The Week In Worst: When Baseball Goes Wrong

Washington, D.C., USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Chris Young (55) pitches in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-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 another edition of The Week In Worst. Last week, this post covered just three days of meaningful baseball action. Relative to the usual seven, it was hardly any baseball at all. This week, we're back to normal, which is a great relief to you, or more likely something you didn't even think about. You don't care about any of the details. You're just in it for the sweet, sweet .gifs. I could probably even get away with including .gifs from seasons past or other weeks if I wanted to. You don't care. The restrictions are my own.

I'm afraid that we might be entering the dog days of The Week In Worst. When the baseball season starts up, you've forgotten how silly and terrible it can be. So you spend the first few months capturing and laughing at all the bloopers you can eat up. But come the middle of July or so, players and teams generally aren't making new, hilarious mistakes. They're making mistakes other players or teams have already made, so some of the novelty is gone. "Oh, another pitch to the backstop." "Oh, another dropped baseball in a rundown." Through no fault of their own, the .gifs no longer feel so fresh.

But I'm plugging away anyway. What's the alternative? Quitting? Somebody needs to keep track of these bumbling idiots. Even if you stopped laughing and appreciating weeks and weeks ago, without The Week In Worst, there's no accountability. We're serving a dual purpose.

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, July 15 through Saturday, July 21. My Firefox dictionary doesn't recognize the word ".gifs", and suggests in its place the word "gifts". Exactly, Firefox. Exactly.

Worst Pitch (Location)

Pitcher
Chris Young

Date
July 18

Location
69.1 inches from center of zone

Younglaroche1

Chris Young, of course, is absolutely enormous, and he releases the baseball from space. According to the PITCHf/x data, this pitch was three feet below the ground at the front of the plate. The baseball actually remained above the ground, but its trajectory was such, and considering the height from which this baseball was delivered it's a wonder it didn't burn up in the atmosphere. The likelihood is that most of it burned up, and the core that was left bounced harmlessly off of the dirt, not even leaving a crater. This is a terrible paragraph, I'm so sorry.

There are a few things that I like about this event sequence. For one, seldom can you end up with a screenshot like the one below:

Younglaroche2_medium

The catcher appears to be balancing the ball on his knee like a dolphin balances a ball on its nose. Young is pretty tired of the show but Adam LaRoche is engrossed. I'm also a fan of LaRoche's subsequent reaction:

Younglaroche2

Young looks elsewhere. The catcher gestures for a new baseball, and the ump reaches into his bag to provide one. LaRoche stands still, watching the pitched baseball slowly roll away. The ump comes around to retrieve it because Adam LaRoche is absolutely helpless. It's interesting when events in games manage to leave even players dumbfounded. That's when you know you've found an exceptional event.

Just for funsies, the very next pitch:

Younglaroche3

That's a strike for ball four. The umpire must have decided that anyone capable of throwing ball three couldn't possibly be capable of throwing a ball in the strike zone. Of course that is completely incorrect. What a stupid thing to think!

Worst Pitch (Location), Honorable Mention

Pitcher
Jeremy Hellickson

Date
July 18

Location
63.3 inches from center of zone

Hellicksonhannahan1

I've watched this .gif a bunch of times, and where the first thing I noticed was obviously the pitch, now the only thing I can see anymore is the fan in the front row on the far right, next to the guy in the bright shirt. He's reaching to get something and he misses this pitch completely. He turns back to see the aftermath, and I'm sure someone explained to him what happened, but he might never get an opportunity to experience this again. He might never be sitting in the front row, off-center behind home plate, and have a pitched ball head vaguely in his direction. Think about how many opportunities you run the risk of missing by being on your phone or getting something to eat. The only way you can be sure to experience everything is by remaining constantly aware at all times. The lesson is don't use your phone or eat. Then you can experience everything around you there is to experience, like death.

Hellickson's reaction:

Hellicksonhannahan2

Here we have a .gif of somebody literally wiping a smile off of his face.

Before we move on, one last image:

Hellicksonhannahan2_medium

The hitter is looking back at the baseball. The catcher is looking back at the baseball. Jeremy Hellickson is looking forward, at the baseball. The umpire is turned and looking at Jeremy Hellickson. "I am going to throw you a new baseball now. Watch me not f*** it completely up."

Worst Pitch (Result)

Pitcher
Tommy Hanson

Batter
Michael Morse

Date
July 20

Result
Homer, 465 feet

Hansonmorse1

A week ago, Tommy Hanson was responsible for the worst pitch by location. Here he's responsible for the worst pitch by result, giving Michael Morse a fastball where the fastball wasn't supposed to go. Over his last two starts, Hanson has posted a 13.50 ERA. The system works! The catcher was so disgusted by Hanson's location mistake that he just bent over and threw up all over the place.

