Effectively Wild Wiki


Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley answer listener emails about statistical leaders and record-setters in a small-sample season, what would make winning a championship in a 60-game season more impressive, the odds of good teams missing the playoffs, bad teams making the playoffs, and teams having unrepresentative 60-game stretches, the possibility of losing a perfect game, what types of teams are built for this strange season, KBO’s catching techniques compared to MLB’s, why American sports are averse to ties, and service-time manipulation and top-prospect promotion in a short season, plus a Stat Blast about Billy Hamilton’s value as an extra-inning runner, featuring FanGraphs writer (and visiting Stat Blaster) Ben Clemens.


  • Rate stat records in a shortened season
  • How to convince fans that 2020 is a 'real' season
  • Unrepresentative 60 game stretches
  • Odds of a good and bad teams making the playoffs
  • Best and worst stretches by playoff and non playoff teams
  • Interview with Ben Clemens
  • Billy Hamilton's value as a runner on second base
  • Strategy for extra innings in 2020
  • Managing relievers in compressed seasons
  • Losing while throwing a perfect game
  • Opposition to ties in American sports
  • Prospect call-ups and service time manipulation
  • Why KBO catchers don't block
  • Scott Boras' of volcano analogy

Email Questions[]

  • Sean: What if someone bats .400 this season? Would that count? Has anyone carried that through 60 games in recent years? It seems like this is the only season where it would be possible in my lifetime!
  • Louis: If we get a shortened season, how do you think we will look at performances that could end up being significant or even record setting. Most years, hitting .400 would be a huge story line and seen as a historic accomplishment, because hitting .400 over 162 games in so difficult, it has not been done in nearly 80 years. Hitting .400 over 50 or 60 games would not be easy, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility. If a player hit .400 this season, how would it be viewed? I can’t imagine anybody thinking it was as impressive as it would be if it was in a regal 162 game season, but it would be the first time this has happened since 1941, and and argument can be made that hitting .400 after the longer offseason could be more impressive. The same would go for a player breaking Dutch Leonard’s post 1900 ERA record, Pedro’s WHIP record, or Barry Bonds’ OBP, SLG and OPS records. How would these accomplishments be seen and would MLB require asterisk in the record books?
  • Matthew: I've been thinking a lot about how we'll view the world series champion if we make it through the season. I know what things could happen to ensure more people view this year as a fluke (lots of player absences due to COVID, the Mariners winning the world series), but I'm more curious about what could happen to convince the most people to view this as a "real" season. Maybe if all of the presumptive favorites make the playoffs? If the Nationals repeat? If the team that wins the series wins next year too? Could this season play out in a manner that convinces it resulted in a proper champion?
  • Chris: Was listening to Mike Ferrin say today that every team has a good 60-game series during a usual season, and 33 wins would probably get a team in this year. So is it true that even the worst teams like the '88 Orioles and '03 Tigers have 60-game stretches around .500? If that is true-ish, then what would we say the odds are that an otherwise bad team could make the postseason this year? Also, what are the odds that true-talent Worlds Series team would have a nightmarish first 60 games ('19 Nats) and finish on the sidelines?
  • Brett: The potential new extra innings rules could set up an opportunity for a real life Vroom Vroom Guy. The situation was laid out by Jeremy Frank (@MLBrandomstats on twitter) here. The first reply suggests that Hamilton should run until he is thrown out (or scores on an inside the park home run). Does the math support this decision? My first thought was no but having him on 2nd with zero outs in the tenth might be more valuable than him on first with two outs in the ninth? 
  • Mike: I came across this article about the Reds. He makes the point that the Reds strength is their starting pitching and a shorter season benefits teams with better bullpens rather than rotations. Are there some statistics that would back this up? I initially thought that a solid rotation might be better because it will take longer for the hitters to get back in the groove than pitchers. Thoughts?
  • Jacob: With the runner starting on second base in extras, can we have a scenario where a pitcher records a perfect game and still loses?
  • Guillaume: Here comes Guillaume (Gi-Yom) again, the French dude with the unpronounceable name (by the way you did very well last time)! I was listening to the episode 1555 and was surprised to listen to you arguing about draws. This is very funny because we were arguing about them as well in the podcast that I run on baseball and MLB in France. This also came from our "unhappiness" of seeing extra innings start with a runner in second base. For us, French people, it seemed that if MLB wanted to have a better control of the timeframe of the game, they should stop with extra innings in regular season (but keep them in post season), and accept that a baseball game could end as a draw between the two teams. The season is normally 162-game long and I don't think that draws would be an issue to having a clear division winner. Anyway, my question about this is as follows : could you tell me why, historically, does a baseball game need to end with a clear winner and not in a draw and do you think that baseball could become the first sport of the big 4 to have its regular season games end in a draw?
  • Jacob: I was curious as to what you think is going to happen to top minor league players such as a Carter Kieboom or Nate Pearson who might be on the cusp of the majors but haven't signed a contract in the way Luis Robert has. Do teams have any incentive at all to let those guys accrue service time this year? It feels unfortunate, but also likely, that we'll have to wait another year (and 20 days of next season) to see some of these really exciting prospects make it to the show. Do you think the same thing or do you think we could see some of these guys poke their heads in the MLB?
  • Derek: My much more observant 8 yo son asked me why the KBO catchers always try to catch the balls in the dirt instead of getting down to block.  That was a couple weeks ago and I’ve been watching more closely since then. Sure enough, there appears to be much less blocking from the knees. Now I’m wondering if catcher blocking is a relic left over from a past where catchers didn’t have functional mitts and the best strategy was to use the body to keep it in front. Could it be that it’s still done this way because it’s always been done that way, and a skilled catcher may be better off scooping like a first baseman in some circumstances or even all the time? From the games I've watched and paid attention (3-4ish), I'd say it was at least half trying to dig the ball even with runners on base. I separately asked my 8 yo son without giving him my estimate and he said they "only block about 25% of the time". He's been watching more games and more closely, but he's 8 so there's that. We are likely over-estimating because we are looking for it, but it's enough to be noticeable for sure. Either way, I think the question is still valid. As a coach, I know that I drill into my players the need to block ALL balls in the dirt, which is based on not only what I was taught but also the leading catching resources. I would not be surprised at all if it continues this way because of the aversion to risk. There are few things in baseball that are shamed more vehemently than a passed ball with a runner on base if the catcher tries to pick it instead of blocking.

