Welcome to the first part of what could be a recurring weekly series, depending on a few things. In this post or series, we will review recent baseball action and identify the worst pitches, swings, and defensive plays. We will then show them and talk about them, because baseball players do amazing things most of the time, and horrible things very little of the time. When they do horrible things, our hearts are warmed, because we feel closer to them. We could also do horrible things on a baseball field if given the chance.
Now, a few quick things before we get started. I settled on the name of this post or series before doing any actual work, and while it could be weekly, this one will not just look at the past week. It will look at the entire season to date. Or, more accurately, it will look at the entire season up through Wednesday, April 18, because that's presently the latest data I have access to. The headline for this post is a flat-out lie.
Additionally, while I have statistical means of identifying the worst pitches and swings, I can't use math to identify the worst defensive plays. Identifying the worst defensive play is subjective, and I don't watch every baseball game that there is. I see a lot of bad defensive plays, and I try to .gif them, but for the sake of this section, please do not hesitate to direct recommendations to me on Twitter at @LookoutLanding. I have two eyes and one computer. Effectively, I have one eye, because they always work together. As a group, we have several eyes and several computers. It is only with your help that we can make sure we've found the worst defensive play of the week.
On to the .gifs. I remember when I first learned how to make a baseball .gif. I honestly don't know if I would have a job were it not for that day.
Worst Pitch (Location)
63.4 inches from center of zone
I think it's appropriate that our first worst pitch of 2012 was uncorked by Jonathan Sanchez, who feels bad for the strike zone and wishes it didn't get so much abuse. I know this pitch doesn't look that bad - it just looks like a pitch in the dirt - but slow-motion instant replay reveals just how much in the dirt it actually was.
That pitch was so in the dirt that I'm not certain it was actually in the dirt. The .gif makes it look like Sanchez skipped the ball off the grass. This is another reminder for you that the Royals saw Jonathan Sanchez in San Francisco and thought "now there's a guy who's ready to take the American League by storm." This is also another reminder for you that the Royals saw Yuniesky Betancourt in Seattle and thought "now there's a guy who can really play defense." I'm just saying that if the Royals organization has its own Yelp, it probably doesn't offer very helpful reviews.
Worst Pitch (Result)
I'm going to have the pitch with the worst location, and the pitch hit for the longest home run, because if the purpose of a pitch is to be missed or to be mis-hit, then you can't fail more than by giving up a long dinger. Here we see Luis Mendoza throwing that pitch to Travis Hafner and I don't need to describe that pitch because you can see with your own eyes what pitch that was and how bad it was to throw.
I really really like this .gif, for a few reasons. One, Hafner unloads. He positively unloads on a pitch begging to be unloaded on. This .gif shows only the swing but you don't need to see more than that to know exactly what happened. Two, look at the catcher's body language. He gets up, he recognizes what happened, and then he's like "aw dammit not this shit again." The turn-away kills me, as if he's asking if Mendoza can finally be pulled. Third, this is an Indians/Royals game in Kansas City. The only people visible behind home plate are an usher, who has to be there, and an Indians fan, sitting all by himself. Watch the two of them. The Indians fan jumps out of his seat. The usher, arms crossed, doesn't move.
Indians Fan: YESSSS
Usher: They cannot pay me enough for this.
41.4 inches from center of zone
I understand that the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Clint Barmes primarily for his defense. He had a 78 career OPS+, and an 81 OPS+ over the previous three seasons. But Barmes was supposed to be able to at least hold his own at the plate. As of right now, his batting line is .089/.128/.156. That's over 49 plate appearances. Barmes spent 2011 with the Astros, and based on the evidence, he's an Astros double-agent, who signed with the Pirates in an effort to bring down a division rival from the inside. Of course, the Astros are to be a non-factor in 2012, and come 2013 they won't be in the same division as the Pirates anymore. So the Pirates screwed up, and, in screwing the Pirates, the Astros screwed up, because it's impossible for either one of these teams to be a winner in anything.
Worst Defensive Play
I have not been keeping that close of an eye on things, so it's possible that this isn't the worst defensive play of the season, through April 18. But I find it hard to believe that there could have been a worse defensive play, because I'm not sure Garza even got the direction of his throw correct. It would be one thing if Garza had thrown wild to first base. Pitchers throw wild to first base all the time. Garza's throw was so bad I'm not convinced he was trying to throw to first base at all. I think for a moment Matt Garza blanked on being a pitcher and thought his right arm was a t-shirt cannon.
The context only makes this all the more disastrous, as this error came with two outs in the ninth. Garza was subsequently removed, coming this error away from a complete-game shutout. "He was so close!" you might say. No, he wasn't. Nothing about this was close.