The Week In Worst: When Baseball Goes Wrong

St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder Quintin Berry (52) runs towards Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena (23) as he attempted to tag him out as Detroit Tigers right fielder Brennan Boesch (26) (not pictured) scored in the fourth inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

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

Hello there, friends, and welcome to your weekly reminder that the players selected to compete at the highest level because they can compete at the highest level are not always competing at the highest level. Sometimes they slip up, and sometimes they do even worse than that. The worst plays are often freak events, but any of these freak events could decide a season or a World Series. Can you imagine? That would be so devastating or hilarious, with zero overlap.

You could also consider this your weekly reminder that even the most talented and highly-trained can royally f*** up. You are not as talented or highly-trained at what you do as baseball players are at baseball. So you can and probably do royally f*** up more. It's just that nobody notices or makes a big deal of it because what you do is inconsequential. Your life means nothing in this world. Go outside and enjoy things.

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 24 through Saturday, June 30. This is where I usually put some sort of witty sentence.

Worst Pitch (Location)

Pitcher
Hiroki Kuroda

Date
June 30

Location
67.2 inches from center of zone

Kurodadunn

Kuroda: Man
Kuroda: Have you seen this guy's numbers?
Martin: Yeah, I know, Dunn's beastly.
Kuroda: I think we should put him on.
Martin: I hear what you mean, but, no, not here.
Kuroda: I think I am going to intentionally walk him.
Martin: Tying run is on deck, might as well pitch to Dunn with a guy on first.
Kuroda: Yeah, an intentional walk sounds good.
Martin: It is 3-0 and the worst Dunn could do is make it 3-2.
Kuroda: I am going to intentionally walk Adam Dunn.
Martin: You need to pitch to Adam Dunn.
Kuroda: I am going to intentionally walk Adam Dunn.
Martin:
Kuroda:
Martin:
Kuroda:
I am going to intentionally walk Adam Dunn.

Kurodadunn2_medium

My favorite part of the .gif is the pitch, obviously. The pitch that I think Russell Martin wanted down. My second-favorite part of the .gif is Hiroki Kuroda's right leg. It pauses in midair as Kuroda realizes the pitch he tried to throw was more like something someone would do if they wanted to create a distraction. Of course, we all do weird things with our bodies that we don't really notice. Have you ever accidentally dropped a glass or a plate? Think about how you reacted, physically. You won't remember, but you did something weird with your hands.

Worst Pitch (Location), Honorable Mention

Pitcher
Josh Lindblom

Date
June 28

Location
64.1 inches from center of zone

Torreslindblom1

It's about time one of these worst pitches finally hit a guy. The guy in this case was Andres Torres, and to make matters worse, Torres was squaring around to bunt, although he was bunting for a hit and not for a sacrifice. Lindblom succeeded in that he did not allow Torres to bunt for a hit. He failed in that he put Torres on base. He succeeded in that, by hitting Torres on the foot, he might have slowed Torres down. It's the game within the game.

Although this pitch ended with Torres getting hit and advancing to first, it's noteworthy how committed he was to getting that bunt down on the grass.

Torreslindblom1_medium

That pitch is aimed squarely at Andres Torres' leg. Torres hasn't given up on the bunt yet. "Maybe," he thinks. "Maybe this is going to be the greatest bunt of all time."

Andres Torres did not lay down the greatest bunt of all time. He did get to participate in one of the better .gifs of the week.

Torreslindblom2

Josh Lindblom threw a pitch. A second later, he was looking at Andres Torres' butt, and his own catcher's butt. The synchronized turns look like something Andres Torres and Matt Treanor practiced.

Worst Pitch (Location), Honorable Mention

Pitcher
Franklin Morales

Date
June 28

Location
61.5 inches from center of zone

Moralesolivo

This horrible pitch is just Hiroki Kuroda's horrible pitch, only slightly less horrible. I don't usually like to be redundant. But I had to include this pitch because not only was it the third-worst pitch of the week, but also because it was a pitch so bad Miguel Olivo didn't swing at it. And that made Miguel Olivo uneasy. Look at Olivo's left hand after the baseball sails by. He doesn't know what to do and he feels like he should've done something.

Said Mariners broadcaster Mike Blowers immediately prior to this pitch:

The other thing with Morales, too, he's done a good job -- when he's missed with pitches he's missing off the plate. There hasn't been many pitches in the middle of the dish.

Nailed it. This pitch raised a red flag, and the Red Sox subsequently held a brief mound conference. What'd you think of Morales' pitch, Bobby Valentine?

Moralesolivo2_medium

It's a special brand of bad that can pull a coach away from his game face and simply leave him chuckling. "Hey, relax kid, it's just a game. And you just really messed up in the game."

