Effectively Wild Episode 57: The Teams That Will Win a World Series in the Next Five Years/Are Beat Writers Becoming More or Less Important?/The O’s Start Saunders

On the [Morning? Evening? Afternoon? It’s unclear] of October 5, 2012, Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, along with guest Marc Normandin of SB Nation, recorded and posted Episode 57 of Effectively Wild. In it, they talk about projecting World Series champions for the next five years, the present utility of team beat writers, and the Orioles going with Joe Saunders to start the Wild Card game. The fun part of this is that even though the conversation happened over five years ago, there’s ample opportunity to connect this episode to the 2017 World Series, which starts tonight! Let’s go.


The Teams That Will Win the World Series in the Next Five Years

“I think that by 2015 and 2016 the Dodgers could be in a pretty ugly state and the Padres could be peaking” – Sam Miller

Nobody knows what’s going to happen five years from now. Projecting even one year out can be tough, not to mention five. Sure, we can take our best guesses: Vegas gives us the odds going into every season (both before-and-after offseason moves have been made); we know the team with the best record from the year before; and we also have some idea of the team with the best farm system.

Each of Sam, Ben, and Marc selected 5 teams they think will win a World Series in the next 5 seasons (no particular order), starting in 2013. After taking everything into consideration (major league roster, minor league system, payroll flexibility, etc.) here’s who they picked, along with the actual World Series winners since 2013:

Ben: Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, Nationals, Rangers  

Marc: A’s, Giants, Padres, Rangers, Red Sox

Sam: Angels, Braves, Nationals, Padres, Rangers

MLB: Red Sox (’13), Giants (’14), Royals (’15), Cubs (’16), Dodgers/Astros (’17)

Some fun teams on here.

Marc wins the contest by having selected two World Series champions (Red Sox in 2013, Giants in 2014). Sam is shut out completely with no hope for a winner. Ben has zero so far, but can score a point if the Dodgers win.

Just for fun, here are 5 randomly selected MLB teams using a random number generator: Dodgers, A’s, Rockies, Red Sox, Phillies. Hey even this list did better than Sam (sorry Sam).

The Astros elicited quick “no” answers from everyone, including an “lol” from Marc, and not without reason. Houston won 111 games COMBINED in 2011-2012, and would add only 51 more in 2013. A couple of now-familiar names did get their start in these years – Jose Altuve got some major league time in 2011 and held his own as a 21-year-old before making an All Star appearance in 2012. Dallas Keuchel debuted in 2012 but did not impress, posting more walks than strikeouts in 85 innings. George Springer, Lance McCullers, and Carlos Correa were in the minor leagues, but the thought of them in the Bigs was still nebulous enough at the time that it didn’t quite register.

When this episode aired, the Dodgers hadn’t made the playoffs since 2009 and appeared to be wasting Clayton Kershaw’s career. The late-season Red Sox bailout trade signaled to the baseball world that the team was unafraid to carry a large payroll, but it still seemed a bit much at the time to take on in order to acquire Adrian Gonzalez. Ben felt confident enough in the Dodgers’ new direction to pick them (without even knowing that the Padres would be trading preseason top-50 overall prospect Yasmani Grandal northward two years down the line), and he might be rewarded this year.

Three projected World Series winners were selected by multiple hosts. Ben, Sam, and Marc all picked the Rangers, who did win a couple of division titles but didn’t make it out of the ALDS since the episode and have now entered a full rebuild after trading Yu Darvish. Sam and Ben both picked the Angels, who managed a division win but have so far done a good job of squandering Mike Trout’s prime years. Ben and Marc both picked the Padres, who haven’t managed more than 77 wins in the last five seasons.

As for the winning teams, there were scoffs at the mention of the Cubs, while the Royals were one of the final 7 teams not even read off.

Within the next week, the door on this early Effectively Wild contest will close, and we’ll know exactly how many World Series winners they were able to project, and it’s either 2 or 3. It’s a tough game, predicting baseball, but in many ways that’s what makes it fun.

So, who are the next 5 World Series winners? Cubs, Yankees, Dodgers, White Sox, Phillies. Like, you know, whatever.

