The Weeks In Worst: When Baseball Goes Wrong

MIAMI, FL: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins hits a grand slam off Jamie Moyer #50 of the Colorado Rockies during a game at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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

Hello there, friends of Baseball Nation. If you are friends of Baseball Nation, you are friends of mine. Hello there, friends. Welcome to the newest edition of The Week In Worst, which is back after a one-week hiatus. It didn't break on account of contract concerns, nor did it break because baseball went a week without looking terrible. It took a break because I took a break, and now I'm back and ready to catch you and myself up.

There has recently been some very good baseball, and some very bad baseball. Most of the rest of what we do is dedicated to the very good baseball. This is dedicated to the very bad baseball. 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, May 20 through Saturday, June 2. Usually, this is one week in worst. This time, this is two weeks in worst. Does that mean the clips are two times worse than normal? No, it does not mean that. That is a stupid thing to think.

Worst Pitch (Location)

Pitcher
Daniel Bard

Date
May 29

Location
87.0 inches from center of zone

Clip0018

I realize that, when I put that "Location" information up there, it's context-free. You see a number, but you might not understand what that number means. In the last edition of The Week In Worst, the worst pitch was 61.4 inches away from the center of the zone. The second-worst pitch from the last two weeks was 74.2 inches away from the center of the zone, and the third-worst pitch was 61.4 inches away from the center of the zone. Daniel Bard's pitch was more than a foot worse than the second-worst pitch of the last two weeks. 87 inches is 7.25 feet. Shaquille O'Neal was officially listed at 7.08 feet. Daniel Bard missed the center of the strike zone by more than a full Shaquille O'Neal. In a two-strike count, he wasn't looking to hit the center of the strike zone, but he wasn't looking to miss it by Shaq and an inch.

This pitch, as a screenshot:

Bard_young1_medium

The pitch was 5.5 feet outside, making it the widest pitch of the last two weeks. It was on track to be 2.2 feet below the ground at the front of the plate, making it the fourth-lowest pitch of the last two weeks. The three lower pitches were all within screaming distance of the plate, whereas Bard's breaking ball would've needed to send smoke signals to communicate.

This pitch, as another screenshot:

Bard_young2_medium

Six pitches in the at-bat, more or less in a group. One pitch in the at-bat that just booked it away from all the others. Daniel Bard threw the first-ever baseball with social anxiety.

I think what I love most about the clip is how the catcher snares the ball and casually returns it to the umpire. Most catchers aren't going to pick a pitch this wild. Boston's catcher did it and made it look natural. After his effort on Sunday, Daniel Bard has issued 37 walks in 55 innings, with an additional eight hit batters. I don't know that there's been a pitcher more wild than Daniel Bard this season. Daniel Bard has been so wild this season that Boston's catcher recognized the pitch above and was like, "oh, here's one of these again."

Worst Pitch (Result)

Pitcher
Jamie Moyer

Batter
Giancarlo Stanton

Date
May 21

Result
Homer, 122.4 miles per hour off the bat

Moyer_stanton

We're changing things up this week - instead of picking the pitch that led to the longest home run, we're going with the pitch that led to the hardest-hit home run. Sometimes those will be the same pitches, but other times they won't, and batted-ball speed says more than batted-ball distance.

So now I get to write about this home run again. It's the hardest-hit home run in recorded history, where recorded history admittedly dates back only to 2006. Still, I think we're capturing the spirit of things. Jamie Moyer threw Giancarlo Stanton some three-ball slop into the very center of the strike zone. If that didn't make The Week In Worst, then I'd be doing something wrong.

We should review the situation:

Moyer_stanton1_medium

The bases are loaded. There are two outs, but the bases are loaded, and the count is full. Jamie Moyer can't throw Giancarlo Stanton a ball, as he'd probably like to do. He has to throw him a strike. The catcher looks to the dugout to find out what kind of strike, but none of the possibilities are going to be good possibilities.

Moyer_stanton2_medium

A strike at the low-away corner. If there's any good strike to throw here, it's that strike. Even missing wouldn't be the end of the world, so long as Moyer missed down or away. He wouldn't want to miss up, or in, or...

Moyer_stanton3_medium

...up and in, such that the ball ends up over the center of the plate at Stanton's thigh. Look at that pitch. Think about who threw it, and who he threw it to. There was only one possible result of that pitch.

