck:
Buck:
I mean, geeeeeeeee
Buck:
Buck:
Buck: –
z



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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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Well-Beered Englishman
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Well-Beered Englishman

This is an unusually, uh, free-wheeling instalment of the series. And by free-wheeling I mean peculiar.

P.S. I took the remark about Suzuki sliding as a remark on his general hustle and work ethic, rather than umpire courtesy.

P.P.S. Plastic t-shirt folder? What on earth is that?

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman

P.P.P.S. My comment sounded meaner than I intended. This was very enjoyable. Simply, in a peculiar fashion.

Utah Dave
Guest
Utah Dave

I was wondering the same thing about the plastic tee shirt folder. But then I remembered seeing Sheldon Cooper use one on “Big Bang Theory”. I would imagine the Jerry Seinfeld probably used one, too.

This column is great and so is the wildest swings one. My good pal Clint Barmes made it this week. I knew he could do it.

matt w
Guest
matt w

I was a little surprised the pitch Barmes swung at wasn’t in this post.

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