The Week In Worst: When Baseball Goes Wrong

Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera runs the bases after hitting a home run off Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Philip Humber at Comerica Park. 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, friends, and welcome to a special trade-deadline edition of The Week In Worst. The fact that we're coming up on the non-waiver trade deadline doesn't mean anything for this particular series; everything below follows the normal format. It's not like this is Spirit Week, and we're celebrating the trade deadline, and all of the normal categories dress up in trade-deadline attire and accessories.

But with the trade deadline coming, scouts are out everywhere. Scouts are always out everywhere, all of the time -- seriously, being a scout is lonely and miserable -- but lately scouts have been scouting potential trade candidates to the extreme. All of the scouts have been out on assignment, and many players have known at least in the backs of their minds that their performances might also have served as auditions. Players have known that they were being watched and judged, even more so than usual.

So pity the poor players who have ended up in The Week In Worst. If pretty much all players have been getting scouted, then these players have been getting scouted. Scouts saw these players do things that left them eligible for The Week In Worst. That's making a bad impression before the wrong audience. I guess it's possible that these players didn't want to get traded, or even that these players were never going to get traded anyway. I'll be honest with you, I've barely thought any of this out. I think it's important to be honest. I'm being honest when I say that the above was thoughtlessly slapped together for the purpose of advancing to the next section posthaste.

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 22 through Saturday, July 28. I recommend that you read through the following while listening to this in the background. Wait, that was supposed to be a link to a song. Why didn't the link show up? Oh well, nothing I can do about it now, I guess you can just read this post accompanied by complete silence. Or, you know, the noise that's around you.

Worst Pitch (Location)

Pitcher
Philip Humber

Date
July 22

Location
60.4 inches from center of zone

Humberboesch

Not too long ago -- barely over three months ago -- Philip Humber threw a perfect game. Now, obviously, a lot depends on your definition of "perfect". Humber did not retire everybody on 27 pitches. Humber did not retire everybody on 81 pitches and 27 strikeouts. Humber simply retired everybody, and that's "perfect", according to baseball. In the game providing the .gif above, Humber did not retire all 27 batters that he faced. You can tell because there's someone on second and Humber has already allowed four runs. However, had Humber retired all 27 batters that he faced, I'd still petition the labeling of it as a perfect game, because Philip Humber threw this pitch to Brennan Boesch, and no game that sees a pitcher throw a pitch this bad should ever be considered a perfect game. "Philip Humber could have thrown a perfect game against the Detroit Tigers, but for a pile-of-shit breaking ball in the dirt."

I mean Jesus:

Humberboesch1_medium

Philip Humber threw that pitch like he was testing the dirt for quicksand. Incidentally, quicksand is one of those things you find absolutely terrifying as a child, and then never encounter once in your entire life. I think, unless I'm helplessly sheltered. Is quicksand actually a thing in certain parts of the country, and I just don't know? I hope that those regions can get some government aid for their quicksand-related disasters.

For fun, the rest of this at-bat:

Humberboesch2_medium

Pitch 3: too loooowwwwww
Pitch 4: too hiiiiiighhhhh
Pitch 5: juuuuuuust right
Pitch 5: /home run

Philip Humber is really mediocre you guys.

Worst Pitch (Location), Honorable Mention

Pitcher
Joel Hanrahan

Date
July 26

Location
59.1 inches from center of zone

Hanrahanbogusevic1

A lot of times, you'll see these pitches in 0-and-2 and 1-and-2 counts, because the pitchers are trying to bounce a breaking ball. Hanrahan was in an 0-and-1 count, which is still favorable, but not quite so favorable. He threw a pitch so unpredictably terrible that his catcher, his veteran catcher covered in protective gear and trained to get in front of pitches at all costs, turned his head away out of fright. Then the catcher got his mask knocked off. How do you feel about Joel Hanrahan, veteran catcher Rod Barajas?

Hanrahanbogusevic_medium

Barajas: Watch what I'm doing.
Barajas: You are why I'm doing this.
Barajas: /puts on mask
Barajas: /very slowly, demonstratively puts on mask
Barajas: /muffled
Hanrahan: What?
Barajas: /lifts mask
Barajas: I hate you.
Barajas: puts on mask

The best angle for watching this pitch is this angle:

Hanrahanbogusevic2

The pitch has already bounced before it comes into view. The ball crosses the plate around belt level, which would be within the strike zone. I would like to see a rule where a pitch that bounces into the strike zone is worth an automatic strikeout. But a pitch that bounces not into the strike zone is worth two balls instead of one. Everything would be zany! Then teams would recruit superstar cricket bowlers and we'd end up with nothing but non-stop strikeouts. Then teams would recruit aggressive slap hitters and we'd basically end up with cricket. I assume that we are all big fans of cricket.