Worst Pitch (Result)

Pitcher
Cole Hamels

Batter
Giancarlo Stanton

Date
June 30

Result
Homer, 120.0 miles per hour off the bat

Hamelsstanton1

The trouble with these things is that the fastest home run of the week isn't always hit off a terrible pitch. It frequently is, but sometimes the pitch is okay and batters like Giancarlo Stanton just do Giancarlo Stanton things to them. Giancarlo Stanton does a lot of Giancarlo Stanton things. Nelson Cruz also does a lot of Giancarlo Stanton things. Here's where this pitch was:

Hamelsstanton_medium

It's a fastball, which is hittable, and it's at thigh-level, which is hittable. But it's right over the outside edge of the plate. If that pitch were to be hit hard you'd at least expect it to be hit hard the other way. Stanton pulled that for a home run to left-center field. He pulled it as the second-fastest home run of the season. This Giancarlo Stanton home run at 120.0 miles per hour is second only to a Giancarlo Stanton home run at 122.4 miles per hour. Sensing it was special, this home-run ball returned itself to the field of play after leaving the boundary, so that it could be examined and preserved.

Hamelsstanton2

Worst Swing

Batter
Adam LaRoche

Date
June 28

Location
51.3 inches from center of zone

Larocheoutman

This was the worst swing of the week, and this doubled as the tenth-worst pitch of the week. Ordinarily, the worst pitches are balls for some length on the spreadsheet before you encounter a swing, because of course generally speaking batters don't swing at the very worst pitches. Adam LaRoche didn't swing at the very worst pitch, but based on this .gif, he might've were he given the chance. LaRoche did swing at the worst pitch that he saw. Here's how badly this was thought out on LaRoche's part:

Larocheoutman1_medium

Sometimes when you see a swing like this, people suggest it was intentional and the batter was trying to reach on a strikeout wild pitch. Leaving aside the probability that that never happens, we know that didn't happen here because LaRoche didn't immediately run. In fact, the moment after LaRoche swung was one of great confusion and chaos. Observe:

Larocheoutman2_medium

Four people are seen on the field of play. From our vantage point, the pitcher is pointing forward. The umpire is pointing toward the pitcher. The catcher is looking to the left. The batter is looking to the right. Based on this screenshot, one can only conclude that the baseball made the perfect getaway. This baseball acted very differently from the Giancarlo Stanton home run baseball.

Worst Swing, Honorable Mention

Batter
Nick Punto

Date
June 25

Location
50.6 inches from center of zone

Puntoalvarez

Usually I don't like to include check-swings or swings on hit-and-runs, because they leave a bad taste in my mouth. That's not what I'm going for with this category. The reason I'm including this as an honorable mention is because it didn't function as a hit-and-run. Oh, it was supposed to be a hit-and-run, and Nick Punto tried to protect his runner. This is what Punto made himself look like:

Puntoalvarez1_medium

But Ryan Kalish was on first, and Ryan Kalish didn't budge. Nick Punto tried the hit- part, but Kalish didn't follow through with the and-run part, as Punto soon discovered.

Puntoalvarez2_medium

Punto swung and missed at a pitchout and looked completely stupid for no reason. This was cause for much laughter at Kalish's hilarious prank.

Puntoalvarez3_medium

Kalish: haha
Coach: haha
Encarnacion: hahaha

Like the rest of us, Punto didn't appreciate being hung out to dry, so he set his mind to it and got his revenge a few moments later.

Puntoalvarez4_medium

And that was the most satisfying double play of Nick Punto's career.

Note that this week, a guy swung at a pitchout, and it wasn't the week's worst swing.

Worst Defensive Play

Player
Carlos Pena

Date
June 28

Pena

Carlos Pena is a talented defensive first baseman, and he's won a Gold Glove before. On this play, he found himself in a difficult spot, as he wasn't sure whether to tag the runner going to first or throw to try to get the runner going home. The runner going home would be the bigger out, but the more difficult out; the runner going to first would be the least important out, but the easiest out. Pena panicked, and in moments of panic, many of us can't think straight. Pena's only human. He thought "tag or throw," and "tag or throw," and "tag or throw," and he continued to go back and forth between them in his mind until he settled on "drop the baseball." "Drop the baseball," of course, wasn't one of the two options, but Pena's mind was clouded by anxiety and when in clouds, visibility is limited.

Let's consider this for one moment:

Pena2_medium

Quintin Berry is the guy going to first. When Carlos Pena picks up the baseball, Berry comes to a complete stop, right beside Pena. Literally right beside him. Berry had to move a step out of the way so that Pena didn't run him over. Outs are never this easy. Outs are never just handed to you like this, not even on sacrifice bunts. Berry was next to Pena, and he stopped. He just stopped running. Quintin Berry was fully stopped next to a defender with the baseball in his glove, and zero outs were recorded on this play.

Afterward, Carlos Pena demonstrated that he is normally capable of holding and hanging on to a baseball. These are things we assume, but plays like this one challenge our assumptions. "Maybe Carlos Pena cannot hold a baseball?" "Look at him, he can, actually."

Pena1_medium

Worst Defensive Play, Honorable Mention

Players
Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez

Date
June 25

Pirates

I don't have any commentary about this. I don't even think this was the second-worst defensive sequence of the week. But I have never seen this before, and every time I watch it, I laugh harder than the previous time I watched it. It has taken me nine minutes to write this paragraph because I cannot stop laughing. "I GOT HIM! Shit." "I GOT HIM! Shit." "I GOT HIM! Shit." Outside of a rundown, how often does a player get a chance to make two throws during a play? How often are those two throws terrible? And Alvarez! I have laughed myself to tears. More on the left side of my face than the right side. That's weird to notice.

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