Stat Blast[]

  • The Stat Blast segment is based on Alex's question and based on Vroom Vroom Guy. Ben and Meg talk with Ben Clemens about Billy Hamilton's value as a runner on second base to start extra innings.
  • Ben Clemens's analysis showed that a team who starts extra innings with Billy Hamilton on second base would win 55% of extra inning games.
  • Ben Clemens's rule of thumb is that the break-even point for stealing second is 75%. For Billy Hamilton, his break-even is 20% "which is outlandish". This is the same break-even percentage for stealing home in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game with two outs. Hamilton's actual success rate is 80%, so "he should just run every single time."
  • Hamilton starting on second base in extra innings adds an amazing 5% of win expectancy. "It's a rule that lets you skip batting and go stand on second, and that's exactly what he's wanted to do for his entire career." But it happens so rarely that it comes out to only .3 wins over a sixty game season. Ben Lindbergh notes that adding .3 WAR would double Hamilton's 2019 WAR.
  • Sam Miller wrote an article in 2014 (linked below) answering the question "Down one run in the ninth, would you rather have David Ortiz on second or Billy Hamilton on first?", Sam found that there wasn't enough data to be confident, but concluded that Hamilton on first is more valuable.


  • Since 2000 only one player, Chipper Jones, has hit over .400 during the first sixty games of the season. Jones hit .408 in the first 60 games of the 2008 season.
  • Meg says that even though it is a shortened season she will absolutely "experience joy" if the Mariners won the World Series in 2020.
  • From 1969 onward, 71% of teams had a stretch of 60 games during the season where they were 33-27 or better. 88% had a stretch where they were at least .500 or better.
  • In Episode 1167 Ben and Jeff discussed Scott Boras' description of the Padres as a volcano of hot talent lava.
  • This is subsequent Five-Timers Club member Ben Clemens's first appearance on the podcast.