The Worst of the Best: The Wildest Pitches of the First ~Half by Jeff Sullivan July 17, 2013 Hey everybody — that’s you! — and welcome to the first part of The Worst Of The Best’s first ~half in review. This is a link to what The Worst Of The Best is, basically. It’s objectively incorrect to refer to what’s happened as the first half of the season, since every team in baseball has played at least 91 games and every team in baseball won’t play at least 182 games. But “first half” is the accepted terminology, and it’s the easiest way to grab your attention, and you know what I mean when I say “first half”, and technically we’re about halfway to the conclusion of the World Series. It’s been more than the first half of the regular season, but it’s been about exactly half of the complete, competitive season. Spring training can go ahead and get lost. I’ll care about spring training when spring training decides to provide for me more complete PITCHf/x information. What you’re going to find below are five wild pitches, from between March 31 and July 14. They’re the five wildest pitches of that window of the season, as determined by distance from the center of the strike zone. Ordinarily, this is where I tell you it’s all based on PITCHf/x, but included below are two pitches that PITCHf/x didn’t even register. That’s how you know the pitches were terrible, or, PITCHf/x just had a glitch, which happens sometimes. Some pitches that just missed being included: Phillippe Aumont to Travis Snider on July 2, Ian Kennedy to Pablo Sandoval on April 29, and Cory Gearrin to Justin Ruggiano on July 3. Those pitches were 67.8 – 69.6 inches from the center of the strike zone. The pitches you’re going to see were worse. Sometimes everything just goes to hell for no reason other than that sometimes everything just goes to hell. 5 Pitcher: Rick Porcello Batter: Ryan Doumit Date: June 14 Location: 70.9 inches from center of zone Here’s one of the problems of doing a first half in review: pretty much all of these pitches, I’ve already featured, meaning pretty much all of these pitches, I’ve already written about on FanGraphs. I haven’t done one of these since the end of June, but I don’t have any pitches from July, so I’m basically recycling old visual material while trying to come up with new, original written material. There’s only so much you can write and try to tie to a specific wild pitch .gif, so I’m deathly afraid of just repeating myself and repeating my own previously-published jokes. Here’s a joke I know I haven’t published here before: what’s blue, green, and shiny all over? I don’t know, I haven’t published it yet because it doesn’t have a punchline. Also it doesn’t have anything to do with baseball. Certainly not to do with this pitch. I guess I could customize a punchline that relates it to this pitch. No, sorry, can’t. And that’s how you write a paragraph about nothing. Why, that DQ Blizzard of the Month is upside down! But the text on the container is right side up and therefore perfectly readable. Which means the text on the container is actually upside down, when the Blizzard of the Month is sitting normally on a table. Seems like the kind of thing DQ wouldn’t want to advertise, but I wonder if this is like Dairy Queen’s version of the Inverted Jenny. Look for that cup on eBay, and prepare to sell your house in order to gather the cash. I would’ve used a word like “refinance” or “second mortgage” but I don’t actually know what those mean. In Opposite Land, Ryan Doumit faces righties batting righty, home plate is an arrow pointing at the pitcher, the bases extend in the other direction, and catchers don’t wear masks and they crouch in front of both the plate and the batter. Unfortunately for Rick Porcello, he didn’t throw this pitch in Opposite Land. He threw it in regular land, where it sucked. And to think, there are people who want to replace human umpires with robots. Tell me, if all human umpires were replaced with robots, with whom would Alex Avila share this laugh? Nobody. The answer is nobody. He wouldn’t share a laugh with a cold, unfeeling strike-zone robot. He’d just keep the laugh to himself, and that means it would be a laugh that goes unlaughed. It would be a laugh that’s kept imprisoned, and life includes only so many laughs before you’re dead, before we’re all dead. Why would you want to deprive Alex Avila of shared laughter? Is there any greater fleeting joy in our existence? Keep human umpires human. For the laughs. 4 Pitcher: Alfredo Figaro Batter: Brandon Barnes Date: June 18 Location: 73.5 inches from center of zone I’ve watched this .gif a whole lot of times. I watched it a lot the first time I wrote about it, and I’ve watched it a lot just now. I have a new favorite part, besides the pitch, besides Barnes’ reaction, besides the juxtaposed reactions of the guy in white and the guy beside him in blue. In the third row, behind the big boy on the aisle, we have a fan in a baseball cap, who seems to be following the action with binoculars. The fan had a ticket for the third row, directly behind home plate, and what he thought was, “binoculars.” He has the binoculars up to his eyes, and as the pitch arrives at the backstop, the man lowers the binoculars to his lap. Don’t worry about looking so far away, dude. The game will come to you. Or, what the hell, is that a kaleidoscope? Fan: Tickets in the third row for Brewers and Astros Fan: Right behind home plate Fan: Fan: I know Fan: kaleidoscope Kaleidoscopes seem to be one of those things you know about when you’re younger and completely forget about when you’re older, like fruit snacks and having energy. Is it one of your personal missions to feel and act a little bit younger? Go to the store and buy a bunch of kaleidoscopes. I don’t know which store. The kaleidoscope store. Kaleidoscope Emporium. Alfredo Figaro bows his head in shame, knowing his embarrassing pitch will be replayed over and over. Jean Segura bows his head in shame, too, knowing he’ll be associated with Alfredo Figaro and his really embarrassing pitch. The rest of the Brewers, as well, were bowing their heads in shame, but the broadcast didn’t catch it, because the TV cameraman was bowing his head in shame. Additionally, Bob Uecker bowed his head in shame. 