The Week In Worst: When Baseball Goes Wrong

Detroit, MI, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Christian Friedrich (53) misses the throw at third allowing Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) to score during the fifth inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

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

Hello there once again, friends. I'm glad we see each other once a week, because we are friends, and friends should see each other. In those sentences I was speaking on behalf of this recurring series, I guess. And as long as we're talking about this recurring series, I should let you know that I've been thinking. It seems like, over time, these have gotten more and more bloated. There have been more attempted bells and whistles, when the real intended draw is the collection of .gifs. According to my contract I am a writer, but as far as these things are concerned I should probably write a little less and let the plays stand more on their own.

So beginning this week I'm going to try to cut down on the bloat. Used to be this series was like 2010 Pablo Sandoval. Now I'm aiming for 2011 Pablo Sandoval. What's probably going to happen is that we'll end up at 2012 Pablo Sandoval in time, which would be a step back, but oh hey look at that, I'm writing too much again! Stop it, hands!

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, June 10 through Saturday, June 16. Maybe you'll find this week's collection rather ordinary. Wait'll you get to the end.

Worst Pitch (Location)

Jason Hammel

June 10

57.6 inches from center of zone


This past February, in search of a rotation upgrade, the Colorado Rockies gave up a year of Matt Lindstrom and two years of Jason Hammel for a year of Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie so far has allowed 15 home runs in ten starts, with an ERA near 7. There's talk that he could be yanked from his role. Lindstrom hasn't pitched much, but his ERA's just over 1 in relief. Hammel has served as a starter for Baltimore, and he ranks 18, 29, and 27 among starting pitchers in ERA, FIP, and xFIP, respectively. That's out of a sample of 112. This doesn't have anything to do with the terrible pitch thrown above, but this is a series dedicated to terrible things, and this looks like it was a pretty terrible trade for Colorado.

Notice that this 0-and-2 breaking ball was thrown with the bases loaded, meaning it was thrown with a runner on third. The runner on third was Juan Pierre, too, so that guy had wheels. Conventional wisdom dictates that having a runner on third takes the low breaking ball away from the pitcher, because he doesn't want the ball to get away from his backstop. It's pretty evident that having Pierre on third didn't take the low breaking ball away from Jason Hammel, and it's pretty evident that maybe it should have.


That's where the baseball bounced. Have you ever noticed how beautiful baseball fields are? Baseball fields are so beautiful. They should charge admission just so people can go into stadiums and look at the grass. I mean, I wouldn't pay to do that, but that's because I can see trees for free. Have you ever noticed how beautiful trees are?

Worst Pitch (Result)

Jonny Venters

Alex Rodriguez

June 12

Homer, 118.4 miles per hour off the bat


McCann: I want it right here
McCann: I want it right here
McCann: Riiiiiiiiiiight here
McCann: Just put it right here
McCann: Throw it in, right here, in this spot
Venters: /complies
Rodriguez: /dingers
Rodriguez: /makes history
McCann: Now what have we learned about blindly obeying other people?
Venters: You are so right
Venters: At a one-time cost you have taught me a valuable life lesson I will never forget
Venters: You are such a good leader and mentor
McCann: I can't be measured in a box score
Venters: /high fives
McCann: /high fives


Venters was pitching in relief of starter Mike Minor. Minor took a 4-0 lead into the top of the eighth, retired the first guy, then allowed a single. In came Venters, and he promptly allowed a single and a walk to load the bases. Here's Mike Minor before Venters gave up the grand slam:


Here's Mike Minor after Venters gave up the grand slam:


It would be 20 minutes before Mike Minor realized there had been a grand slam, because he was in his own head thinking about chips.

Worst Swing

Todd Frazier

June 13

45.2 inches from center of zone


The Reds were at home playing the Indians, and Brandon Phillips had just increased a late lead from one to three with a two-run dinger. The crowd was all abuzz, and whenever a clutch home run is hit by the home team, people don't really notice the next at-bat, because they're still thinking about the dinger. That was Todd Frazier's consolation after attempting a terrible swing at this first pitch. Unfortunately for Todd Frazier, his was the second at-bat after Phillips' home run, and he didn't notice the first one.


As a desperate two-strike swing attempt, this would be all kinds of ugly. This was the first pitch of Frazier's plate appearance. He'd be looking for a fastball in the zone, or at least near the zone. He swung at a breaking ball that bounced well in front of the plate.


In Frazier's defense, the ball did bounce back up into the strike zone. If you looked only at screenshots from before the pitch was thrown, and right after Frazier whiffed, you'd think, "Todd Frazier swung through a normal pitch, and the Indians' catcher catches weird."

Worst Defensive Play

Christian Friedrich, Wilin Rosario

June 16

For a while, this was a pretty dull week for bad defense. I went into Saturday with a few Worst Defensive Play candidates, but none of them sang. Then Saturday came and went and I didn't have to worry about a mediocre selection anymore. Because the Rockies brought defense so bad I had to break the play up into three separate .gifs so as not to incinerate your browser.


Here we have a comebacker deflecting off the pitcher's glove. Not great, but nothing remarkable -- pitchers don't get a lot of time to prepare for grounders like that. Friedrich sprints off the mound, recovers the ball quickly, and then throws wildly to first. A bad mistake, and an entirely too common one. The play is not over.


Friedrich threw the ball to no-man's land, and it was eventually recovered by catcher Wilin Rosario, who slid for some reason. When Rosario picked up the ball and got into throwing position, he must have recognized that Miguel Cabrera was nearly to third base. He must have recognized Miguel Cabrera and known that he's not particularly fleet of foot. There was no reason at all for Rosario to try to throw to third base. He should've just returned the ball to an infielder, casually, because Cabrera wasn't going to keep going. Rosario threw to third base, which was being covered by Friedrich, and not a third baseman.


The Tigers' announcers got it right when they called this a Little League home run. Miguel Cabrera bounced a grounder in the infield and came all the way around on throwing errors. And Cabrera was booking it the whole way, by which I mean Cabrera was basically jogging.


This wasn't Miguel Cabrera in a full-on sprint. Or maybe it was, because I don't know if I've seen Miguel Cabrera sprint, but this wasn't Miguel Cabrera going very fast. He scored because the pitcher hurried a throw for no reason, and the catcher made a throw for no reason. Miguel Cabrera advanced 360 feet on what should've been a ground-out.

Friedrich: (to self) Great pitch, you got Cabrera to ground it!
Friedrich: (to self) Now just field this chopp-
Friedrich: (to self) Oh no, get it! Get it!
Friedrich: (to self) Now just throw to fi-
Friedrich: (to self) Oh no, oh no, oh no
Friedrich: (to self) Go cover third, go cover third
Friedrich: (to self) Ugh this could not possibly have gone any worse
Friedrich: Rockiescabrera3
Friedrich: (to self) I am the worst player in the whole world

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