DETROIT, MI: Rick Porcello, Gerald Laird and Prince Fielder collide attempting to catch a foul ball off the bat of Jamey Carroll of the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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 very special edition of The Week In Worst. What makes this edition special? Why, that you're here reading it, of course. Perhaps you've read previous editions, but that just means those editions were special, too. They can all be special, thanks to your company. Happiness is only real when shared, and here we can share in our happiness about watching baseball players look like idiots.
You might've been expecting this to look different -- you might've been expecting The Half In Worst. It is, after all, the All-Star break, meaning we've got approximately half of the regular season in the books, and a few days of nothing worth talking about taking place. But to draw up The Half In Worst would be to shortchange the week that was, because this past week had some truly terrible baseball plays that deserve to take center stage. Also, writing The Half In Worst would take so long. You have no idea how long it would take!
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 1 through Saturday, July 7. Maybe you took a little vacation around the holiday and checked out from baseball. Here now is some of that baseball.
Worst Pitch (Location)
70.4 inches from center of zone
There are a lot of things to notice in this .gif. I myself am still noticing new things, and I've watched this .gif probably four dozen times. The first thing you notice is the bad pitch, obviously. That is such a bad pitch! Look at how bad of a pitch this is:
That's the ball over there by the backstop, looking like a bold comma after "SEASON TICKETS." A.J. Pierzynski is looking somewhere behind third base because let's be honest, Floyd might as well have thrown the ball there. Another thing to notice is the way Floyd retreats as if to suggest the ball did that on its own. It took me until, I don't know, my tenth viewing to notice the Yankees batter bending over and picking the ball up. I don't think a batter has ever bent down and picked up a baseball that flew the way the pitcher intended for it to fly. You can't help but notice Pierzynski and the umpire having a little chat after the ball goes by, like the umpire's saying "that was one shitty pitch" and Pierzynski's saying "you're f***in right it was." But there's one thing I can't stop seeing now that I've seen it:
Gavin Floyd threw a wild pitch at the backstop and like four or five Yankees fans took umbrage and asked if Floyd wanted to take it outside. Yankees fans are so easily provoked that it's basically impossible not to provoke them. You could just be sitting in the stadium cleanly and quietly eating a sandwich and someone would address you as Bro and inquire as to the nature of your deal. They're not looking for trouble, they just know what it looks like.
Worst Pitch (Location), Honorable Mention
70.1 inches from center of zone
Have you heard of Sam Dyson? Of course you haven't, he's a 24-year-old middle reliever promoted straight from double-A, and this was his major-league debut. All of the players in the major leagues are amazing, but relative to the rest of the players Sam Dyson is a nobody. He's just not a player to know, unless he develops a track record of throwing pitches like this one, which of course he wouldn't be allowed to do in the bigs. There are a few ways to respond to a pitch like this. You can do what Gavin Floyd did and pretend like the ball had a mind of its own. You can own it and apologize. You can pretend like nothing happened. Or you can do what Dyson did and blame your hand. "Something must be wrong with my hand, for that to happen!" Instead of accepting that he threw a pitch wrong, Dyson figured his hand must have become spontaneously and mysteriously coated with lubricant or blood.
The first batter Dyson faced in his major-league career was Billy Butler, and Butler walked on four pitches. Then Dyson got ahead of Yuniesky Betancourt 0-and-2 and threw this. What do you think of Sam Dyson, manager and former pitcher and pitching coach John Farrell?
Worst Pitch (Result)
Homer, 485 feet
Now I'm back to going by home-run distance instead of home run batted-ball speed because I can't make up my mind and because I couldn't ignore this Maybin homer, which is the longest homer that's been hit so far in 2012. The pitch itself is your standard meatball. Cahill fell behind Maybin 3-and-1 and knew he had to come with a sinker, but his sinker wound up higher and more over the plate than he intended, and Maybin beat the snot out of it. You can tell that the catcher is almost immediately in awe of what's just taken place in front of him. But my absolute favorite thing about this home run is the reaction by shortstop Willie Bloomquist.
Bloomquist: IT'S U-ooooohh
It was up, Willie. It was up.
