Throwing strikes is hard. Home plate is only 17 inches wide. The zone only extends from a batter's knees to his stomach.
But these are also Major League pitchers we're talking about. They can usually throw the ball somewhere near the plate. Sometimes, though, a pitch gets away from you. And sometimes it really gets away from you.
Gregory Soto learned that lesson on Monday, when the Tigers reliever entered the game in the eighth inning, wound up and -- whoops -- fired a 98 mph fastball over Miguel Sanó's head and straight to the backstop. Just a bit high.
How high? When Soto's pitch reached the plate, it was 9.21 feet off the ground. That's … crazy high. But was Soto's pitch the wildest pitch of them all?
Close -- but not quite. There have been pitches even higher than Soto's. But since the beginning of pitch tracking in 2008, Soto's pitch does crack the top five.
Here are the wildest pitches, by height off the ground, that have ever been tracked.
1) Fernando Rodney: 10.92 feet -- Aug. 1, 2018
Rodney was always one of the most entertaining pitchers to watch in the Major Leagues. It wasn't because he was always sailing pitches to the backstop, but we'll add this to his highlight reel anyway. In this game, Rodney was 41 years old and still closing for the Twins when he skidded off the mound during his delivery and just flung the ball way over catcher Mitch Garver's head as he tried to save himself from a balk. Rodney was trying for a low slide step, but his foot caught on the dirt too early, which is what made him lose control. That's how you get a pitch nearly 11 feet off the ground.
2) Adam Conley: 10.75 feet -- July 17, 2016
Everything looked normal with Conley's pitch to the Cardinals' Jedd Gyorko … until the ball was in the netting behind home plate at Busch Stadium. The Marlins lefty took his signs from catcher Jeff Mathis, took a deep breath and went through his windup without a hitch. And then he just launched his 92 mph fastball so high that the fans sitting right behind home plate jumped out of their seats in a pretend attempt to catch the ball, which was even over their heads. Conley's pitch is the only one other than Rodney's in the pitch-tracking era to be over 10 feet high when it crossed the plate. But it all ended well, when Conley struck out Gyorko two pitches later.
3) Nick Margevicius: 9.53 feet -- June 16, 2019
Margevicius, a junkballing lefty with a funky delivery -- all arms and legs -- was on the mound for the Padres when that delivery produced this wild pitch. Margevicius' slider spun out of his hand and plunked off the plexiglass door behind home plate at Coors Field, startling one of the Rockies' ushers in that section of the stands. Batter Daniel Murphy provided a humorous reaction, bobbing his head up and around to track the arc of the pitch on its way to the backstop, then staring straight back while frozen in his batting stance as catcher Austin Hedges tracked the ball down and fired a throw to second base with Nolan Arenado advancing from first on the wild pitch.
4) Neftali Feliz: 9.34 feet -- April 24, 2016
You'd think an intentional ball would be the easiest pitch to control, since you just get to lob the ball to your catcher as he stands up in an empty batter's box. But there are plenty of humorous examples of an intentional walk going awry, whether it's Miguel Cabrera smacking a go-ahead hit on a pitch that floated back too close to the strike zone, or just someone like Feliz putting too much air under his lob. No one would blame Feliz for not wanting to throw the ball anywhere near Paul Goldschmidt's wheelhouse, but the Pirates reliever nearly threw this pitch straight over Chris Stewart's head. Stewart saved it with an acrobatic leaping catch, but Feliz's nine-foot-high pitch did at least prompt a startled "Whoa!" from the announcers.
5) Gregory Soto: 9.21 feet -- April 5, 2021
What a way to start your day. This was the first pitch of Soto's outing, and it woke everybody up in the middle of a 15-1 ballgame. Miguel Sanó is a big man at 6-foot-4, and this ball was three feet over his head. Sanó himself strolled over and plucked the ball off the ground as it rebounded off the net behind home plate at Comerica Park and rolled back toward him. He tossed it to the dugout, and that was that. No harm, no foul, just a fun clip to enjoy.