Worst Pitch (Result)

Pitcher
Philip Humber

Batter
Miguel Cabrera

Date
July 22

Result
Homer, 457 feet

Humbercabrera

And here we have a The Week In Worst first. We've featured repeat players before, but we've never had a pitcher show up twice within the same post. Humber threw this terrible pitch to Miguel Cabrera in the third inning on July 22. Humber threw that terrible pitch to Brennan Boesch in the third inning on July 22. Philip Humber threw both of this week's worst pitches in the same inning, minutes apart. Would you believe that this was not a particularly good week for Philip Humber? Humber has a 5.90 ERA and a perfect game. In this start he went three innings and allowed six runs.

It's subtle, but I really like Humber's instant reaction. There's the initial flinch, where he thinks for a split second that Miguel Cabrera just lined a comebacker up the middle. Then there's the look-away and arm-swing, which provide so much depth. When I observed Humber's reaction, I guessed that Cabrera had homered off of him earlier in the same game. Indeed, Cabrera had already tagged Humber once, in the bottom of the first. That was conveyed in Humber's body language. This is body language that says "there is not a thing that I can do to this hitter but this."

Speaking of body language, A.J. Pierzynski had some of his own:

Humbercabrera1_medium

Humbercabrera2_medium

I was hoping that some camera, any camera, would stay fixed on Pierzynski for another half-second, but alas, TV cameramen don't always look out for their .gif-making brothers. When a pitcher allows a home run, the pitcher will ordinarily look away from home plate. It is in these instants that catchers may express their disgust.

Worst Swing

Batter
Johnny Damon

Date
July 28

Location
41.2 inches from center of zone

Damondeduno2

At some point, all of the worst swing candidates start to look alike. A hitter gets into a two-strike hole. He swings and usually misses at a breaking ball in the dirt. Sometimes he runs to first, other times he doesn't. It gets harder and harder to sell them as fresh and interesting. I think what makes this Damon .gif fresh and interesting is the shame. Damon half-swings at a pitch in the dirt. The home-plate umpire appeals to make sure Damon went around, but Damon doesn't look to third base; he looks down at the ground, just waiting for the umpire to confirm that he should go away for a while. Damon knew full well what he did. He was probably hoping that the umpire would confirm that he went around, just so he could go hide himself from sight in the dugout. Good news, Johnny. You can go away now.

Damondeduno1_medium

This is the kind of shit we'd have to start putting up with if the game evolved into cricket-baseball, like we talked about. I can't believe you suggested we turn the game into cricket-baseball. You are full of the worst ideas! I don't even know why we're friends.

Damondeduno2_medium

Umpire: LOOK TO THIRD BASE
Damon: Please do not make me
Umpire: I DEMAND THAT YOU LOOK TO THIRD BASE
Damon: In this moment I am nothing

I like how Joe Mauer caught that pitch clean. He's amazing!

Worst Defensive Play

Players
White Sox

Date
July 23

Whitesoxerrortwins

Joe Mauer featured in the previous .gif. Here he is hitting a ground ball single into center field. This was evidently not a good week for the White Sox. Actually this was a very good week for the White Sox, by record. I guess they condensed the bad.

It's not exactly clear what's happening given the quality of the .gif, but watch the baseball after the center fielder comes up with it. Congratulations, you are now doing what none of the White Sox were doing at the time. Maybe this deserves the screenshot treatment. First:

Whitesoxerror1_medium

Alejandro De Aza has the baseball. Ben Revere is on his way to third, and the pitcher is very casually walking to back up a throw that has no reason for happening. The shortstop is calling for the baseball, glove arm outstretched. This should be very simple. There is no reason for this not to be simple.

Whitesoxerror2_medium

Alejandro De Aza no longer has the baseball. Nobody has the baseball. The shortstop who was calling for the baseball made no effort to catch it. The second baseman had his back turned the whole time, jogging back into position. The pitcher isn't facing the play because the pitcher assumes the play is over. The catcher isn't facing the play because the catcher assumes the play is over. The play is not over and the Twins score a run. Just for funsies, the play ends with the baseball finding its way back to Alejandro De Aza in center field. De Aza retrieves the baseball and throws it back in with a purpose.

The only player charged for an error here is Alejandro De Aza. How do you feel about that, Alejandro De Aza?

Deazaface

Worst Defensive Play, Honorable Mention

Player
John Mayberry

Date
July 27

Mayberrywall

This is only in here for the lols. It is, without question, a bad defensive play, but the purpose behind its inclusion is the lols. You're reading this early on a Monday. When do you need a laugh more than early on a Monday? Have some laughter, courtesy of John Mayberry. And courtesy of the big fat guy who watches Mayberry and then starts bouncing up and down. I just noticed him and he's also good for lols.

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