Recently, we took a look at some of the most extreme pitches hit for home runs during 2011. More recently, we took a look at some of the worst swings in 2011. I had a lot of fun mining through mountains of data and going over video archives in preparing these features, and after the worst swings feature, I felt like more could be done. I just wasn't sure what. Thankfully, a friend gave me an idea.
The worst pitches of the 2011 season. It's such a natural follow-up to the season's worst swings. It's not such a natural follow-up that it occurred to me, but it's a sufficiently natural follow-up that it occurred to my friend, and then I thought, "duh." It's that natural a follow-up. So I took to the data, and I took to the .gif-making. Due to the apparent limitations of Microsoft Excel, this research took a lot longer than the previous research, but I think you'll find it was worth it. It was definitely worth it to you, since you didn't do anything.
I decided Wednesday night that I would prepare this piece for Friday morning. You can imagine my horrified surprise when I saw that, on Thursday, FanGraphs published "The Worst Pitches of 2011." Fortunately, they took a different approach. They looked at the least effective pitch types. I'm going with a countdown of the worst individual pitches.
You might expect that the worst pitches would be a bunch of pitches down the middle. That's not what I'm going to present. Pitches down the middle aren't always so bad. They're very frequently not so bad. What I'm going to show you are last season's 10 pitches the farthest from the center of the strike zone. You can think of them as last season's wildest pitches, if you like. The perfect way to do this would be to compare pitch location against intended pitch location, but we don't have data on intended pitch location. I'm using the center of the strike zone to approximate. Rest assured that all of the pitches shown below are very bad pitches.
I was kind of disappointed with the worst swings, because having so many checked swings left a bitter taste in my mouth. So did finishing with a botched hit-and-run. I'm far less disappointed with this collection of clips of athletes being terrible. I think it's time we get started with the countdown. I don't know why I've written all these words.
- Henry Rodriguez vs. Rafael Furcal
- July 23
- 69.6 inches from center of zone
Just spectacularly bad. Henry Rodriguez was in a 3-and-0 count. His catcher called for a fastball. Rodriguez threw a fastball. His fastball made some people sitting behind home plate recoil out of fear. They were not even sitting directly behind home plate. But wait, it gets worse! Here's the whole sequence:
Rodriguez threw that fastball with two outs and a runner on third in a one-run game. The runner scored on the wild pitch. I haven't actually checked to see if this was ruled a wild pitch or a passed ball but I'm pretty confident in my assumption. The Dodgers wound up beating the Nationals 7-6. Rodriguez was tagged with a blown save. His appearance lasted an inning, with three walks and 19 balls in 31 pitches.
- Dan Cortes vs. Johnny Damon
- Aug. 21
- 70.2 inches from center of zone
Two outs. Runner on third. Close game. This Dan Cortes pitch sure looks an awful lot like Henry Rodriguez's pitch above. Again, let's look at the whole sequence:
Rodriguez's pitch allowed a runner to score. Cortes' pitch wound up with an inning-ending out at home plate. The tie was preserved. In a way you could argue this was actually one of the better pitches of the 2011 season. But I'm not judging by play results. I'm judging by pitches. This was a really bad pitch. It was a slightly worse pitch than Rodriguez's pitch.
The Mariners didn't score in the top of the ninth, by the way. In the bottom of the ninth, Damon led off against Cortes and blasted the first pitch for a homer.
- Andrew Brackman vs. Sean Rodriguez
- Sept. 22
- 70.5 inches from center of zone
It's usually terrifying when a pitcher throws behind a batter. Oftentimes a pitcher will throw behind a batter on purpose to send a message. Sean Rodriguez wasn't terrified. Sean Rodriguez barely reacted at all. That's how far behind Sean Rodriguez Andrew Brackman threw this pitch. Look at how casually the catcher requests a new ball. "Yep, looks like he's up to this shit again."
- Sergio Santos vs. Willie Bloomquist
- June 19
- 70.7 inches from center of zone
Six-run game. Bottom of the ninth. Nobody on base. Two outs. Two strikes. Willie Bloomquist at the plate. This pitch. This pitch is literally all the proof you need that Sergio Santos' command is kind of ehhh.
- Guillermo Mota vs. Jimmy Paredes
- Aug. 27
- 71.2 inches from center of zone
This pitch is a horrible pitch for a couple of reasons. One, it was thrown horribly, crossing the plane at the front of the plate 71.2 inches away from the center of the strike zone. Two, it was an attempted quick-pitch. You notice how Mota doesn't come set? He was trying to catch the batter off guard. Watch the clip. The batter is ready. The person Mota caught off guard was his catcher, who wasn't looking.
- Brett Myers vs. Josh Harrison
- July 15
- 71.7 inches from center of zone
Myers: WHO THE SWEET F*** IS JOSH HARRISON
Myers: I MEAN I DON'T EVEN
Myers: WHY DO WE
Myers: I HATE THESE MOTHERF***ING GAMES
Myers: BETWEEN THE MOTHERF***ING ASTROS
Myers: AND THE MOTHERF***ING PIRATES
- Mike Gonzalez vs. Travis Buck
- April 16
- 72.2 inches from center of zone
One time Mike Gonzalez was watching a football game and during a Sounds of the Game segment, the TV showed a player on the sidelines hooting and hollering in response to a touchdown. The hooting and hollering awoke Gonzalez's newborn baby in the next room whom Gonzalez had spent 45 minutes getting to sleep. Ever since then Mike Gonzalez has had it out for parabolic microphones.
- John Lannan vs. Colby Rasmus
- April 20
- 73.2 inches from center of zone
With a runner on first base, John Lannan uncorked the third-worst pitch of the entire 2011 baseball season. It was received so cleanly that the runner - Ryan Theriot - didn't advance. Ivan Rodriguez is amazing.
- David Robertson vs. Troy Tulowitzki
- June 26
- 73.9 inches from center of zone
In the last clip, we saw Ivan Rodriguez do something amazing. In this clip we see Russell Martin react like a big stupid baby. Incidentally, David Robertson is officially listed at 5-foot-11. That works out to 71 inches. This pitch was 73.9 inches away from the center of the strike zone. David Robertson's pitch was more than a full him away from the center of the strike zone.
- Colby Lewis vs. Reid Brignac
- June 1
- 81.1 inches from center of zone
Lewis: Let's assume that there are other realities.
Lewis: Let's just assume.
Lewis: Other realities, very similar to this one, with a few differences.
Lewis: Those alternate realities exist in alternate universes.
Lewis: Alternate universes perhaps accessible from this one.
Lewis: Might there also be alternate strike zones?
Lewis: Alternate strike zones accessible from this reality?
Lewis: Alternate strike zones in unusual places?
Lewis: I throw this pitch in the name of science!
Lewis: /throws horrible pitch