EFFECTIVELY WILD FACEBOOK GROUP – A group of diehard listeners recently turned weirdly-specific general manager with the advent of what is arguably the most Effectively Wild of all fantasy leagues: the Webb-Albers Championship. Eleven reliever fanatics gathered to draft sixty-six bullpen arms with one sole aim: to rack up as many possible games finished without recording a save.

The league is named after EW heroes Ryan Webb and Matt Albers, who rank first and second in what is simultaneously the most important and least well-known of all baseball record battles: total number of career games finished without a save. Webb currently sits four games ahead of Albers on 87, although both have recently stalled in their pursuit of greatness. Webb has bounced around several organisations and only recently found his way back onto a major league staff with Cleveland. Albers is DL-bound after breaking a finger while defending his White Sox teammates from baseball’s new bad boys, the Kansas City Royals.

Relievers will be awarded ten points every time they finish a game, docked 10 for a save opportunity and another 10 for converting it. In a move described as “remarkable foresight” by some and “pointlessly pedantic” by others, commissioner Darius Austin also included a provision that ensures any complete games will count for negative 20, thus eliminating any benefit to drafting potential starters likely to go the distance.

Jon Tower Akerman, who inspired the league’s creation, selected Padres reliever Dale Thayer with the number one pick. After briefly losing his way and recording seven saves in 2012, Thayer has blossomed into an elite finisher. He has pitched his team’s final inning 39 times since the start of 2013 with just a single save blotting his record. Given the uncertainty over their situations, Webb and Albers were not taken until the fifth and sixth rounds respectively, both by GFWAS purist Paul Lachowich, who could not resist the lure of those combined 170 career games finished without a save.

Mets left-hander Jerry Blevins was in line to be an early pick, as he would have led all relievers under this scoring system in 2014. Unfortunately his hopes were dashed when he suffered a broken forearm less than a week before the draft, costing him absolutely no money and the chance to be the source of much interest for a rather strange group of baseball fans on the internet. Blevins was unavailable for comment, mainly because it seemed a little too silly to keep pestering Mets beat writers on Twitter about an obscure fantasy league.

In the early going, Seth Rubin’s squad (named in honour of – but not containing – Buddy Carlyle) leads the way, with Carlos Torres, Rob Scahill, Aaron Barrett and Yusmeiro Petit all finishing games since the beginning of May. Martin Alonso Ratcliffe’s bullpen and Commissioner Austin’s Proven Finishers are both off to an ignominious start, evidenced by the minus sign in front of their score. Strikeout machine Brad Boxberger is partly responsible for Ratcliffe’s negative total, a pick which has been surrounded by rumours that the intended selection was in fact Burke Badenhop, but the sheer pressure of the draft and the alliterative similarity of the names caused Ratcliffe to in fact draft a player who is currently closing games for the Tampa Bay Rays, not a marginal Reds right-hander. Austin’s negative comes courtesy of an seventh-inning blown save by Fernando Abad when he entered with a three-run lead and two on then immediately gave up a home run to Shin-Soo Choo, a situation Austin furiously declared “a farce” and “unlikely to happen again”.

For those Banished to the Pen readers who want to keep tabs on this thrilling, unique and perhaps slightly nerdy competition, the standings can be found here. In five months, after hundreds of seemingly meaningless relief innings and numerous blowouts limping their way towards a conclusion, one proud owner will be crowned the first ever winner of the Webb-Albers Championship.

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  1.  Webb-Albers Championship Midseason Update | Banished to the Pen
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