photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein
Wild pitches are generally solitary, shy beasts. They are not normally seen in the Major Leagues, perhaps because they have often been hunted to local extinction long before those who might otherwise usher them out into the sunlight (i.e. pitchers) can do so. As they are a pest animal with no place in the baseball food chain, this culling is viewed by all as a good thing, and the wild pitch is thus usually only seen in the lower leagues, such as the minors, or Little League, where the ability to cull the herds of wild pitches is less efficient and allows more of the creatures to survive. When they are seen in the Major Leagues, they are not known for traveling in packs, preferring instead to make singular, surprising appearances.
On rare occasions, however, the wild pitch will multiply and become fruitful in the Major Leagues. These are exciting times for the few people who are wild pitch watching enthusiasts (a strange and worrying people, like bird watching enthusiasts but much more suspect), but such population explosions are seen as cause for alarm by most right-thinking folk. Should the wild pitches colonize one team or pitcher in particular, the level of concern on that team should be quite high.
‘Though rare, once a wild pitch infestation has become entrenched, it is difficult to eradicate. Often teams will send colonized pitchers down to the minor leagues so that they may continue to pitch while fighting off their infestation. Sometimes the only way to get rid of the wild pitches is to completely purge pitching from the affected player. This has been successful with players such as Rick Ankiel, but is generally regarded as a last-ditch effort and is not often attempted.
To see wild pitches rapidly and enthusiastically infesting TWO pitchers on the same team, at the same time, is EXTREMELY rare, and should have the pitching coach on that team most concerned indeed. Yet it is this very scenario that played itself out over the weekend, where Tigers pitchers Justin Verlander and Dontrelle Willis both bred large numbers of wild pitches. They threw three each, and ten combined walks (walk-creating pitches being the lesser, tamer cousin of the wild pitches), all this in a total of only 6.1 innings.
That’s 6.1 innings COMBINED from the two starters. Four for Verlander on Saturday, 2.1 for Dontrelle on Sunday. Six wild pitches and ten walks allowed in 6.1 combined innings over two days.
That’s no simple wild pitch infestation, that’s a wild pitch INVASION.
Chuck Hernandez had better get himself a can of Raid.
Monday, 7:05 pm EDT, Zach Miner vs. Gil Meche. Hopefully Miner will not have been infested as well. Go Tigers!