Are Beat Writers Becoming More or Less Important

“The bad ones make the good ones that much greater” – Marc Normandin

I’m not going to go too deep into the section where Sam, Ben, and Marc talk about beat writers. I feel as though the “value of beat writers” conversation in something that happens every now-and-then on both the podcast and the Effectively Wild Facebook group.

Instead, I’m going to put out there that the playoffs and World Series are the most important times for a team to have a good beat writer, if only for the final game of the season, if only because the team might win it all.

To be the beat writer for the local paper of record covering the World Series champion means that your game recap will be the most read story on the website that day (and one of the most read of the year, probably). It means the lede of your recap will be front-and-center of the one print edition that non-subscribers buy this year, commemorating history for the hometown team. Nobody saves the paper from a season-long grind; they save it from the moments that a team ascends to greatness. That’s the one worth saving, and the one where it’s worth having that great writer so the story stands the test of time. 

With that, here are two Andy McCullough game recaps from newspapers that have surely been purchased and saved by many Kansas City and Los Angeles baseball fans:

Joe Saunders

Do you remember that Joe Saunders started the American League Wild Card game in 2012? I did not remember that Joe Saunders started the American League Wild Card game in 2012. At the time, however, it was a topic of debate, as Buck Showalter and the Orioles were deciding between Saunders (a Marc Normandin favorite) and Steve Johnson (a Sam Miller favorite) against the Texas Rangers.

Saunders (5.2 IP, 1 ER) ended up out-dueling current Dodger Yu Darvish (6.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 R) as Baltimore advanced to the ALDS. Sam wondered if Saunders would even get another start in the playoffs of the Orioles were to win, and he did! He threw an almost identical line (5.2 IP, 1 ER) in one ALDS start against the Yankees. Steve Johnson pitched more innings in 2012 (38.1) than he did in the rest of his career (37.2) and did not appear in a playoff game at all. 

In another edition of “it’s damn hard to predict the future,” it’s a little amazing to look at that Orioles team. A 26-year-old Jake Arrieta started 18 games, appearing in 24 total, and posted a whopping 6.20 ERA, but three years later he would start a Wild Card Game himself, throwing a complete game shutout against the Pirates. Four years after this we were all clamoring for Zach Britton to enter the Wild Card Game in the highest of high leverage situations, but in 2012 he started 11 games, posted a 5.07 ERA, and was not wanted anywhere near the playoffs, failing to appear in a single game.

Of course Arrieta and Britton weren’t going to make it into a playoff game, not with their production. Early in Effectively Wild history, and alluded to at the end of this episode, Ben and Sam determined that the threshold between “Wouldn’t Mind This Guy Starting a Playoff Game” and “Replace This Guy at the Trade Deadline” was a 102.5 ERA+. Arrieta (68) and Zach Britton (84) fell far below that line. Saunders had an ERA+ of 104 with the Orioles (according to Sam on the episode. Baseball Reference places him at 117 ERA+ with Baltimore; and a 101 ERA+ factoring in his time with Arizona that season)

For all the discussion (in the Effectively Wild Facebook group and elsewhere) about Charlie Morton getting a playoff start in 2017, his 109 ERA+ easily clears this threshold. Perhaps this is an indicator that 102.5 ERA+ as the line between “playoff starter” and “make a trade” should be revisited, but he did clear the bar as previously established. Here’s a complete list of pitchers with ERA+ below 102.5 who started a game in the 2017 playoffs:

  • Lance McCullers HOU 93
  • Doug Fister BOS 94
  • Masahiro Tanaka NYY 95
  • Rick Porcello BOS 98
  • Jon Lester CHC 100

Miscellaneous EW notes:

  • Opening sound: a bow-and-arrow shooting at a wooden target?
  • This was the second ever Effectively Wild episode with three hosts (and second consecutive episode)
  • They also spoke about the Hall of Nearly Great e-book, which Marc edited, and to which Ben and Sam both contributed
  • Sam compares Ben fishing for compliments on his Hall of Nearly Great chapter to proposing marriage on the jumbotron
  • During the conversation about beat writers, Sam refers to Jonah Keri’s role at Grantland, a website for which Ben would eventually write
  • Marc asks whether Ben and Sam call they pronounce the stat FIP as “eff-eye-pee” or “fip.” They call it “fip”
  • Ben and Marc “intimately shared one microphone and one pair of headphones”


Header image by Mathieu ROUAUD.

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