Ben and Sam banter about Angels at the airport, Ryan Webb, and a home-run-hitting contest, then answer listener emails about winning three-game series, the best radio broadcasts, the baseball equivalent of the San Antonio Spurs, and more.
- Restructuring the standings based on three-game series
- Baseball equivalent of the San Antonio Spurs
- Favorite radio broadcasts
- High pitcher intentional walk rates
- NL Central predictions
- Episode 824 follow-up: Sam was at John Wayne Airport and the Angels murals were updated to include 2012-2015.
- Webb/Albers: Ryan Webb signed with the Rays and Ben thinks this is the year he gets a save.
- Sam opens a box with 10 copies of The Only Rule Is It Has to Work that were sent overnight from Manhattan.
- A Rangers fan won free season tickets by hitting a home run at Globe Life Park in three swings. Similar promotions were discussed in Episode 396 and Episode 731. Ben had previously considered it impossible, but Sam points out that the previous promotions gave you only one pitch, whereas the Rangers promotion allowed three swings and as many pitches as you like from a pitching machine.
- Sam: "When I was 12 I went to my first ballgame in Shea Stadium for a Mets vs. Cubs game. I absolutely loved it and sat with my dad next to a couple of experts so I found it fairly easy to follow that game. Since then I've watched countless games and read every book I can get my hands on, I now regale my friends with fascinating baseball facts and they don't seem to go down that well. However my question is this: when I originally tried to work out how the season was scheduled I saw that a lot of teams played each other in blocks of three and thought that probably teams played a series against each other and then the winner of the season was the team that won the most series. So how do you think teams would adjust and the game would change if teams played 54 3-game series a year? Also if this was the system that was chosen would you decide the winner of a series by the first team to two wins or by aggregating the runs across the three games? The latter would mean that there were no dead rubbers (to use a British term) but it would also mean that Americans had to get used to tie games in the first two matches or if one team was ahead going into the last match and that match was level."
- Shamit: "I have been a San Antonio Spurs fan for 8 or 9 years now. I recently got into baseball but don't particularly support a team. I was wondering which team is the Spurs-iest team in baseball?"
- Kevin (San Diego, CA): "Who are your favorite radio broadcasters?"
- Jenny: "I was checking out the Baseball Prospectus team depth charts earlier today and noted that in the NL Central PECOTA has the Cubs winning the division 92-70 followed by the Pirates at 83-79, the Cardinals at 82-80 and the Brewers and Reds at worse than that. I was curious as to what your opinions are on how the NL Central will turn out this year. I am a Pirates fan and I certainly could not have predicted a 98-win season for them last year or that the best three teams in baseball would be in the NL Central. So who do you have winning the division and will the NL Central dominate this season as it did last season?"
- One of Sam's "back pocket" Fun Facts is comparing the ratio of intentional walks to total walks for Rafael Betancourt (excellent control, never walks anybody) and Jonathan Sanchez (horrible control, walks everybody).
- Sam uses the Play Index to see which pitchers have the most intentional walks relative to total walks since 1961. He set the minimum at 15 intentional walks, in honor of Jonathan Sanchez's total.
- To establish the baseline: 7% of all walks in 2015 were intentional.
- Ben guesses that the leader is at 12%. "Good guess. Not remotely close," says Sam.
- 1042 pitchers have had at least 10% of their walks be intentional. At a 20% minimum, there were 200. At a 30% minimum, there were 29. At 40%, there were three, one of whom had a long career.
- 43% of Dan Quisenberry's 162 career walks were intentional.
- 45% of Dave Eilers's 29 career walks were intentional.
- A whopping 64% of Don Dennis's 33 career walks were intentional. He pitched two seasons in the 1960's, with less than a walk per inning, so you might consider him a "control specialist". Most of his intentional walks were situational, rather than trying to avoid a particular batter.
- Don Dennis received the "St. Louis Rookie of the Year" award in 1965. Sam calls this out as a counterexample to the complaint that "nowadays, everybody gets an award". People were giving out awards like candy in the 1960's.
