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Andrew McCutchen’s home run was exquisite, so let’s keep talking about it

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Andrew McCutchen’s home run deserves to be remembered for the next 40 years, so might as well start micro-analyzing it now.

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

In 40 years, you won’t remember a whole lot about the 2018 season. Four decades is a long time, and baseball probably shouldn’t take up that much real estate in your brain anyway. But you’ll remember that Andrew McCutchen home run, even if you don’t remember exactly which season it was from. There’s a lot of recency bias to fight against, but it has to be one of the best regular-season home runs for the Giants in the last 10 years. No, 20 years. Thirty years? Since they moved to San Francisco?

Pick the hyperbole that you can live with, and I won’t shame you. It wasn’t just that it was a walkoff homer in the bottom of the 14th inning. It wasn’t just that it was against the Dodgers. It wasn’t just the idea that a loss became a win with one home run swing, which has happened only 27 times in San Francisco Giants history. It wasn’t just that Andrew McCutchen knew it was gone and did an improvised impression of our hearts before he started running.

It was the 12 pitches. It was all of those other things, too, but it was the ugly-beautiful at-bat, in which he was committed to grinding Wilmer Font into a medicinal powder, with foul ball after foul ball. It was the mounting anticipation and buzz in the stands. If it doesn’t finish the season as my favorite at-bat of the year, this will have been one heckuva season.

We need to explore each and every one of these pitches.

There were a lot of them, but I think my favorite one was the 12th pitch. We’ll have to look into this a little more and find out with the help of MLB.com.

Pitch #1

Fuzziness of the pitch (1-10 scale, with 1 being an easy pitch to hit or take): 5

The lasers have it as a strike. The NBC graphics had it as a ball. Either way, it’s a rough pitch for a hitter who isn’t looking for a first-pitch breaking ball because even if he realized it was hanging up in the zone, it was plausible to think it was a little too far up in the zone.

All I was rooting for at this point was a deep fly ball, and the at-bat was already looking less promising. McCutchen was down 0-1, and that meant the probabilities suddenly shifted in Font’s favor.

Pitch #2

Fuzziness of the pitch: 6

The movement took the catcher’s glove well away from the strike zone, but it was actually a lot closer to being a strike than it appeared on TV. It was a 94-mph fastball that swept across the bottom of the zone, into McCutchen. I originally had it as a “4” on the fuzziness scale because it looked like an easy take, but watching it again, I’m convinced that it was a much tougher pick to take, especially when the hitter is down 0-1 after a debatable call.

Gnarly pitch. Good take. Poor framing.

Pitch #3

Fuzziness of the pitch: 9

It was a perfect pitch, but high fastballs are usually perfect pitches only in retrospect. If McCutchen had hit that one 430 feet, it would have been easy to complain about Font leaving one up in the zone. As is, McCutchen was thoroughly outclassed, and I started to grumble something about these bozos not even being able to get the runner in from third base. Now the Giants were one strike and one grounder away from losing.

I wonder if another curveball in the middle of the zone would have screwed McCutchen into the ground at this point.

Probably not.

Pitch #4

Fuzziness of the pitch: 9

95 mph with movement running in on the hands. How McCutchen got a piece of it, we’ll never be sure. That’s two swings on two fastballs, and neither one was encouraging. Even if McCutchen started to pick up the fastball better, there was always the threat of the curve breaking him down, especially if he started to cheat and look for the hard stuff.

Maybe if the Giants got lucky, they could hit into a double play and tie the game that way.

Pitch #5

Fuzziness of the pitch: 8

Yes, it was fuzzy. But this time, McCutchen was on it. He went from waving through a fastball, to just catching a piece of a fastball, to looking like he was ready to hit the fastball. A curveball had to be next, right?

That’s just what Font wants you to think before he blows another fastball by you.

Unless he’s more traditional and doesn’t like backing up the same pitch four times in a row, especially when the last one looked a little dangerous.

Except if McCutchen is thinking about that curveball for exactly .005 seconds longer than he was with the previous swing, maybe he misses the fastball.