Moyer_stanton4_medium

A f***-ed up scoreboard. I don't know that baseball will see a worse pitch all season long. There are pitchers who have the stuff to get away with mistakes. Jamie Moyer occupies the opposite end of that spectrum. There are batters against whom a pitcher can get away with mistakes. Giancarlo Stanton occupies the opposite end of that spectrum. Jamie Moyer threw a pitch to Giancarlo Stanton and Giancarlo Stanton blowed up a scoreboard.

Worst Swing

Batter
Bobby Wilson

Date
May 20

Location
52.1 inches from center of zone

Clip0019

Now, as you could guess, this one comes with an asterisk:

Clip0020

Wilson swung at a pitch-out during an attempted hit-and-run. This is something I'm always afraid of stumbling across when I'm doing this research. I don't like when the worst swings are swings at pitch-outs during attempted hit-and-runs, or checked swings. They don't leave as sweet a taste in my mouth as regular swings at terrible pitches. But with that said, while Wilson was presumably going to swing at anything in an effort to protect his runner, consider just what he swung at:

Wilson_thayer1_medium

Wilson would've been thinking, "I need to swing at anything," but presumably there's an upper limit. Had Dale Thayer, say, skied the ball several feet over Wilson's head, Wilson wouldn't have swung. Had Dale Thayer accidentally thrown the ball into the dugout, Wilson wouldn't have swung. There is some point at which Wilson's mind would've switched from "swing at anything" to "no, don't swing, actually." This pitch evidently didn't reach that point. This pitch was more than four feet away from the center of the plate. The average baseball bat is just under three feet in length. There was absolutely nothing for Wilson to accomplish by swinging at this pitch. He swung anyway and gave himself a strike for no reason.

Despite the pitch-out, the runner would still reach safely because Padres. Despite the advance, the Padres would still go on to win because Angels. That line would've worked better at the time, before the Angels became what the Angels were supposed to be. Cursed Angels, ruining jokes that weren't good in the first place.

Worst Swing (Honorable Mention)

Batter
Koyie Hill

Date
May 23

Location
45.9 inches from center of zone

Hill_rodriguez

For those of you who aren't satisfied with a bad swing at a pitch-out on a hit-and-run, here's the second-worst swing of the two weeks, and it's just a good old-fashioned regular swing at a pitch that shouldn't be swung at. The screenshot treatment:

Hill_rodriguez2_medium

That little brown puff in front of the plate is where the baseball hit the dirt. It looks a lot closer to the plate than it actually was. Well, you can forgive Koyie Hill for chasing a Wandy Rodriguez curveball in an 0-and-2 count, right? You have to protect in that count, and Wandy Rodriguez has a good curveball. Here's where the context makes things funny:

Hill_rodriguez1_medium

I don't know a lot about Koyie Hill, but now I know I'm glad he's not on my team. What I know about Koyie Hill is his name, and this at-bat sequence. That's as much as I'd like to know.

Some of you might be wondering where the Rickie Weeks swing is. That swing gained quite a bit of fame for its terribleness. That swing was bad - the pitch was 31.7 inches away from the center of the strike zone - but it was not the worst. Still, it is to be admired. A lot of batters get fooled on pitches that break way down. Weeks got fooled on a slider that broke way away. It would've been convenient to feature a Rickie Weeks swing in an article titled The Weeks In Worst but I guess I just did that, didn't I?

Worst Defensive Play

Player
Alex Liddi

Date
May 23

Liddi_torrealba2

I'm aware that people might think I feature a disproportionate number of Mariners clips, since I watch every Mariners game. And maybe that's true. But it's not like I want the Mariners to be given the worst defensive play, and I only settled on the play above after an hour of research and .gif-watching. A lot of the options were wild throws, or outfield collisions. I think this clip is special, and the more you watch it, the more you appreciate how bad it is.

Liddi_torrealba

What we have is a routine fly ball. It's near the wall, but it's not that near the wall, and Liddi appears to settle under it. As the play develops, it looks like a can of corn in the corner. Then everything goes wrong. At its ugliest:

Liddi_torrealba1_medium

Alex Liddi is midair for absolutely no reason. Then he falls forward into the wall, the ball bouncing behind his feet. Alex Liddi is an inexperienced outfielder, and he had himself a perfectly catchable fly ball. He treated it like he was standing on unstable rocks in the middle of a cyclone. I remember there was a commercial a few years ago making fun of referees, where it had a referee trying to pour himself a mug of coffee and missing the mug by several inches. The joke was that referees are so blind they can't even pour themselves coffee. Here we have the referee from that commercial playing left field, and it turns out it wasn't a joke.

***


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