Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 6/14/13
Hey there, Pauls and non-Pauls, and welcome to the first part of the tenth edition of The Worst Of The Best. For the first part of the ninth edition, go here. For every post in the series, go here. This is what you have elected to do for the next five or ten minutes. This is how you’ve chosen to spend your time. How did you arrive here? Did you seek this out on purpose, or did you mindlessly click a link out of habit? How many mindless decisions do you make throughout your day? To what extend does this mindlessness end up controlling your time? It is important to free yourself of mindless behavior, of automation. It’s not like a switch you can flip, but, consciously involve yourself in all things. Actively make your decisions, and in this way you might re-wire previously inefficient networks. Thank you for reading! There’s going to be a top-five list of the wildest pitches from between June 7 (not yesterday) and June 13 (yesterday). These are the pitches furthest from the center of the strike zone, according to PITCHf/x and math, and of each pitch there will be images, including .gifs. It would be great to have .gifs that only load when you click on them or mouse over, but at present we don’t have that capability, so. We’ve talked about it. Some pitches just missing this list: Francisco Liriano to Barry Zito on the 12th, Jeff Locke to Alfonso Soriano on the 9th, and Jason Hammel to Ben Zobrist on the 7th. We’ve still got some Jason Hammel for you, though, to fulfill all of your various Jason Hammel needs. We’ll begin with the fifth-wildest pitch, like we always do literally every time. 5 Pitcher: Cesar Ramos Batter: Jonny Gomes Date: June 10 Location: 58.9 inches from center of zone This, like so many other pitches in this series, was a two-strike curveball that wound up in the dirt, short of the strike zone. One could say, accurately, that the curveball was spiked, although generally speaking spikes are intentional, at least in football. Brian Anderson is the Rays’ color guy, and after the pitch he chimed in to say “Give you a whole new meaning of the ‘spike curve’.” Dewayne Staats chuckled at the moderately clever joke, not realizing that every color guy makes this joke about spiked curveballs, and I’m the one who has to listen to the joke over and over, because I committed myself to this season-long exercise. Full disclosure: even though Cesar Ramos has been around since 2009, without fail I get him confused with Cesar Carrillo. Ramos has made 118 career big-league appearances. Carrillo has made three, all in 2009, so I’m probably the only guy who routinely confuses anyone with Cesar Carrillo. I think this is probably because I was living in San Diego at the time Carrillo was drafted in the first round by the Padres, so he’s the Cesar I think of first. A full 17 picks later in the same first round, the Padres drafted Cesar Ramos. Additional full disclosure: setting a paltry ten-inning minimum, Cesar Carrillo owns the worst FIP- in baseball history. Now that is a thing that you know. As I’ve researched this series, I’ve come to better appreciate the catcher/umpire relationship. Umpires count on catchers to keep wild pitches from hitting them, and when a catcher goes out of his way to block a ball in the dirt, the umpire will often express his gratitude. Now, keeping that in mind, look at this screenshot. Gomes is backing out of the way. Jose Lobaton looks like he’s about to deliver a powerful stomp to an invisible cockroach. Tom Hallion hasn’t budged. That’s how much Tom Hallion was taking Jose Lobaton for granted. Or that’s how much Tom Hallion wasn’t paying attention. Ramos: God that was embarrassing Ramos: I am so embarrassed Ramos: Chin up, Cesar Ramos: You can save this Ramos: You can bounce back from this Ramos: Face the world Ramos: FACE THE WORLD Ramos: And don’t forget to exhale Ramos: Exhale exhale exhale Ramos: Exhale Ramos: /exhales Ramos: I shouldn’t need to remind you to exhale Ramos: Who needs to remember to exhale? Ramos: God that’s embarrassing 4 Pitcher: Jason Hammel Batter: Josh Hamilton Date: June 12 Location: 60.0 inches from center of zone The Diamondbacks and Dodgers just brawled, as a result of pitchers throwing at batters. Ian Kennedy was suspended for ten games, and while that suspension isn’t actually going to hurt Arizona very much, it’s still a substantial number accompanied by a substantial loss of pay. Every hit-by-pitch is followed by questions of intent, and while pitchers almost never fess up to drilling a guy on purpose, fastballs are suspicious, and elevated fastballs are more suspicious, and there’s no question that guys get drilled on purpose sometimes. But people don’t really worry too much about intentional hit-by-pitches on offspeed stuff. If a guy gets hit, but the pitch was a curve, the argument is “why would he hit him on purpose with a curve?” If you’re trying to send a message, it’s supposed to be sent by the hardest pitch you can throw. You know what hurts? Getting hit by a pitched baseball. It hurts only a little less if it’s going 75-80 miles per hour instead of 90. So it seems to me there’s an opening here for what we might call the passive-aggressive intentional HBP. Pitchers can hit batters on purpose with offspeed stuff and by and large evade punishment, arguing it was a mistake, that the ball just slipped out of the hand. Look how easily this curve slipped out of Hammel’s hand. What if it slipped in the other direction and nailed Hamilton in the upper body? It was a curveball! No one sends messages with curveballs! People could send messages with curveballs. Jason Hammel and Matt Wieters spontaneously re-enact the best pitch Daniel Cabrera ever threw. I don’t know why Josh Hamilton turned around after the pitch was thrown. The umpire wasn’t even looking at him and the ball didn’t sail away to the backstop. What I suspect is that Hamilton was asking the umpire to confirm that he did the right thing, that this was a ball because he didn’t swing at it. “So that’s a one in the other column, right?” Alternatively, perhaps Hamilton turned around wearing a smug grin of self-satisfaction, as if to say, “look, I did it! And you thought I couldn’t do it.” Not unlike the plot of the movie Speed, Josh Hamilton’s bat contains an explosive, and it will detonate if the bat isn’t swung a certain number of times per minute. Hamilton doesn’t have his plate-discipline stats because he wants to; he has his plate-discipline stats because he has to. And as evidenced by this casual waving, Hamilton has grown used to the threat, like it’s just something that he deals with, now, and that’s too bad but life is a precious gift. So why doesn’t Hamilton swing at every pitch? Or, why doesn’t Hamilton use a different bat that doesn’t contain an explosive device? One argument would be that Hamilton feels like he thrives under the constant pressure. That Hamilton thinks the pressure makes him a better performer. Another argument would be that Hamilton is stupid. 