Pitch #6

Fuzziness of the pitch: 8

Yeah, it was probably what I would have called for, too. McCutchen was clearly geared up for another fastball, and even though he got a piece of this pitch, he was still in danger of whiffing with his emergency swing.

Bonus content: Duane Kuiper welcoming people who had switched over from another dumb horrible Warriors loss. The people who did that had exceptional timing. They felt better, alright. Well, everyone except for the rare Warriors-Dodgers combo fan, for whom I have no sympathy. Weirdos.

Pitch #7

Fuzziness of the pitch: 7

Now that you’ve thrown the curveball to change sightlines and break up the sequence, what next? A fastball, but thrown in a location that’s hard for the hitter to punish. You can see where Yasmani Grandal sets up:

And you can see where the pitch goes.

Even if he hits it, he might pop it up. And if he takes it, it’s still only a 2-2 count. It was a great pitch.

It also suggested that McCutchen’s timing was still great on the fastball, even after the curve. This is excellent foreshadowing, person in charge of the simulation.

Pitch #8

Fuzziness of the pitch: 3

Great block by Grandal to keep the runner at third, but an otherwise unremarkable pitch and the easiest take of the at-bat. If anything, it was letting McCutchen know that Font felt more comfortable with the fastball after all, considering the first two curves were down the middle and the other one was bounced. It had to have been hard to trust his ability to throw a curve between those two extremes.

Pitch #9

Fuzziness of the pitch: 3

Meeeeeeeeeeeatball. This was easily the worst pitch Font threw, and it deserved to be hit over the Coke bottle. McCutchen had it timed well, but there had to be at least a smidgen of regret running through his mind. If he thought he wasn’t going to get a pitch that good again, he was right.

Pitch #10

Fuzziness of the pitch: 8

Right at the top of the zone, which is a credit to Grandal’s faith in Font’s ability to put the ball there. The previous pitch was Papyrus. This pitch was Arial Black: classic, strong, and often effective. It ran over the plate, which wasn’t intended, but he put it up where it needed to be.

McCutchen fouled it off, of course. It’s at this point that the crowd is hyper-aware of just how fun the at-bat is.

(Without the limit on mound visits, Grandal might have come out to the mound at this point. Which means we’ve established that the lack of mound visits are a good thing.)

Pitch #11

Fuzziness of the pitch: 9

It was too close to take with two strikes, and McCutchen couldn’t do anything with it. It was a hard fastball with plenty of movement in on the hitter’s hands, and a pitcher wants the hitter to swing at that pitch every time. There will be a lot of broken bats with those swings. There might be a couple broken thumbs.

Because, really, who can hit that pitch with any authority and keep it fair?

Pitch #12

Fuzziness of the pitch: 8

ANDREW MCCUTCHEN. THAT’S WHO CAN HIT THAT PITCH WITH AUTHORITY AND KEEP IT FAIR. ANDREW MCCUTCHEN.

While the movement took the pitch away from the intended target, that was not an easy pitch to hit. It was, quite possibly, not a strike. It was just a little closer to the strike zone than the previous pitch, but it was still a pitcher’s pitch. If there was a downside to it, it’s that he showed the same speed to the same location on the previous pitch. McCutchen’s synapses were already rewired to time that pitch well.

He hit that pitch well.

Baseball is a game of contrasts and emotions.

It is also a great game. Perhaps the best of games. And while the Giants might eventually lose more often than even last year, this would be a perfect oasis to retreat to on an especially foggy night. There was that time McCutchen fought off some of the nastiest, fuzziest pitches he’d seen all season, and he ended up hitting the game-winning home run anyway. You should have seen it. And if you did, you know what we’re talking about.

After reviewing all of these pitches, I would like to announce that the 12th one was my favorite of them all. But there’s no 12th pitch without the 11 that came before it, so they’re all beautiful. Welcome to the Giants, Andrew McCutchen. This is a good way for all of us to remember you for decades.