Welcome to EW Rewind. This is going to be a regular feature here. Our intention is to go back through the full catalogue of old episodes of Effectively Wild, and recap them for you. We’ll run through the episode a little bit, highlight any of the show’s meta elements that hit a high note or appear for the first time in a given episode, and (there will be some content here) refresh the topic or topics to some extent. As one of the founding fathers of this site, which is (if you’ve found this page without already knowing it) an outgrowth of Effectively Wild itself, I’m leading off. Here are the first two episodes of the best active baseball podcast, recapped and summarized for your enjoyment. Click the headers to visit the Baseball Prospectus page where each episode was first published, and give them a listen.
Most early episodes were titled with the random sound effect Ben (I’m assuming here; I hope I haven’t made an ass of myself) used as the opening, a sort of theme song substitute that has remained a signature—though we now mostly hear musical samples or off-air banter, rather than the audio equivalent of Clip Art.
Anyway, this episode is eponymous, like a first album, so it’s up to me to tell you that it opens with a gong. It’s clear, I think, that Ben wasn’t sure there would be a second episode, or that it would be any good, so he went the self-deprecating route from the first trickle of noise. He opens, in a voice he’s traded in for a much livelier one since, “Welcome to the first episode of what we hope will be more than one…” He was in managing-expectations mode from the get-go.
Sam seems positively sunny by contrast. He posits that the show’s early format—10-minute episodes, one topic, no prep time—will revolutionize the genre. (He’s being tongue-in-cheek, but seems genuinely confident.) The chemistry between them is evident, but uneven, as one would expect.
I won’t drag this out further. This is just the set-up. I promise that most episode recaps will have shorter introductions than this.
Banter: General outline of show is laid out. Sam is in the Honda Fit, and declines to tell us why. (As far as I can tell, by the way, that’s never explained, although it seems self-explanatory. I guess that’s the genius of it.) It’s Sam’s birthday in this episode, by the way.
Inside jokes introduced: Sam groaning about the length of the show. This first one runs 15 minutes, mostly thanks to the introductory segment, but Sam is aggrieved not to have met his word count, so to speak. He reminds Ben of their recording time at least twice during the episode.
Topics Proposed: Ah, the meaty stuff. Ben proposes a discussion of Aroldis Chapman, who is on a strikeout binge. Sam’s idea is to weigh the Orioles’ options, as they sit on the fringe of the playoff picture but have a negative run differential, running up to the trade deadline.
Topic(s) Discussed at Length: They settle on Chapman. Ben’s essential query goes something like: What do we make of Chapman’s dominance? Can we really enjoy it, in light of the controversy and hand-wringing over moving him to the bullpen instead of letting him start? Is his dominance in short outings to be discounted heavily, because he hasn’t been allowed to even attempt longer outings?
Together, the co-hosts muse about what they would have expected from Chapman as a starter. Ben recalls having been pessimistic about the idea in the 2012 pre-season discussions, but returns to the question of whether any closer can have so much value as to wash out the value they could deliver in the rotation. Sam (half-jokingly) talks about his reticence to trust Dusty Baker with managing Chapman’s workload as a starter. They delve a bit into just how much Chapman is stretching the limits of relief dominance, and whether, for instance, Justin Verlander could far outdo him as a reliever. Ultimately, they leave the question open—EW is a discussion, more than a debate, and final answers are rare, which is a feature, not a bug.
This is the stretch of games that led Ben to propose the topic:
When a hyped [hitter] comes up, you want to see him immediately, because it’s going to be growth from that point on. You’re going to see him struggle, and it’s going to put all of his later success in perspective. But with pitchers, it’s the opposite. You almost want to see them immediately, because their stuff is never going to be better than it is right now.
- had an ERA+ of 73 or worse
- pitched at least 15 innings
- started at least 80 percent of their games in the season or seasons that produced those numbers
- and went on to become an All-Star, at any point in their career
Here are the only 10 guys to do it twice in their first five seasons (the experience limitation has no meaning, it just gets rid of rough age-38 seasons by guys who should have retired first):
|1||Ryan Vogelsong||2||2003||2004||25-26||Ind. Seasons|
|2||Jason Grilli||2||2001||2004||24-27||Ind. Seasons|
|3||Jason Bere||2||1995||1996||24-25||Ind. Seasons|
|4||Eddie Guardado||2||1993||1994||22-23||Ind. Seasons|
|5||Arthur Rhodes||2||1991||1993||21-23||Ind. Seasons|
|6||Andy Ashby||2||1991||1992||23-24||Ind. Seasons|
|7||Charles Nagy||2||1990||1993||23-26||Ind. Seasons|
|8||Jack Armstrong||2||1988||1991||23-26||Ind. Seasons|
|9||Al Leiter||2||1987||1989||21-23||Ind. Seasons|
|10||Tug McGraw||2||1966||1967||21-22||Ind. Seasons|
Yikes. By my count, four of the 10 who even managed it did so as relievers. It’s not a death sentence, but Trevor Bauer has an uphill climb from here to fulfilling, or even approximating, his potential. The next time Ben and Sam talk about a young starter who has a really rough first exposure to the league, take a long look, because that scuffling might be more predictive than you think.
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