The Week In Worst: When Baseball Goes Wrong

Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris (20) watches from the dugout after being pulled from the game against the New York Mets during the seventh inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE

Continuing a recurring weekly series, in which we review the worst pitches, swings, and defensive plays in recent baseball action.

Greetings, friend or stranger. Welcome to the third edition of The Week In Worst, which is also the first edition of The Week In Worst that only actually looks at one week. The first edition looked at a few weeks. The second edition looked at a week and a half. This edition lives up to the series' name, making it the first edition that isn't a lie. You might be concerned that, by looking at less baseball, the worsts will be less worse. Rest assured that, no matter how little time you look at, some baseball players will have been terrible.

For those who might be new or who might have forgotten, this is a series dedicated to bad pitches, swings, and defensive plays. The bad pitches and swings are identified mathematically. The bad defensive plays are identified subjectively. Because I don't watch every pitch of every game, I can never be sure if I've identified the worst defensive play of the week, but I always give it a good shot. Please feel free to leave similar or worse defensive plays in the comments below.

To the .gifs. The baseball considered: Sunday, April 29 through Saturday, May 5. Sunday, May 6 will be considered next time, which hopefully you already figured out.

Worst Pitch (Location)

Pitcher
Bud Norris

Date
April 30

Location
73.4 inches from center of zone

Norriswright

Last week, the winner in this category was a terrible pitch thrown by Sergio Romo, who spiked the ball after getting his cleat caught on the mound. Here, Bud Norris gets his cleat caught on the mound, and instead of spiking the ball, Norris does the complete opposite. One wonders if Bud Norris was looking to throw at David Wright's head without making it obvious that he was trying to throw at David Wright's head. I would assume that, no, he was not.

I think this instant replay is telling:

Norriswright2

You know that a pitch was terrible when the TV broadcast uses a replay from a camera mounted on one of the foul poles. From this distance, you don't know who's pitching, and you don't know who's batting. You don't really know the race of the home-plate umpire. All the details blur. Except for the detail about the pitch being bad, because the magnitude of its badness was too large for the distance to negate.

One final image:

Norriswright_medium

Norris, both feet off the ground. Wright, turned head. Catcher, in pursuit. Umpire, looking forward, as if nothing weird was going on to his left. Norris threw a pitch so far off the umpire's radar that the umpire didn't know a pitch had been thrown.

Worst Pitch (Result)

Pitcher
Charlie Furbush

Batter
Jeff Mathis

Date
April 29

Result
458-foot homer

Furbushmathis

Well I mean, how bad a pitch could it possibly have...

Furbushmathis_medium

Catcher: So I think we just try to jam him inside
Furbush: No, I'm going to try something
Catcher: No, this isn't the time to try something
Furbush: I'm going to try something
Catcher: Please can we just talk about this
Furbush: No, check it out, experiment
Furbush: /grooves literally meatiest fastball imaginable
Mathis: /unloads
Furbush: WHOAAAAAAAAAA
Furbush: So it can be done!
Furbush: You can groove a pitch and be made to pay for it by Jeff Mathis!
Furbush:
I am glad I found that out!
Catcher:
Catcher:
I am also glad you found that out
Furbush: Wow!
Furbush: Who knew?
Catcher: I will remember that

Worst Swing

Batter
Jose Bautista

Date
May 3

Location
42.2 inches from center of zone

Bautistawalden

When I'm going through the data looking to identify the worst swing, I'm always a little worried that I'm going to come up with a check-swing, or a swing in an attempted hit-and-run. Even though those can still count as bad swings, they leave me unsatisfied. This is not a check-swing, or a swing in an attempted hit-and-run. This is one of the most widely feared hitters in baseball, taking a swing like what you'd expect from a Little League team coached by Vladimir Guerrero and co-sponsored by Red Bull and neighborhood cocaine. An alternate angle:

Bautistawalden2

And a screenshot, for funsies:

Bautistawalden_medium

That dark spot is where the ball hit the ground. That blur that looks like Jose Bautista's bat is Jose Bautista's bat. When the Mariners were in Toronto before this series, the announcers were talking about how the slumping Bautista looked like he was getting his swing back, and how it probably wouldn't be long before Bautista caught fire. I'm pretty sure that what happened was that after Bautista attempted this swing the Blue Jays released him and he went to work at a can factory, making cans.

Worst Defensive Play

Player
Michael Saunders

Date
May 2

Saundersscott3

Maybe that doesn't show you enough. Maybe this will show you enough:

Saundersscott2

On the one hand, it took an athletic play on Michael Saunders' part to be in position to do this. He had to run back to the fence in straightaway center, position himself properly, and leap. On the other hand, this could've been caught. If it weren't caught, it would've been a double. If Michael Saunders didn't exist, and if the Mariners didn't play anybody in center field for some reason, this ball would've hit the fence and come back, and the corner outfielders would've converged on it, and Luke Scott would've doubled. The existence of Michael Saunders turned Scott's double into a home run. To make matters worse, Saunders converted Scott's fly into a homer to snap a 4-4 tie and give the Rays a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh. The Rays won the game, 5-4. Not that we really care about the context for this section, but the context doesn't help Saunders' case.

The fact that I watch the Mariners more than I watch anybody else means that I'm most aware of bad defense that takes place during Mariners games. But when I put out a Twitter call for bad defense recommendations on Saturday, nobody suggested anything worse than this, and the most highly-suggested play was a different miscue by a different Mariner on a different day. Defenders make errors all the time. Those errors usually allow the batter to reach first base, or maybe second base. Here Luke Scott was like "I hit a home run!" and then he was like "wait no just short :( " and then Michael Saunders was like "let me help!" and then Luke Scott was like "I hit a home run!" Congratulations to Michael Saunders on the very opposite of a home-run-saving catch.

***


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