Effectively Wild Episode 1448: The 21-Soto Salute

Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley discuss the latest on the Astros and the benefits and limitations of front-office diversity, Rob Manfred’s new comments about the baseball, Kris Bryant’s grievance against the Cubs, umpire Rob Drake’s apology for a bad tweet, and Yu Darvish’s good tweets, then answer listener emails about Juan Soto’s age and clubhouse drinking, the Nationals’ clubhouse chemistry, whether teams should stagger their starters to avoid opponents’ aces, whether stealing third is easier than stealing second, whether baseball should have a playoff losers bracket, and whether pitchers can use the variation between baseballs to their advantage.

Audio intro: Thrush Hermit, "This Week"
Audio outro: Modern Baseball, "Play Ball!"

Link to Manfred’s comments about the ball
Link to article about Bryant’s grievance
Link to article about Rob Drake’s tweets
Link to Rob Drake’s apology
Link to Boswell article about the Nats’ chemistry
Link to Svrluga article about the Nats’ chemistry
Link to article about the Astros’ chemistry
Link to Ben on forecasting chemistry
Link to Emma on MLB’s issues
Link to video of Soto’s sparkling grape juice
Link to story on Harper’s apple cider
Link to Rob’s new research about the ball
Link to story on Darvish/Verlander tweets
Link to Ben Clemens on staggering starters
Link to Dan Lependorf on staggering starters
Link to Dan Meyer on staggering starters
Link to Roger Cheng on staggering starters
Link to order The MVP Machine

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Listening to this Monday morning I just had to laugh at the emailer writing “The Nationals are different this year because of that we don’t know how to quantify. They have a mix of personalities, particularly the Latin American players, that let them play loose and carefree. I know this is easy to dismiss but it is the real deal.”

How different are they now? Did that loose and carefree playing style cause them to drop every home game of the series? Did that mix of personalities lead to three straight losses?

Quantify this: the Astros are up 3 games to 2. That’s the real deal. The unquantifiable , like “momentum,” is real until suddenly it isn’t. Just like your imaginary friends and your lucky socks, it may give a narrative talking point and it may even make you feel better but that doesn’t mean it actually changes the outcome of games.

Note I am criticizing the emailer’s “unquantifiable magic faerie dust,” not the Nationals — I say this as someone who was wearing an Expos hat (an actual, not metaphorical, cap) throughout the playoffs and so had every reason to pulling for them even before they faced the Houston Wifebeaters.