- Sam notes that Dennis's obituary described him as an "avid vacationer". He didn't necessarily travel a lot. He just took a lot of vacation.
- Dennis got married in the middle of the baseball season, which is not done nowadays.
- In one of Dennis's games, he came in relief of Bob Gibson, who was himself pitching relief! Sam is amused that pitcher usage in this era happily used an ace in relief.
- The all-time lowest ratios of intentional walks to total walks belong to relatively recent players, since intentional walks as a whole are going out of fashion.
- Only one of Felix Doubront's 219 walks was intentional.
- Among players with long careers, the leader is Jon Lester, currently with 4 out of 592 walks intentional.
- As a point of comparison, Mariners rookie Tyler Olsen pitched 13 innings and issues 7 intentional walks out of 10. He is effectively the leader in intentional walk ratio, but failed to clear the 15-walk minimum.
- Finally, Sam looks at active players. Rafael Betancourt (40/164 = 24%) and Ronald Belisario (33/127 = 26%) are barely active. In third place (28/121 = 23%) is our friend Ryan Webb. "It all comes full circle," says Ben.
- Eight relievers recorded a save for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015.
The season structured as a series of three-game series
- Sam recalls that one of his favorite things in baseball was that they used to always play the bottom of the ninth even if the home team was winning. He says it must be 'several hundred episodes' since he last mentioned this. It was previously mentioned in Episode 652.
- If the series winner was determined by games won, Sam wonders if they would play the third game of the series if one team has already won two. On the one hand, he thinks skipping the pointless game is good, because it allows the "find the best team in baseball" exercise to be completed in fewer games. On the other hand, September is already filled with meaningless games, so the evidence tells us that they would play the games anyway, especially since TV contracts would require it. According to Sam, baseball has a vested interest in fooling us into thinking that every game has stakes, and having a game that is palpably meaningless would be very bad.
- As for roster construction, Ben figures that the meaningless game would rest all the starters and be played by bench guys. Sam notes that this would lead to a "stars and scrubs" roster: You know that the stars will have plenty of rest days, so depth is less important.
- If the series winner was determined by total runs, every inning becomes significant. Sam considers an extreme case where the standings are determined solely by cumulative run differential: Even in a blowout, you'll bring in your ace closer because that run you give up counts as much as a run in a close game. That would put too much strain on players.
- Sam concludes that "winning a series on games" makes too many innings meaningless, and "winning a series on total runs" makes too many innings stressful. The current system is a nice balance.
- Meg and guest co-host Mike Ferrin would discuss "winning a series on total runs" in future episode Episode 1757.
The Spurs-iest team
- Ben admits to not knowing much about basketball but assumes that he's looking for a team that is good every year, with a working strategy, but is not flashy and avoids controversy. They're just a good team that is also boring.
- Ben thinks that the St. Louis Cardinals are the baseball team most similar to the Spurs. Sam agrees.
Favorite radio broadcasters
- Sam enjoys listening to games on the radio, but notes that it can be hard to tell different broadcasters apart. For one, you're usually listening to the radio in the background while you're doing other things, so you aren't giving it your full attention. You don't see the broadcasters' faces, and their voices have a similar timbre, so they all blend together.
- According to Sam, "it's clear" that the Mets' and Giants' radio broadcasts are the best two currently. He also likes the Astros' and Brewers' broadcasters.
- Carson Cistulli crowdsourced radio broadcaster ratings in 2012 for FanGraphs. See results linked below.
NL Central predictions
- Ben thinks it's unlikely that the NL Central will dominate this year like it did last year.
- Ben and Sam generally agree with the PECOTA rankings.
- Sam is a little surprised that PECOTA projected the Cubs and Pirates as low as it did, and that it didn't rank the Cubs as the best team in baseball.
- Effectively Wild Episode 825: The Airport Angels Edition
- Broadcaster Rankings (Radio): #10 - #1 by Carson Cistulli