Ben Lindbergh, Sam Miller, and professional player (and former Sonoma Stompers coach, catcher, and first baseman) Tommy Lyons discuss the different types of hustle in baseball, deciding what level of hustle is acceptable in a variety of situations and examining how the fan perspective on hustle differs from the player perspective on hustle, plus a postscript (1:14:40) on two Atlantic League plays, the Angels’ combined no-hitter in tribute to Tyler Skaggs, and Bob Gibson’s health.
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about Ball Four and Jim Bouton, Million Dollar Coin Flip, Christian Yelich’s pursuit of the first 50-30 season and which combination of power and speed would be most impressive, a baseball scene on Cheers, how the MLB All-Star Game differs from other sports’ all-star games, Bubba Starling and the incredible first round of the 2011 draft, the latest Atlantic League experiments and a new rule that isn’t really about stealing first base, the effect of the unified trade deadline and the strange state of the standings, and more.
Audio intro: Lizzo, "Juice" Audio outro: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Ball of Fire"
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game, Justin Verlander’s and Rob Manfred’s comments about the juiced ball, the recent rapid turnover among elite hitters, and an instance of premature celebration featuring Fernando Rodney, then answer listener emails about Verlander’s on-pace-to-be-historic strand rate, whether we should have recognized that Verlander’s decline in Detroit wasn’t permanent, whether we should redefine “scoring position,” whether it’s harder to make the majors or to stay there, and what would happen if strikeouts triggered ejections, plus a Stat Blast about a showdown (Sho-down?) between Shohei Ohtani the hitter and Shohei Ohtani the pitcher.
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about Colin Poche, the “Is This Guy Good?” game for relievers, Mike Trout entering the All-Star break as baseball’s best hitter and player, whether Trout could ever have his number retired league-wide, the rate at which Trout is surpassing Hall of Famers in WAR, an old discussion about Derek Jeter jerseys and the popularity of Aaron Judge, whether catcher collisions and concussions could play a part in bringing about robot umps, Howie Kendrick and a myth about bat-dropping, Max Scherzer’s premature celebration, and more. Then they discuss the past, present, and future of the Home Run Derby, why this year’s Derby could be pivotal, whether the Derby could ever become a major standalone sport, shagging flies during the Derby, and other Derby details.
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about Sam Malone maligning the Mariners, the unlikely career of pinch-hitter extraordinaire Mark Sweeney, the joys of watching Fernando Tatis, Jr., Bryce Harper’s Amazon store, and the definition of “MLB legend.” Then (29:43) Ben talks to Hall of Famer Bud Selig, Commissioner Emeritus and author of the new memoir For the Good of the Game, about Selig’s career, how he built consensus, the mistakes owners made in the ’70s and ’80s, collusion, how MLB missed opportunities to promote itself, steroid testing and Barry Bonds, public ballpark funding, the rise of MLBAM and big broadcast contracts, the future of competitive balance and labor peace, and more. Lastly (56:13), Ben and Meg reconvene to discuss Selig’s comments and analyze his complex legacy.
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley reflect on the passing of Tyler Skaggs. Then (9:57) Ben and Sam Miller banter about whether it’s better for a team to be in a division with a few good teams or a division with one great team and a few bad teams and answer listener emails about whether baseball is a strong-link sport or a weak-link sport, whether a team could benefit by tailoring its park and its roster to a homer-averse style of play, which teams they think it would have been better for baseball for Mike Trout to have been drafted by, plus Stat Blasts about Charlie Blackmon’s home/road splits and the return of vintage Coors Field, and Trout’s chances of setting the record for the longest-ever reign by an active WAR leader.
Audio intro: Built to Spill, "So" Audio outro: Paul McCartney, "4th of July"
In a bonus episode about the London Series, Ben Lindbergh talks to Darius Austin and Russell Eassom, writers and podcasters for the UK baseball site Bat Flips and Nerds, about their experiences at both Yankees-Red Sox games, why they think there was so much scoring, whether that brand of baseball was a good advertisement for the sport, the energy in the crowd, MLB’s outreach to the UK community, what could have been better about the weekend, how they became baseball fans, the growth of the UK fan community, where the game is played in the UK, the hardest part of explaining baseball to non-fans, how they would feel about MLB rotating between juiced and non-juiced balls on a set schedule, and much more.
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller talk to Ross Stripling, Los Angeles Dodgers starter and host of The Big Swing, about why he started and enjoys doing a podcast, how Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman influenced his pitching style, how he uses data to prepare for opponents, and how he feels about pitching in an era with the highest home-run rate ever. Then Stripling walks them through what he was thinking and why he threw what he threw in six memorable plate appearances from his career, including a showdown with his nemesis Mike Trout, the first and last batters he faced in his memorable, no-hit debut, his highest-leverage appearance, an 11-pitch PA, and a big moment from the 2017 World Series.
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about the Twitter commotion caused by the Pioneer League’s Grand Junction Rockies (who are definitely not named the Humpback Chubs), an Angels outfield sign and Mike Trout, the curious rise and fall of Yonder Alonso, the promotion of Rays rookie (and two-way player) Brendan McKay, the upcoming FanGraphs All-Star Game event, the All-Star starters and how All-Stars should be selected, and J.D. Martinez’s comments about writers wanting to work in front offices. Then (40:33) they talk to FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich about his sabermetric analysis of the Congressional Baseball Game, why the Dems have dominated recent games, the two-way talents of Rep. Cedric Richmond, and why the game has resisted the polarization of politics. Lastly (1:06:21), they bring on NPR’s Linda Holmes to discuss her debut novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over, her love of baseball and fascination with the yips, whether a character with the yips is based on Brandon McCarthy, how the book has been received, her writing process and approach to dialogue, and more.
In a bonus episode, Ben Lindbergh banters with FanGraphs writer Craig Edwards about Craig’s explanation for the struggles of José Ramírez, and then (11:15) Ben and Craig talk to John Bitzer, founder and editor of the new site Baseball Trade Values, about designing the trade-simulation site, the challenges of valuing players and constructing fair baseball trades, how he used real trades to refine his trade model, whether teams might scout for front-office talent via his site, how he accounts for changing team behavior, the outlook for the 2019 trade deadline, and more. Then (49:12) Ben brings on astrophysicist and contributor to The Athletic Dr. Meredith Wills to discuss her groundbreaking research into the construction of the baseball, the difficulty of disassembling the ball, why and how the 2019 ball is different from the 2018 ball, the multiple phases of home-run-happy balls, what MLB could do to suppress the home-run rate, solving home run mysteries with science, and more.