38.8 inches from center of zone
You hadn't heard of Sam Dyson before. I'm just going to make that assumption, and I'm comfortable with it. You haven't heard of John Hester, either. John Hester is a 28-year-old catcher on the Angels. You just came up with a skillset and you're probably correct. Bobby Wilson is a 29-year-old catcher on the Angels, as long as we're naming no-name catchers on the Angels. Back to Hester, because this might be his one ever moment as the center of attention. Usually what happens with the worst swings is that we get guys chasing breaking balls in the dirt that fell off the table. Those are most certainly very bad swings, but this one's different, because Hester went after a slider that never even considered the idea of ending up in or near the strike zone. There was no changing that slider's mind. That was one stubborn slider, determined to end up in the opposite batter's box. Hester went after it, and here's the telling screenshot:
Hester swung at a pitch that's hidden by the pitcher's leg. More specifically, he swung at a pitch that's hidden by the pitcher's thigh. It is important to be able to protect the plate when you're in a two-strike count, as Hester was. But this was like protecting American borders by trying to bomb Paraguay. Paraguay was never going to do anything and now you just look like a dumbass.
Worst Defensive Play
Prince Fielder, Rick Porcello, Gerald Laird
What we have here is a bunt. The bunt was popped up, and whenever a bunt is popped up it's like an automatic out because popped-up bunts don't get very high. Three players converge on the ball, which isn't a bad thing -- better than zero players converging on the ball. But what we end up with is nobody catching the ball and Prince Fielder running over and injuring his own catcher. Fielder and Porcello stop moving like "welp" and Laird writhes face-down on the ground in agony. It is important that defensive players remember to communicate. It is extra important that Prince Fielder remembers to communicate because, let's face it, I don't ever want these things to devolve into fat jokes, but Prince Fielder is like seven first basemen stuffed into two pant legs and a lugsail, and he is the bowling ball to the rest of his teammates' pins. Prince Fielder should come equipped with a siren so teammates know when he's near and when he's coming or going.
At the very end of the .gif, the Tigers bat boy gets up and starts walking away like "that's it, I'm not gonna be associated with these dumb f***ers."
Worst Defensive Play, Honorable Mention
Sam Dyson, John Hester, and now Scott Moore. It was a hell of a week for baseball players you've never heard of before. There's a reason you've never heard of the baseball players you've never heard of before. Let's break this play down. Bases loaded, one out, high chopper hit to third. Enter Scott Moore!
Everything seems to be in shape here. Moore has the baseball in his possession. He is one or two paces away from a force out at third base, and the runner advancing to third is nowhere in sight. Moore needs to move quickly if he wants to complete the double play, but first, the simple matter of making contact with third with his foot.
Moore has successfully made contact with third base with his foot. However, now the baseball has escaped. Where once Moore held the baseball in his glove, now it is actively rolling away from him. It's hard to even say he lost the ball on the transfer. I mean, he must have, but it's more as if somebody in the dugout had the baseball on a string and started yanking it away. The only good explanation is that someone was playing a prank on Scott Moore because if you showed the previous two screenshots to somebody without showing them the .gif they would swear they came from different plays. Note the appearance in the second screenshot of a judgmental and disapproving catcher. Everybody's looking at you, Scott Moore.
Worst Defensive Play, Honorable Mention
What you don't see in the .gif: this happened in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game, with two outs and runners on first and second. Angel Pagan lifted a fly ball to right field. Jay Bruce treated it like a fly ball up against the wall. I'm not going to deny that the context makes this worse than it is in isolation, but the sequence and .gif were too amazing for me to leave out. One of the reasons teams allow lower BABIPs at home than on the road is because the defenders are familiar with the quirks of the home ballpark. Jay Bruce was under the impression that the San Francisco warning track is made of quicksand.
Bruce: It's quicksand!
Bruce: It's quicksand!
Bruce: It's not quicksand
Error Face is an observable phenomenon after an error is committed. Error Face is all about appearing like you feel other than how you actually feel inside. Jay Bruce didn't bother with Error Face. Jay Bruce felt like just the biggest stupid, and he proceeded to act it out.
The worst of the worst:
Floyd (85 votes)
Dyson (17 votes)
Cahill (25 votes)
Hester (40 votes)
Tigers (359 votes)
Moore (93 votes)
Bruce (270 votes)
889 total votes