The Worst of the Best: The Month’s Wildest Swings by Jeff Sullivan July 3, 2014 Hey there everybody, and welcome to the second part of the year’s third edition of The Worst Of The Best. The custom here has been to write a brief introduction that has nothing to do with anything, and after a year and a half of doing this I don’t know why that started or kept up. So instead this introduction is about not providing the same kind of introduction, and, here is a link to the complete series archive, should you be curious. We’re all just here for the images. Oh, and here’s a link to the first part, covering the wild pitches. So, here come the wildest swings attempted in the month of June, as determined by distance from the center of the strike zone. There will be a list of five swings, and then another list of five swings, the latter featuring five worse swings than the former. I didn’t make a .gif of Manny Machado throwing his bat near Alberto Callaspo, but I did include this Machado mention just to cover my bases. As part of my method, I exclude checked swings and swing attempts during hit-and-runs, because I think that leaves us with precisely what we’re all looking for, but included below will be a bonus checked swing and a bonus hit-and-run swing attempt, because I feel like they should be acknowledged somehow. Off we go to the fun part! We should spend more of our time in the fun parts! 10 Batter: Matt Dominguez Pitcher: David Price Date: June 20 Location: 39.8 inches from center of zone 9 Batter: James Jones Pitcher: Vidal Nuno Date: June 10 Location: 40.1 inches from center of zone 8 Batter: Hanley Ramirez Pitcher: Edinson Volquez Date: June 1 Location: 41.2 inches from center of zone 7 Batter: Henderson Alvarez Pitcher: Jake Arrieta Date: June 8 Location: 41.3 inches from center of zone 6 Batter: Corey Dickerson Pitcher: Will Smith Date: June 26 Location: 43.0 inches from center of zone ===== It’s go time! BONUS Batter: Kole Calhoun Pitcher: Trevor Bauer Date: June 16 Location: 43.3 inches from center of zone Obviously, it’s excluded from placing because Calhoun didn’t actually swing. You can’t have one of the worst swing attempts without making a true swing attempt. But this goes as a PITCHf/x swing attempt, and as an official swing attempt, because you’ll notice that Kole Calhoun technically hit a foul ball. In the last edition of this, Eduardo Nunez swung at a pitch that hit him, so he officially got a whiff and zero credit for a HBP, despite being HBP. That’s a case of the records not quite matching up with the reality. This is another. Note that Calhoun made contact without trying, which Junior Lake thinks just isn’t fair. Later on this list, you’re going to see Trevor Bauer again. I also had to exclude one other whiff by Trevor Bauer because Josh Hamilton tried to hold up. I’m also getting used to seeing Bauer somewhere near the top of the wildest-pitches lists. There’s just something about Trevor Bauer, I guess. And that something is that he throws a big spiky curveball he doesn’t always control very well. Pretty easy to figure out if you really think about it. Trevor Bauer can be wild and wild pitchers throw wild pitches and get wild swings. You come to FanGraphs for the hardcore analysis. BONUS Batter: Ben Zobrist Pitcher: David Robertson Date: June 30 Location: 50.2 inches from center of zone At the best of times, swinging at a pitchout is a questionable strategy. At the worst of times, you get this, a swing underwater when the ball has already arrived at the upright catcher’s glove. Ben Zobrist basically decided, “you know what? I’ll take a strike instead of a free ball.” For absolutely no reason, Zobrist put himself at a disadvantage, making a bad situation fractionally worse. And you can see it dawn on Zobrist, too, as he’s mostly finished with the wave. His programming kicked in before he could override it, and then he just wears this expression of “I am currently doing a stupid thing.” Call it a moment of honesty. In the moment, Ben Zobrist did something worse than you or I would’ve. Perhaps Zobrist was trying to make contact, with the throw to second base. Meanwhile here’s David Robertson looking like a professional blogger in his old age. Don’t blog on stools or low counter tops. This could happen to you. ===== 5 Batter: Andre Ethier Pitcher: Ian Kennedy Date: June 20 Location: 43.1 inches from center of zone What I like about this one is the complete lack of recognition on Ethier’s part. Usually with these swings you’ll see a body off balance, or a back that’s bent over. Ethier remains standing and he looks almost comfortable as he misses an 0-and-1 curveball by like a foot and a half. He attempts what could be genuinely characterized as a smooth swing, and if you aren’t paying close enough attention, you might miss how bad this really was. It doesn’t hurt that Kennedy’s leg got up in the way, so I think this could be called stealth-awful. In real time, from this perspective, it looks like Ethier just missed a pitch, like sometimes happens. There’s no indication that it was the fifth-worst swing of the month, save for the PITCHf/x report. Thanks to PITCHf/x, we can give Ethier the proper insults he deserves. Nice going, Andre Ethier! You’re a real