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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

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