Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about the Cardinals finally returning to play and attempting to complete their overstuffed schedule, the teams with the most movement in playoff odds since the start of the season, Cleveland’s clubhouse problems with protocol-defying pitchers Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger, the joy of watching Mookie Betts and Betts’s proclivity for three-homer games, amusing Astros-related comments by Ramón Laureano and Joe Kelly, the hundredth anniversary of the death of Ray Chapman, and a listener-email-inspired, overdue development in the Negro Leagues’ official classification as major leagues.
Audio intro: The Muffs, "No Action"
Audio outro: Pavement, "Major Leagues"
Link to Jay Jaffe on the Cardinals
Link to article about Plesac’s video
Link to article about Plesac and Clevinger being optioned
Link to Ben Clemens on Mookie
Link to Joe Kelly’s comments
Link to Laureano’s comments
Link to Craig Wright on Ray Chapman
Link to Pages from Baseball’s Past
Link to Ben on Negro Leagues reclassification
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Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about whether the idea of sports as a distraction from the pandemic has panned out, whether unexpectedly hot-starting teams like the Rockies and Tigers should “go for it” (and what that would entail), and what, if anything, MLB should do to address the curious case of Trevor Bauer’s spiking spin rates, then answer listener emails about the ideal balance between chaos and predictability, why lower pitch counts haven’t kept pitchers healthy, a clever solution for preserving extra-long games in the era of the automatic-runner rule, and pitchers calling their own pitches, plus a Stat Blast about how many more homers some of history’s greatest sluggers would have hit if they’d batted higher in the order.
Audio intro: L.E.O., "Distracted"
Audio outro: The Go-Betweens, "Your Turn My Turn"
Link to Will Leitch on how it feels to watch sports now
Link to story about streaking Tigers
Link to Ben Clemens on the hot Rockies
Link to playoff odds changes since Opening Day
Link to Ben on foreign substances and Bauer’s spin rates
Link to Jeff Passan on foreign substances and Bauer’s spin rates
Link to article about projections and the 2015 season
Link to Phil Birnbaum on the limits of predictions
Link to Ben on 2020’s injured pitchers
Link to Neil Paine on the unsolved injured-pitcher problem
Link to Russ Hull’s Stat Blast Song cover
Link to Michael Baumann on the odds of anyone reaching 700 homers
Link to Aaron Gleeman on the new no. 2 hitter
Link to video of Greinke calling his own pitches
Link to story about Maddux calling his own pitches
Link to Ben Gibbard’s “Centerfield”
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about a realization about fake crowd noise discomfort, a disastrous start to a Derek Holland outing that recalled an earlier podcast discussion, whether Fernando Tatís Jr. will ever have a moment as remarkable as Fernando Tatís’s two-grand-slam inning, outfielders showing up pitchers, and more, then bring back the “Is This Guy Good?” Game, in which they attempt to guess whether randomly drawn relievers are having good seasons so far.
Audio intro: Boat, "Be As Good As You Want to Be"
Audio outro: The Hold Steady, "You Did Good Kid"
Link to Adell video
Link to episode with interview about fake crowd noise
Link to story about drone delay
Link to episode with home runs hypothetical
Link to Holland game play-by-play
Link to Tatís’s two-grand-slam inning
Link to Bumgarner/Tatís home run video
Link to first “Is This Guy Good?” Game episode
Link to Is This Guy Good? website
Link to Ben on the low BABIP mystery
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about a bad fun fact on a baseball broadcast, a case of copycat pitching involving Jake Diekman and Chaz Roe, how MLB may amend eligibility for the Rookie of the Year award in 2021, a Wade LeBlanc balk and why balks remain mystifying and debatable, plus a Stat Blast on the longest hitless innings. Then (36:52) they talk to FanGraphs lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen about what he learns about prospects after they’re promoted, how teams are approaching prospect promotions in a shortened, pandemic-endangered season, why prospect evaluators missed on Shane Bieber, what to watch for with Luis Robert, Jo Adell, Nate Pearson, and several other top prospects who’ve made their MLB debuts, 2019 rookie arrivals who are having impressive sophomore seasons, how shorthanded teams like the Astros and Marlins are restocking their rosters, how teams might handle information deficits at the trade deadline, and how prospect evaluators are doing their jobs in the absence of minor league games.