piece of work! What are you, far-sighted? And other such slurs. I think the swing looked comfortable because Ethier wasn’t caught out ahead. His timing was more or less fine. He just swung above the curveball by almost the full measure of his lower body. So you could say that Andre Ethier properly identified the curveball coming in, but he badly mis-identified that it was going to miss the strike zone, and land in the dirt in front of the plate. Which brings up a question: which would you rather have, a guy who doesn’t identify breaking balls, or a guy who doesn’t know how breaking balls move? The answer is it doesn’t matter, either way the guy’s gonna suck. Honestly you shouldn’t even make a choice because then it’ll seem like you’re on that guy’s side. People will think that guy’s one of your guys, and then you’ll look bad by association. 4 Batter: Hanley Ramirez Pitcher: Jhoulys Chacin Date: June 7 Location: 44.4 inches from center of zone With an open base and a technically dropped third strike, Hanley Ramirez here was an eligible baserunner. But rather than book it to first, Ramirez just turned around and walked back toward the dugout, allowing for a simple tag that was the syrup on an embarrassment sundae. This seems like it could be one of those controversial things, if the Dodgers didn’t already have enough other controversial things. It would be controversial on the basis that David Eckstein would never be caught dead failing to run out any opportunity to get on. The interpretation would be that Ramirez lacks Eckstein’s will to do whatever it takes. The interpretation would be that Ramirez is selfish and lazy and problematic, and these are all things that’ve been said about Ramirez in the past. The counter-interpretation would be that Ramirez was so upset with himself he couldn’t even think about trying for a miracle. That he cared about the strikeout too much, and besides, the odds of reaching wouldn’t justify the chance of getting hurt. Either interpretation would be somewhat valid, I guess. But note that we also saw Hanley Ramirez up there at No. 8. Probably the most important point to make is that, regardless of how Hanley Ramirez feels on the inside, he shouldn’t attempt really bad swings at really wild pitches. That’s not helping anybody. On deck was Yasiel Puig. The photographer behind home plate was focused on Yasiel Puig, even though Hanley Ramirez was still batting. So we might never know what this swing attempt looked like from the behind-home-plate perspective. My guess, though, is that it looked like an umpire’s butt. Earlier this year Twitter and blogs exploded when Bartolo Colon attempted an awful and hilarious swing that knocked off his own helmet. The swing was particularly clumsy, and the shared general message was, look how fat and uncoordinated Colon is, and look how unqualified he is to swing a bat in a major-league game. Colon actually loses his helmet about once an at-bat or two, and it’s to the point where the Mets broadcasters have discussed setting an over-under. Look here now, at this. Hanley Ramirez didn’t fully lose his helmet on the swing attempt, but he came ever so close. If lifted up on his forehead before settling back down in position in time for Ramirez’s return stroll to the bench. The only difference is perhaps Colon’s batting helmet isn’t appropriately sized. Bartolo Colon is the league leader in Bartolo-Colon-style-swing-attempt percentage. But make no mistake, Colon isn’t the only guy featured on the leaderboard. 3 Batter: Brandon Barnes Pitcher: Marco Estrada Date: June 20 Location: 45.5 inches from center of zone Barnes: oh Barnes: sure Barnes: now you throw the only offspeed pitch that’s ever broken in Colorado Around this swing, the announcers were talking about how often Estrada is in the zone, and about his home-run problem. It was suggested that he should throw more balls, to keep hitters a little more honest. It was also suggested that Barnes swung at this pitch because he figured Estrada would throw a strike, and because he figured he might be able to hit whatever was on the way for a dinger. On the one hand, it’s a bad idea to swing at just anything from Marco Estrada on the belief that you can hit it for a dinger. On the other hand, it’s been working out well for hitters this far, so who am I to criticize? I nominate we call this swing a snake-thumper, because, as a still, it looks like Brandon Barnes is thumpin’ some snakes. This is the pose that comes right before something is vanquished, which, incidentally, came immediately after Brandon Barnes was vanquished. It took me 28 years to begin to understand the importance of sleep, and the ways in which it colors everything. Your sleeping habits will have an effect on your health, on your performance, on your mood, on your general well-being. We all just want to feel better and do better every day, and while that’s not an easy thing to achieve, the simplest step you can take is just making sure to sleep more. With reduced sleep hours, you’ll feel worse and your days will drag and from there it’ll all just snowball on you. Sleep might be the very most important thing, as easy as it is to underappreciate. Brandon Barnes just turned 28 in May. Perhaps any day now he’ll arrive at the same epiphany. With better sleep, perhaps Brandon Barnes could’ve avoided this whole section. 