Last Friday, we published this feature about extreme pitches hit for home runs during in 2011. I liked the data interpretation so much that, Friday night, I ran this feature on my own site about the worst swings Mariners hitters made during the 2011 season. Bad swings aren't as exciting as dingers, but I couldn't run a dingers feature for the Mariners because they didn't hit any. I thought a worst swings feature would be more appropriate.
As it happens, though, researching the Mariners' worst swings made me curious about everyone's worst swings. So I decided to pursue this feature as well. I understand that this makes me out to be kind of a one-trick pony at the moment, but I'm sure it'll pass in time. And besides, who doesn't love .gifs? That's an honest question. Who doesn't love .gifs? Is there anybody who doesn't love .gifs?
My definition of a bad swing is not a swing where the hitter trips and falls or lets go of the bat or something. Rather, I'm looking for swings at pitches the furthest away from the strike zone. Swings that were poorly conceived. Swings where the hitter falls or lets go of the bat are bad swings, too, but they're not bad swings for our purposes. There isn't data for sloppy or mechanically improper swings. There is data for swings at wild pitches.
Below, 2011's top ten swings at pitches out of the zone. Again, this isn't as cool as looking at footage of dingers, but I had to sate my curiosity.
- Johnny Damon vs. Josh Beckett
- July 17
- 46.6 inches from center of zone
I forgot to note earlier that checked swings, if they weren't checked enough, go in the books as swinging strikes, just like regular swinging strikes. If you find their inclusion to be irritating and not what you're interested in, prepare to be irritated and disinterested!
- Vladimir Guerrero vs. Homer Bailey
- June 26
- 46.9 inches from center of zone
I'm going to tell you right now that this is the only asterisk-free full swing in the whole countdown. I thought long and hard about whether or not I should make this No. 1 for that reason. In the end, I obviously decided against it, but some people might have ranked this the worst swing of the whole season. After the swing and strikeout, one of the announcers remarked "typical Vladimir Guerrero." It is kind of typical Vladimir Guerrero, because he's looked like this a million times. He also has a career .931 OPS. Ryan Vogelsong is presented as an example of why you should never give up on a pitcher. Vladimir Guerrero might be presented as an example of why you should never give up on a hitter. "Sure, sometimes he swings at pitches like they're snakes he's trying to chase from his garden, but Vladimir Guerrero made that work, so who knows?"
- Jose Bautista vs. Josh Beckett
- September 5
- 47.3 inches from center of zone
Two Beckett sightings in three pitches. That's impressive. But do you know what's more impressive? Do you know what I think is the most impressive part of this clip? That's Jose Bautista. That's Jose Bautista swinging the way Jose Bautista swings. Then he holds up. He ultimately doesn't hold up enough, but look at his body. Look at how abruptly that swing attempt stops. That takes so much strength and body control. Jose Bautista even impresses me when he strikes out on a really wild pitch.
- Jose Reyes vs. Tommy Hanson
- April 17
- 48.0 inches from center of zone
When I booted this up in MLB.tv, I navigated directly to Reyes' at-bat in the second inning. To do that, I clicked on a little Jose Reyes headshot, and the headshot showed him wearing a Miami Marlins hat. Did you guys know about this? That's crazy!
- Clint Barmes vs. Matt Garza
- July 24
- 48.8 inches from center of zone
Clint Barmes is forgiven for just trying to get the Astros' season over with as quickly as possible. Clint Barmes is unforgiven for having second thoughts at the last instant. Clint Barmes needs to make up his damn mind, because nobody likes a waffler. Unless a waffler is one who prepares waffles. Then everyone likes a waffler.
Dad Flapjack: What do you want to be when you grow up, boy?
Boy Flapjack: When I grow up I wanna be a waffler, like my girlfriend's dad!
Dad Flapjack: /gasp
Grandpappy Flapjack: /gasp
Auntie Flapjack: /faints
Girl Eggo: /listens through door
- Milton Bradley vs. Bobby Jenks
- April 29
- 49.0 inches from center of zone
Bradley: Easy Milton, nobody saw that.
Bradley: Just act natural.
Bradley: Three and two, three and two, all right.
Umpire: What are you doing, I called you out a minute and a half ago.
Bradley: How long have I been talking to myself?
Umpire: You're ejected!
Bradley: I don't understand anything.
That was the worst Mariners swing. There were worse swings!
- Michael Morse vs. Anthony Varvaro
- August 1
- 49.3 inches from center of zone
In the screenshot, it looks like Morse got a pitch about belt-high and foul-tipped it backwards. What actually happened was that he attempted the fourth-worst swing of an entire baseball season.
- Freddie Freeman vs. James McDonald
- July 25
- 49.9 inches from center of zone
Here's what I love about this. All those pitches above? Two-strike pitches. You can kind of understand that the hitters were tricked while trying to protect the plate. This pitch was a 1-and-0 pitch. It wasn't even a one-strike pitch. It wasn't even an even count. Freddie Freeman was ahead in the count. Freddie Freeman got a 1-and-0 breaking ball from James McDonald and took the third-worst swing of the season. Much like Guerrero's swing could've been the worst swing for being a full swing, this could've been the worst swing for being on a 1-and-0 count.
- Chipper Jones vs. Jaime Garcia
- May 1
- 51.2 inches from center of zone
I like how the umpire gets up and points at Chipper like he's laughing at him. "Haha, look at how stupid you are!"
- Jonathan Herrera vs. Tim Hudson
- July 20
- 59.9 inches from center of zone
Jonathan Herrera finished with a contact rate of 88.4 percent. Teammate Troy Tulowitzki finished with a contact rate of 88.5 percent. Were it not for this botched hit-and-run, Herrera would've finished with a contact rate of 88.6 percent. I like to think the two made a preseason wager and this play is why Jonathan Herrera had to spend all offseason weeding Tulowitzki's yard in the same pair of children's overalls.