3 Pitcher: Hyun-Jin Ryu Batter: Patrick Corbin Date: June 12 Location: 61.4 inches from center of zone Well wait now just one second. What on earth? The hell is going on with Ryu’s number? Why are the nines so uneven? They’re separate patches, sure, and the jersey isn’t tucked in evenly, leading to folding, but the numbers are super close together so they shouldn’t occupy such different planes. These numbers are more lopsided than Ryan Miller‘s eyes. Stitched properly, it’s not like the numbers are going to migrate based on tugging and stretching, so either this is some sort of optical illusion, or this jersey wasn’t stitched properly, or this isn’t a regular jersey at all and instead the numbers are magnets and the jersey is magnetic. That sounds completely absurd, but Ryu struggled with his weight in spring training, and might have drawn comparisons to a refrigerator. This is a stretch, but so is asking me to ignore what’s pasted right above. “Oh, it’s just the other pitcher,” you say. “It’s fine to throw this to a pitcher in an 0-and-2 count,” you say. “No such thing as a waste pitch against a pitcher,” you say. Ryu wasted this pitch. Shortly thereafter, Corbin drilled a line-drive single. What have we learned from this about pitchers hitting? All the wrong lessons, actually. Mostly, they suck at it, and you can throw them wild 0-and-2 breaking balls because they really suck. 2 Pitcher: Michael Stutes Batter: Jean Segura Date: June 8 Location: 64.3 inches from center of zone Some people have been waiting for evidence of a pitcher not even reaching the dirt with a pitch. In front of the dirt, there’s grass; people have wanted to see a pitch hit the grass. This doesn’t definitely come down in the grass, but look at the way the ball bounces to the catcher. Ordinarily, when we’ve observed breaking balls in the dirt, they’ve come back way up, bouncing practically into the strike zone. Catchers have had to jump to keep the ball from getting to the umpire or the backstop. This ball bounces and jumps forward on a low line, suggesting that it hit right on the lip between the grass and the dirt. The dirt extends way, way far in front of home plate, to a distance you mentally underestimate when you watch on TV. To hit the lip is to throw a really terrible pitch that no one’s going to swing at. That really gives a whole new meaning to the spike curve. “Segura” is the Spanish word for “secure.” Jean Segura, to date, has been one of the best players in baseball, and it just occurred to me that Spanish-language newspapers have probably been littered with just really terrible Jean Segura puns. Unless that’s strictly an English-language practice, so, consider this a research proposal. Is everyone insufferable, or is it just us? PFP is mostly about training pitchers to cover first base. A common problem when pitchers are covering first base is that they’ll focus on the base and take attention away from receiving the baseball. They’ll take the catch for granted and concentrate on nailing the footwork. That leads to dropped baseballs and safe baserunners. Here, we see Michael Stutes catching a baseball. But he turns away in the process, before the baseball is secure. He caught the ball clean, but this just reinforced the wrong behavior. Stutes took his mind off the baseball as it was on the way. Look for Stutes to commit a stupid error in not too long. It’s all right there, before our eyes. 1 Pitcher: Andrew Cashner Batter: Dan Uggla Date: June 11 Location: 64.9 inches from center of zone One way to measure pitcher command is to compare the pitch location to the intended pitch target. That gets right to the core of the very idea. Another way might be to measure catcher exertion. It would be a proxy, but it would probably be a pretty accurate one. If the pitcher hits his spot, the catcher won’t have to do anything. The more a pitcher misses, the more a catcher will have to physically respond. He’ll have to use up some of his precious stored energy. With a perfect pitch, all a catcher does is crouch and close his glove. Here, Nick Hundley wound up such that he caught the ball behind his back. You can imagine this as a fancy, if dangerous hockey save. Catcher + skates = goalie. But it’s pretty hard to learn to skate in shoes with knives on them. It’s this week’s edition of Find The Baseball! If you find the baseball, go outside and locate the nearest missing-cat flier. Then go to a pet store or shelter and get a similar or identical-looking cat to the missing one. Then proceed to call the phone number of the grief-stricken owners and tell them you have a cat. When they excitedly ask if it’s their cat, respond “No.” Here’s Nick Hundley, just catching a baseball behind his back, no big deal. Just some casual acrobatics. Here’s Andrew Cashner, not noticing. Frequently, after a pitch like this, you’ll see the pitcher acknowledge to the catcher that he screwed up. He’ll find some means of expressing “my bad,” like nodding, or tapping himself on the chest, or saying “my bad.” It doesn’t really mean much but it’s at least an admission of guilt, a sign of taking accountability. There’s no such expression on Cashner’s part. Does Andrew Cashner not think it was his bad? Does he think it was Nick Hundley’s bad? That doesn’t make any sense. You don’t think anything of the acknowledgment at the time, but without one, the interaction is all weird.
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