2 Batter: Robinson Cano Pitcher: Trevor Bauer Date: June 27 Location: 48.9 inches from center of zone It’s a mostly beautiful baseball sequence. Trevor Bauer, for as involved as his delivery is, is cool and collected, with an easy follow-through that sets him on a walking path toward the dugout. Robinson Cano is here caught whiffing for a third strike, but his swing is smooth if off the mark, and no part of him looks out of sorts despite the egregiousness of this attempt. The umpire back there just raises one finger, but he does it with a snap, with flair, adding some spice to the end of this inning. The curveball is sharp, obviously sharp, in order to compel a hitter like Cano to attempt a swing like this. This pitch sequence is mostly baseball art, but for Yan Gomes acting like a total spaz. Look over there, in the back, above where it advertises the upcoming Hisashi Iwakuma bobblehead night. Look at the two fans — the man in the hat and light blue shirt, and the woman next to him in white, chin resting on her hands. Okay, keep your attention fixed on them. Find them now in this picture, taken moments later: Mirrored anguish. Faces up, arms raised, both of them expressing exasperation. The man on the other side of the woman in white is frustrated, too. Now, these are familiar poses. The arms-up pose is the universal expression of “what the hell dude”, and looking skyward is to look for an answer in the heavens. These aren’t even reactions we’re taught; these are instinctive, automatic, a part of our wiring. What’s weird is not that we’re observing these reactions at a sporting event. What’s weird is that we’re observing these reactions as a Seattle Mariners sporting event. This is what it’s like to watch competitive baseball. Competitive baseball doesn’t condition and knead the emotional responses right out of you. Competitive baseball allows you to feel, for better and for worse. With swings like this, announcers often can’t help themselves from making some reference to cricket. The joke being, ha-ha! The baseball player must think he’s playing a different sport entirely! The Indians broadcast eventually settled on the same cricket joke, but not before trying to zig by making a jai alai joke. I’ll admit I have only a rudimentary understanding of the rules and gameplay of jai alai, but they probably should’ve just stayed with the cricket joke. 1 Batter: Chris Carter Pitcher: David Price Date: June 15 Location: 51.3 inches from center of zone David Price turns his head to look away. Jose Molina kind of pauses, astonished. The umpire signals strike and stares at Carter in disbelief. This was the first pitch of this at-bat. This was Chris Carter looking dead red. Looking dead red, Chris Carter attempted the worst swing of the entire month of June. Also, of the entire month of May. Also, of the entire month of April. Looking dead red, 0-and-0, Chris Carter attempted the worst swing of the first half of the regular season. Carter must’ve been completely humiliated. …or he just took it all in stride. Sometimes, strikeout-prone hitters deny that they’re strikeout hitters. Hitters with higher expectations for themselves can get easily frustrated. Most hitters look at a whiff as a failure, and a failure can make you question whether you belong where you are. Chris Carter has come to terms with being Chris Carter. For Chris Carter, a whiff is a strike, no more and no less. Carter can see the humor in some of his whiffs, and as long as there’s the occasional homer, what’s the harm? You can still swing in an 0-and-1 count. You can still dinger in an 0-and-1 count. And damned if Chris Carter wasn’t determined to try. As hard as it can be to accept one’s own shortcomings, Chris Carter has a lot of experience demonstrating them. That’s pretty damning. This is even more damning, in delicious super-slow motion: Chris Carter has a higher contact rate than both Jon Singleton and George Springer. Dwell on that. Chris Carter attempted this swing at a first pitch. This season, when he’s swung, he’s made more frequent contact than two of the Astros’ very best young position players. I wonder if they bond over that. They could call themselves the Strikeout Sisters, if they were women. Alternatively they could call themselves the Thump Buddies, since they like to hit for power. That way it calls less attention to their problems. I bet they call themselves the Thump Buddies. Carter: I am expecting a fastball on the next pitch too Carter: and I will swing as if a fastball is indeed on the way Carter: completely regardless of the pitch’s true classification Carter: feeling pretty due for a fastball! Molina: yeah you’re due for a fastball There’s something a little odd about the first .gif. Notice, in the background, a boy stands up, and then the girl next to him. Maybe they’re just going to concessions together, or- I’m not feeling so good about this. Every time you watch a baseball game, you see something new. Chris Carter attempted the worst swing of the season on a first-pitch breaking ball from David Price, and a young man in an orange t-shirt was cuckolded by a fuzzy green Orbit.