Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 7/11/13
Here, for maybe the first time in the history of the Internet, is a post inspired by Hernan Perez. Hernan Perez is a professional baseball player, currently for the Detroit Tigers. He has batted a few times, and is 22. Hasn’t been real good in the minors. Might be getting better. A few years ago he was a teammate of Wondy De Los Santos, who is also a professional baseball player, or was. Odds are, you don’t know a lot about Perez, if you’ve even heard of him, but this post isn’t about him. It only starts with him. The Worst Of The Best is taking a little break, until next week, when we’ll reflect on the entire first half. That’ll be fun, but in the meantime, sometimes people still tip me off on Twitter about particularly wild pitches or swings. Earlier this week, I got a tip about a swing by Hernan Perez. Later, I got another tip from another person about another swing by Hernan Perez, in the same game. That was enough to drive my curiosity, and sure enough, Perez took two really bad swings in a game against the White Sox. One was at a breaking ball in the dirt. One was at a fastball, here: On that pitch, Perez struck out swinging. According to PITCHf/x, the fastball crossed the front plane 22.9 inches inside, or, 22.9 inches from the middle of the plate. It was a fastball that Perez swung at, but it was also a fastball that stood some chance of drilling Perez in the arm. Initially, I had some post ideas that were somewhat Hernan Perez-centric, but I thought better of that. I wound up curious about whether or not Perez’s swing above was the swing at the most inside pitch of the season. That’s a difficult idea to express, so let me try again: of all the inside pitches that’ve been swung at, I wondered whether this was the most inside. As I tend to do when I have these questions, I asked Matthew Carruth for help, and he graciously provided me with a kickass spreadsheet. As it turns out, no. People have swung at pitches more inside. Below, I’m going to present the top five. Before we get to that, a special bonus: Nick Hundley dropping down an unbelievable bunt. This pitch was 35.1 inches from the middle of the plate, inside, but Hundley still managed to drop the ball into fair territory, instead of taking it off the stomach. Or, you know, worse. Now then, the five full swings at the pitches most inside, according to PITCHf/x. 5 Batter: Alfonso Soriano Location: 25.6 inches inside from the center of the plate It’s a real bummer about the camera angles, because they really distort our understanding of where these pitches are. In this plate appearance, Soriano faced Jonathan Broxton in a 1-0 game, with one out and two runners in scoring position. Note that it was the top of the eighth. Soriano saw four pitches. Zero of them were close to being in the strike zone. Soriano struck out swinging, and the Cubs would lose 1-0 an inning later. There’s talk, once again, of Soriano being on the trade market, because he’s got himself 15 dingers and people love power. Recently he’s been on a hot streak. He’s still Alfonso Soriano. That much is never going to change. 4 Batter: Howie Kendrick Location: 26.3 inches inside from the center of the plate Soriano, at least, maybe could’ve been partially excused because he was in a two-strike count. Here, Kendrick was ahead 1-and-0, and he elected to swing at a fastball almost literally in on his hands. The Astros broadcast talked about Lucas Harrell‘s quality running heater, and clearly it got Kendrick all handcuffed. Harrell just got demoted out of the rotation, by those same Astros. Either all pitchers are amazing, or only some pitchers are amazing, but all pitchers can occasionally be amazing, if only mostly by accident. 3 Batter: Brandon Barnes Location: 27.2 inches inside from the center of the plate Another case where the camera angle just sucks. Watch this .gif out of context and you think, okay, foul ball, why was this .giffed, there are too many .gifs on the Internet. But this pitch was inside. Super inside, and Barnes still swung, and the count was 3-and-1 in Barnes’ favor, and he fouled it off. That’s how ahead of it he got. I remember reading a few years ago about a pitcher’s plan to throw a pitch really inside to a hitter, because there was no way the hitter would be able to hit the pitch fair. I’d never thought about it that way before, but take this pitch. It obviously wasn’t impossible for Barnes to make contact, but he wasn’t going to be able to put the ball in fair territory, not with any authority, so the downside was a walk. The only way to really hit this pitch was to be too far out in front of it. Note again the count was 3-and-1. Barnes would’ve and should’ve been looking dead red. Bonus: here’s two pitches later in the same plate appearance. 25.1 inches inside from the center of the plate. Virtually identical. Don’t believe me? In 3-and-1 and 3-and-2 counts, Barnes swung at two pitches way too far inside. He worked a walk. Sometimes walks are indicative of quality discipline. Sometimes, this walk. 2 Batter: Matt Dominguez Location: 29.2 inches inside from the center of the plate In Dominguez’s defense, it does seem like he thought better of this swing at some point. It’s just that that point came when the swing was basically over, so there was no saving this sequence. It’s probably appropriate that this list features a couple Astros hitters, and while that isn’t meaningful in and of itself, one could choose to interpret it that way. They call this pitch the back-foot slider. The pitcher, opposite-handed, is supposed to aim a slider for the hitter’s back foot, in order to bury it and make sure it can’t get punished. I guess this is about as good a back-foot slider as you’re going to see, because it just about hit Dominguez right on the back foot. But it wasn’t supposed to happen that way. None of this was supposed to happen this way. 1 Batter: Pablo Sandoval Location: 30.1 inches inside from the center of the plate Pablo Sandoval swung at a pitch that bounced between his legs. As a result, he reached base. It’s one of 15 times he’s reached base since coming off the disabled list on June 24.
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