Sam Miller is the editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus. He has written for two Baseball Prospectus annuals and co-edited the 2014, 2015 and 2016 editions. He also co-hosts, with Ben Lindbergh, the Effectively Wild podcast, and is the co-author of The Only Rule Is It Has To Work, about his experience running baseball operations for an independent minor-league team.
Everybody butchers baseball. How do romance novels do, you might wonder.
We play a game when we go on vacation: One person grabs a steamy romance novel out of the bag, reads the title and back-cover plot summary out loud, and everybody else writes a first sentence for the book. Then the original person reads all the first sentences out loud, and the rest of us guess which one is real. Long way of telling you how I ended up with a copy of The Winning Season, by Alison Packard, not long ago.
Imagining an All-Star game that was For The Win, not for the special interest groups (and fans).
Baseball would like you to care about the outcome of its midsummer All-Star game, because watching baseball that doesn’t count is like eating food by going “numnumnum” while pretending to stuff your face with the Play-Doh hot dog that a child handed to you. The obstacle to this is the way the game is, by tradition, played: Not remotely in the style of a team interested in winning.
So the premise of this article is to imagine a fantastical world where This Time It Really Actually Counts, i.e. the losing manager gets dropped off a pier. Rian Watt will be managing the NL team; I, Sam Miller, will be managing the AL team. (Meg Rowley will pass judgment on us both at the bottom.) There are no rules or limitations imposed on us, except a) those of baseball at large (e.g. no spitballs, no axe attacks), b) common sense pragmatism (e.g. no threatening to drop your players off a pier as motivational tactic), and c) every major-league team must be represented by at least one player on the roster. Everything else is the manager’s call. Here are our strategies, which were written with no knowledge of the other manager’s strategies—and, because of the demands of our publication schedule, no knowledge of Clayton Kershaw's disabledness.
What to do when the batter fails and the team succeeds?
Two years ago, I wrote one of my very favorite submissions to this website: How To Celebrate A Walkoff Error, in which I closely examined where the teammates on the bench chose to mob up after a batter in a huge spot did something bad (hit a routine out) only to end up accomplishing something great (runner scores walkoff run on botched defensive play). The tendency to congratulate the hitter, instead of the runner, baffled me, but ultimately I concluded that this was akin to the principle of felony murder.
Ben and Sam discuss their fatalistic feelings concerning Noah Syndergaard, banter about fun facts and Fernando Abad, and talk about impending trade-deadline decisions for the White Sox, Yankees, and Pirates.
Translating the unrecognizable French abbreviations for baseball stats.
Was checking up on an old friend who is playing in the Can-Am League this season and ran into a little bit of trouble: French names for baseball statistics are apparently different enough that the abbreviations are unrecognizable! These are the team starts for the Quebec Capitales; let's see if we can sort this out.
Ben and Sam banter about Steven Wright and knuckleball physics, then answer listener emails about the least interesting inning, the one-baserunner leash, an all-or-nothing Ichiro, Mike Trout's hypothetical twin and more.
Ben and Sam banter about Clayton Kershaw and clarify five-man infields, then discuss who would be on a baseball Mount Rushmore and dig through Sports Illustrated's archives to pinpoint what makes Vin Scully so great.