3 Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo Batter: Todd Helton Date: April 1 Location: 75.3 inches from center of zone This was the Brewers’ opener of the 2013 regular season. Though this pitch was thrown in the top of the second inning, that fan coming down the aisle was just arriving. He was just about to settle in for his first inning of Brewers baseball of the year. Criticize him for being a little late if you want to, but you don’t know his story, and maybe it was entirely out of his hands. Maybe he had to rush to make sure he missed only one inning, instead of two or three or five. Maybe he’s the very biggest Brewers fan in the whole entire world. You don’t know. You can’t know. What we can know is that the first pitch this guy saw from the Brewers in 2013 was the third-wildest pitch of the season’s first half, as Gallardo spiked a two-strike curveball in the grass. “That’s probably not a good sign,” the fan probably thought. Things haven’t gotten much better. Now, PITCHf/x tells you about a pitch’s location at the front plane of home plate. When a pitch bounces like this, PITCHf/x extrapolates and spits out a negative vertical location. For Gallardo, what the calculations came up with was -3.5 feet, meaning 3.5 feet below the surface of the Earth. Meaning it could have caught the mirror image of Todd Helton’s strike zone. But the pitch was also a foot inside. As for that vertical location, I’m not ruling out the possibility that this curve never would’ve arrived at the front plane, even if there were no ground. It might have been thrown so poorly and curved so much that it would approach the plane, but never get there, eventually just plummeting straight down. Lucroy: Ever seen a man with three balls? Helton: haha Lucroy: haha Helton: No, though. Lucroy: I wasn’t really asking for serious. Helton: I have never seen a man like that. Lucroy: Okay, well- Helton: Not once in all my years. Lucroy: I mean I caught a baseball near two other balls. Lucroy: That’s three balls. Helton: Oh Helton: Ohhhhh Lucroy: Yeah Helton: No, I have never seen that on a man. Yovani Gallardo’s terrible curveball literally smelled bad. 2 Pitcher: Edgmer Escalona Batter: Everth Cabrera Date: June 9 Location: cannot be calculated And here we have a pitch that PITCHf/x didn’t record. Thus, we have a pitch where I don’t know the actual location, but I’m pretty comfortable with the assumption this was worse than Gallardo’s pitch, and I can’t in good conscience let this pitch go excluded, because it was spectacularly bad and that’s what this series is all about. This pitch counted as a legitimate ball, and it was a really wild pitch. The incredible thing is that it wasn’t the first half’s most wildest pitch. Those of you who don’t already know what was the wildest pitch must be getting your hopes up. Go on, get them up! Life is all about having your hopes up. If your hopes are down, then you have to lift them, and you might hurt your back. Have you ever hurt your back? It’s the absolute worst. By the way, this pitch followed a Mark Kotsay home run. That followed a Nick Hundley single, and that followed a Cameron Maybin home run. That was all Escalona’s doings. Immediately after this pitch — therefore, before the end of the plate appearance — Escalona was removed and replaced by another reliever. But, Escalona was removed because he was hurt. It stands to reason Escalona unleashed a terribly wild pitch because he had an injured elbow. A couple days later, Escalona went on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation, and so I don’t feel comfortable cracking jokes. On the other hand, Escalona was activated from the DL in early July, so maybe jokes are okay. MLB.com doesn’t seem to mind, as their video highlight refers to the pitch as “a very humorous floater.” The highlight also cuts out the part where Escalona was removed with an injury. The highlight also refers to him by name as Edgar Escalona. MLB.com is kind of a dick. And there’s Todd Helton in the dugout, very conspicuously pretending not to know the guy who just threw a terrible pitch to the backstop. “Just going to turn around and check my butt pocket. Always keeping things in my back butt pocket.” 1 Pitcher: Felix Doubront Batter: Luke Scott Date: May 16 Location: cannot be calculated Behold, the wildest pitch of the season so far. As with Escalona’s pitch, this one didn’t register on PITCHf/x, because it was that laughably bad. But it did count as a real pitch — it was called a ball — and I’m pretty sure this one was wilder than Escalona’s pitch, because this one veered off in the direction of one of the dugouts. Although now that I watch them both again, I’m not so sure, because at least in terms of vertical location this wasn’t so far off. This is exactly how helpless I am without PITCHf/x data. Maybe Escalona deserves the No. 1 slot. Maybe it’s Doubront. I don’t actually know, meaning I can’t actually crown an official wild-pitch champion. This is humiliating and I’m so sorry for disappointing you. A big part of me didn’t want to include this, because the baseball simply slipped out of Doubront’s hand, and in that sense it wasn’t a “real” pitch. I was maybe going to include it as a bonus. But then I changed my mind, because you know what? All bad pitches just slip out of the pitcher’s hand, and this bad pitch happened to slip out the worst. This was such a bad pitch that I don’t know if it should even count as a legitimate pitch. The Red Sox’s broadcasters didn’t know if it was going to be called a ball, or nothing. Rule of thumb: if you’re a pitcher, and you throw a pitch, and people don’t know whether or not you threw a pitch, it probably wasn’t a very good pitch. The guy in the blue shirt, next to the guy in the yellow shirt, in the front row. A lot of times, real people don’t respond to events the way they do in movies or on TV. You don’t see people slap their own knees, say, and you seldom ever see somebody do a double-take. This fan here sees something hilarious, and he points at it and laughs. This is a real-life, grown-up Nelson Muntz. Another sign you threw a bad pitch: when the ball stops rolling, it’s right in no-man’s land between the batter and the ballboy. Just how bad a pitch was this, PITCHf/x? I’d say that’s half-right.