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June 29, 2012

Pebble Hunting

The Best Pitches Thrown This Week

by Sam Miller

I hope you enjoy these pitches. I hope you enjoy the words around these pitches. Let's all have fun looking at these pictures and words. 

3. Tom Wilhelmsen, curveball to Willie Bloomquist.

I like this pitch because I like to imagine Willie Bloomquist trying to hit a pitch from this position:

If I flipped on a game and saw that Willie Bloomquist had adopted that batting stance, I wouldn't be all that surprised, because I have low aesthetic expectations for Willie Bloomquist. But I just tried swinging a spatula from that position, to test it, and I fell straight forward. There are only two things that position is good for: whackin’ on snakes, and poopin’ in a hole. But that’s what Tom Wilhelmsen’s curve does to hitters. It turns them from baseball players into campers. A quick tour of Wilhelmsen curves that were called strikes in June:

Gordon Beckham, wading into moderately strong rapids:

Jesus Guzman, urinating against a tree and modestly trying to sort of turn and hide his thing:

Albert Pujols, doing some sort of camping thing, like just camping I guess:

Alexei Ramirez, being attacked by a wasp:

It might not be immediately clear by looking at the stills, but each batter noticeably flinched from the curve, and if you imagine each batter trying to actually generate power from the position he is in, you can tell how flat-footed each is. It takes about a half a second for a curveball to travel from the pitcher to the catcher, and in that half-second Willie Bloomquist goes from

this

to

this

Additional commentary from people who commented on the YouTube video of that bus lady being picked on:

2. Chris Sale’s slider, to Carlos Gomez
Here we run into the problem we always run into with these: trying to separate the action of the pitcher from the action of the batter. This is a back-foot slider that Chris Sale throws a bit too literally to Carlos Gomez:

Throw your bat and take your base, Carlos. Ohwaitno psyyyyyyych

It’s a strike. Carlos Gomez got hit by a pitch, and he swung at it. That must be one fantastic slider, and that’s why we’re here, talking about it. But it’s also Carlos Gomez. Carlos Gomez swings at his own shadow. So we need more evidence that Chris Sale’s pitch is as good as I want Chris Sale’s pitch to be, beyond every statistic from every start Chris Sale has made this year. And this is that evidence:

That’s A.J. Ellis swinging at a pitch in the dirt. Unlike Carlos Gomez, A.J. Ellis would rather not swing at pitches in the dirt, or pitches. He has swung at only one pitch all year (Tim Lincecum slider) lower than this one. This is the confirmation we need that Chris Sale’s slider is very good, and very hard to lay off of, and that Carlos Gomez was the victim in this situation and he was not “asking for it."

Additional commentary from people who commented on the YouTube video of that bus lady being picked on:

1. Clayton Kershaw, curveball to Gregor Blanco.
You probably saw this pitch already. Everybody saw this pitch already. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 pitches thrown every week, and very few of them get famous except in regards to what happens to them when they go in the other direction. But this pitch was pretty well documented elsewhere, and I wouldn’t even include it here except the list demands it and, unlike some people*, I have a little bit of integrity. So here’s the pitch, which came with the bases loaded on a 2-2 count after Blanco had fouled off some pitches.

And here’s a slower replay of this pitch:

And here's a slightly slower replay of this pitch: 

“That’s embarrassing for a big leaguer,” Vin Scully said, which was only the second-best broadcaster response to this pitch. The best was Duane Kuiper’s: “Look out! And, he got him.” Oh, yes. This curveball was so nasty that, in the broadcast booth, Duane Kuiper thought it was going to hit Gregor Blanco in the head. Imagine the view from Gregor Blanco.

Additional commentary from people who commented on the YouTube video of that bus lady being picked on:

*Warren Gamaliel Harding

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  Clayton Kershaw,  Chris Sale,  Tom Wilhelmsen

21 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Nathan

I love this feature.

Jun 29, 2012 02:35 AM
rating: 10
 
hessshaun

Can you do this every day one of them pitches?

Jun 29, 2012 06:23 AM
rating: 1
 
surfdent48

I'm convinced Kershaws curve did not cross the plate as a strike. It was caught by the catcher in the strike "zone", but It was a ball.

Jun 29, 2012 08:39 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

I thought so too, but pitchfx don't lie:

http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/location.php?pitchSel=477132&game=gid_2012_06_26_lanmlb_sfnmlb_1/&batterX=35&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=1&s_type=3

Jun 29, 2012 08:50 AM
 
buffum
(458)

Any article with Warren Harding smak automatically becomes one notch better.

Jun 29, 2012 08:47 AM
rating: 4
 
ChinMusic

Great stuff, Sam. Love your work here.

Jun 29, 2012 09:37 AM
rating: 1
 
dwinning

I enjoyed those pitches. And the words around the pitches. I had fun looking at those pictures and words.

Jun 29, 2012 09:39 AM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Ian Miller
BP staff

I'm not ready to say that this feature is the best thing on BP, but I'm not ready not to say that either.

Jun 29, 2012 10:43 AM
 
Drakos

Tom Wilhelmsen's nonchalance after that pitch is phenomenal.

Jun 29, 2012 11:15 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

I am constantly on the lookout for the pitcher who is so nonchalant/confident that he turns away before the pitch reaches the batter. Tom Wilhelmsen didn't quite get there, but somebody will. And I will document it.

Jun 29, 2012 11:18 AM
 
Drakos

Trevor Bauer showed impressive nonchalance on strike three to Michael Bourn considering it was the first inning of his first big league start. Kid's got future 80 nonchalance potential.

Jun 29, 2012 17:14 PM
rating: 2
 
saigonsam

I've seen a few where Yu Darvish is on the way to the dugout before the pitch crosses the plate.

Jul 02, 2012 02:49 AM
rating: 0
 
saigonsam

also, I've really enjoyed everything Sam Miller has written on BP, but this post is my favorite.

Jul 02, 2012 02:51 AM
rating: 1
 
PeterThomas

Clayton Kershaw's curveball calls back to Randy Johnson's slider. Coming in like it's going to hit the batter, then breaks away into the strike zone.

How do you hit that?

Jun 29, 2012 14:07 PM
rating: 1
 
PaddyE

Grit your teeth and just trust to Kershaw's command of physics? A face mask might help with that.

Jun 29, 2012 14:48 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

The pitch after Alexei Ramirez got completely worked over, Wilhelmsen threw the curve again. Ramirez hung in well and hit it.

Jun 29, 2012 14:51 PM
 
Lespaul1

This is great stuff. I've somehow never even heard of Wilhelmsen but that is a sick hammer. In high school I had a guy actually laugh at me after getting me to completely flinch on a curve. It still hurts me inside. *Wipes single tear from cheek*

Jun 29, 2012 19:37 PM
rating: 0
 
Dodger300

I disagree, Sam. I think Carlos Gomez was indeed "asking for it."

Jun 29, 2012 23:14 PM
rating: 0
 
wihalofan

Nice work as always, Sam.

Jun 30, 2012 06:54 AM
rating: 0
 
beegee73

Awesome!

Jun 30, 2012 15:32 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

Perhaps: just as with Clayton Kershaw's curveball, there has never been such a fantastic pitch, with Sam Miller's reports here, there has never been such fun reporting.

Jul 02, 2012 14:20 PM
rating: -1
 
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