Audio intro: The Posies, "It’s Great to Be Here Again"
Audio interstitial: The Rutles, "We’ve Arrived (And to Prove it We’re Here)"
Audio outro: The Weakerthans, "A New Name for Everything"
Link to Marlins broadcast “fun” fact
Link to Diekman/Roe story
Link to Stark on rookie eligibility
Link to LeBlanc balk tweet
Link to Sam on balk rules
Link to Jon Bois’s balk rules
Link to real balk rules
Link to Facebook group discussion of LeBlanc balk
Link to Mariners balk commercial
Link to Budweiser balk commercial
Link to Zach Nahlik’s Stat Blast song cover
Link to Stat Blast spreadsheet
Link to 1962 Mets-Dodgers play-by-play
Link to 2008 A’s-Orioles play-by-play
Link to 1994 Mariners-Yankees play-by-play
Link to Bois’s Mariners Dorktown documentary
Link to Ben Clemens on Bieber’s new pitch
Link to Craig Edwards on Luis Robert
Link to FanGraphs prospect rankings board
Link to Baseball Prospectus “Call-Up” posts
Link to Future Value
Link to Rob Arthur on the 2020 baseball
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about their minor league free agent draft results so far and whether this season has helped or hurt minor league free agents gain playing time, the continued watchability of revamped extra innings and the possibility of bringing back traditional extra innings for one week a year, and whether this season’s early big BABIP dip indicates that players are fielding better without fans, then answer listener emails about whether players should retain their rookie eligibility in the event of a shortened season, whether giving up in-person attendance forever would be worth guaranteeing a winning team, how the 2021 amateur draft order should be determined, and whether the lineup should reset in extra innings, plus a Stat Blast about quasi-walk-off hits in rain-delayed games.
Audio intro: Paul McCartney, "Distractions"
Audio outro: Beck, "No Distraction"
Link to minor league free agent draftees
Link to Sam on the automatic-runner rule
Link to Tango tweet about fielding performance
Link to article about basketball/soccer player improvements
Link to Lucas Apostoleris’s Stat Blast song cover
Link to Lucas’s Bandcamp page
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about Shohei Ohtani’s arm injury and his short- and long-term prospects as a two-way player, Mike Soroka and the ongoing pitcher-injury epidemic, the latest positive tests and player opt outs, Tigers reliever Tyler Alexander’s record-setting nine consecutive strikeouts, Clayton Kershaw’s comeback and other heartening news, MLB’s uptick in TV ratings, the strangeness of the standings, how long the regular season would have to last for MLB to give a green light to the playoffs, and robot umps coming to the KBO Futures League. Then (37:34) they talk to Senior Director of Seattle Mariners Productions Ben Mertens about how the Mariners manage fake crowd noise at T-Mobile Park, balancing boos and cheers, taunting opponents, the level of noise the players prefer, the construction of cardboard cutouts, the ballpark uncanny valley effect, and more.
Audio intro: Budgie, "Forearm Smash"
Audio interstitial: Death Cab for Cutie, "Fake Frowns"
Audio outro: Ernest Tubb, "I’m With a Crowd but So Alone"
Link to Ben on injured pitchers
Link to Tony Wolfe on Alexander
Link to article about TV ratings
Link to article about KBO robot umps
Link to Mariners Seat Fleet
Link to article on MLB’s cheering app
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley discuss the coronavirus spreading to the NL Central, the difficulties MLB faces compared to other sports leagues, the dramatic changes that the pandemic has imposed on the sport, why robot umps aren’t part of the pandemic makeover, the jarring visuals of virtual fans, the promotion of Nick Madrigal and the overlap of good and bad baseball news, the latest vexing comments by Astros owner Jim Crane, the power of pitcher deception and the potential to quantify it, and reports that the season could soon cease if conditions don’t improve, plus a follow-up addendum about why the automatic-runner rule shortens games.