Hansonmorse2_medium

For Hanson's part, he came through with an unusual reaction. Typically after a pitcher allows a home run, he will respond in one of three ways. He might catch the new baseball and step on the rubber as if nothing happened. He might yell at himself or punch his glove in anger and frustration. Or he might roll his eyes in acknowledgment that his pitch deserved to be punished. Here's Hanson:

Hansonmorse2

Hanson: I am the worst
Hanson: I am so bad
Hanson: I am so stupid
Hanson: I am so stupid and bad
Hanson: I should pay a refund to every single fan in the ballpark
Hanson: I am on the road
Hanson: I am so stupid
Hanson: I am so stupid and bad

After allowing a home run, every pitcher must feel glum and bummed out. Hanson might be the only pitcher who shows it. Tommy Hanson is in touch with his emotions, and he wants you to be in touch with them, too.

One last thing: here's the video highlight of the home run. It's included in the MLB.com sponsored playlist titled Interstate Batteries: Outrageously Dependable Moments. Most generally, something outrageous is something unusual or unconventional. Something shocking. Meanwhile, something dependable is something you can rely on. So now what in the actual f*** is an outrageously dependable moment?

Worst Swing

Batter
Matt Holliday

Date
July 18

Location
47.2 inches from center of zone

Hollidayrodriguez1

What's glorious about this is that there are two layers of embarrassment. First, Holliday attempts this swing in a clutch situation at a pitch that bounces feet in front of home plate. Superstars will be forgiven for swinging at pitches out of the zone, but they're held to a higher standard than the others and people aren't so forgiving with swings like this. Second, Holliday then starts toward first before he realizes this isn't one of those uncaught-third-strike situations and that he's out without becoming a runner. In the span of one second, Holliday demonstrated poor pitch awareness and poor situation awareness. It dawns on him as he turns around to go back to the dugout. "I am just one failure after another!"

Let's look at my favorite replay angle:

Hollidayrodriguez2

Coach: That wasn't even close to the plate!
Holliday: Sure it was.
Coach: It bounced entire feet in front!
Holliday: Yes
Coach: Whole feet!
Holliday: Feet are close.
Coach: Feet are not close!
Holliday: Would you say that I am standing close to you right now?
Coach: I ... sure, but-
Holliday: I am standing feet away from you.
Coach:
Holliday:
I am both feet away, and close.
Coach: /hand starts shaking
Coach: /has seizure

Worst Defensive Play

Players
Garrett Jones, Pirates

Date
July 15

Piratesbrewers2

This play began with Ryan Braun at the plate and a runner on first. Braun punched a single into right field, where Garrett Jones came up with the ball and attempted to throw Nyjer Morgan out running to third. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Garrett Jones thinks third base is the tarp, while the rest of the Pirates' infield recognizes that third base is third base. They spend so much time teaching players about complicated processes that sometimes they gloss over the most basic fundamentals. Jones didn't realize that third base isn't in foul territory in left field and this .gif probably sums up the response:

Piratesbrewers1

As the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed, that isn't all. Three Pirates converge on the baseball while Ryan Braun pulls into second. Braun then takes off for third while the Pirates' pitcher stands and stares at the three Pirates converging on the baseball. Third base is left completely uncovered and Braun takes it without a throw. Even Garrett Jones is like "that's really embarrassing."

Piratesbrewers3

The Pirates' miscues began with Garrett Jones throwing the baseball to no one. They concluded with zero of several possible Pirates covering third base. In a matter of seconds, Garrett Jones went from feeling like a complete idiot to feeling like he's surrounded by a team of complete idiots. The Pittsburgh Pirates currently occupy a playoff spot.

Worst Defensive Play, Honorable Mention

Player
Chipper Jones

Date
July 18

Jonesgiants

I barely even have to say anything at all.

Jonesgiants1_medium

Jonesgiants2_medium

If one were to look only at these two screenshots, he would assume that Jones successfully flipped the baseball to the catcher well in advance of the baserunner. He would assume that the catcher has the baseball in his glove, readying to apply an easy tag. One would not realize that the baseball isn't anywhere in the second screenshot, as it's actually above the catcher's head and completely out of view. Look at where the catcher's head is. Look at how much space is above it before you reach the top of the screenshot. The problem with getting older is that early on you start to suck at some things, and eventually you suck at all things. I think it's safe to say that this is now something Chipper Jones sucks at.

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