Audio intro: John Lennon, "Borrowed Time"
Audio outro: Dr. Feelgood, "One Weekend"
Link to Jay Jaffe on the latest positive tests
Link to Ben Clemens on a baseball bubble
Link to GIF of Nelson Cruz and virtual fans
Link to Jim Crane article
Link to Josh Flowerman on reliever sequencing
Link to Hareeb al-Saq on reliever sequencing
Link to Ben on the knuckleball hangover effect
Link to Ben on perceived velocity
Link to Jon Anderson on quantifying pitcher deception
Link to Jeff Long on pitcher deception
Link to Eno Sarris on pitcher deception
Link to Eno on Yusmeiro Petit’s invisiball
Link to Johnny Cueto Statcast wireframe shimmy
Link to Passan report
Link to Ben Clemens on Passan’s report
Link to Ben on Nick Madrigal
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about family members not attending big league debuts and how teams and broadcasts could make better use of empty ballparks, audible profanity on the field, the rapid change in public opinion of the extra-innings automatic-runner rule, why the rule works as well as it does, the magnitude and causes of the pitcher injury spike through the first week of the season, the desirability of TV cameras mounted on drones, the difficulty of walking straight while blindfolded, and more, plus a Stat Blast about expectant parent Mike Trout’s reputed penchant for leading the league in a variety of statistical categories.
Audio intro: The Rolling Stones, "This Place is Empty"
Audio outro: The White Stripes, "Expecting"
Link to report about new sign-stealing punishments
Link to Zach Buchanan on debuts without family or fans
Link to Marc Carig on baseball broadcast profanity
Link to clip of Reddick cursing
Link to Astros-Dodgers dust-up video
Link to Sam on the automatic-runner rule
Link to Anthony Castrovince on the automatic-runner rule
Link to the new rule’s actual game-shortening results
Link to the new rule’s theoretical game-shortening results
Link to Theodor Bierhoff’s second Stat Blast song cover
Link to Ben on Trout’s bold ink
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller discuss several takeaways from the first weekend of the MLB regular season, starting with the COVID-19 outbreak among the Miami Marlins, the apparent inadequacy of MLB’s health and safety protocols, and the season’s tenuous state, before segueing into game action including sac bunts, pitcher usage, parity, the pace of games, masks, the ways they’re watching, and much more.
Audio intro: Eric Matthews, "Start of the Meltdown"
Audio outro: Fleetwood Mac, "Keep on Going"
Link to Rosenthal and Stark on the Marlins
Link to Joel Sherman on the Marlins
Link to Mike Petriello on bunting in extra innings
Link to Ben Clemens on bunting in extra innings
Link to You Must Remember This episode
Link to Alibi Ike trailer
Link to Alibi Ike short story
Link to BP on Bard and Choi
Link to Shakeia Taylor on MLB’s tepid embrace of BLM
Ben Lindbergh, Meg Rowley, and Sam Miller banter about Sam’s cricket home invasion, then discuss Opening Day, the experience of spectating games without fans, the merits and drawbacks of MLB’s last-second expanded playoff format, Mookie Betts’ surprise contract extension and how and why the Dodgers (and not the Red Sox) made the deal, the new temporary home of the Blue Jays, and more.
Audio intro: The New Pornographers, "Opening Ceremony"
Audio outro: John K. Samson, "Fantasy Baseball at the End of the World"
Link to FanGraphs staff predictions
Link to Craig Edwards on the expanded playoffs
Link to Morning Consult poll
Link to The Athletic on Soto’s positive test
Link to Ben on the Betts deal