Category Archives: Opinion Pieces

Evening Out The Playing Field

by Seph Lietz

The Problem

If looking at the 2010 SLW championship team triggered a strong sense of déjà vu, there’s a good reason. None of the 3 wifflers were being crowned for the first time. In fact, just 9 of the 27 wifflers in the statistical era have combined to take the 15 championship slots in that time.

9 out of 27 have won a championship from 2006-2010

Let me repeat that. Over the last five years, only 9 people have been on a championship team; 18 have not. There are some notable names on that list of 18, including Hall of Famers Jaime Hixson, Geoff Hixson, Dave Cain, and Matt Warnes.

The Cause

It turns out that there have been two reliable indicators when it comes to the success of SLW teams: team size and handedness.

4-man teams underperform; 2-lefty and 1-lefty teams dominate

4-man teams perform significantly worse than 3-man teams. Teams with 1 or 2 left-handed hitters perform significantly better than all-righty teams.

Dave Cain, Greg Presson, and Jason Morgan have all been unfortunate enough to each have been on two four-wiffler teams in the last five years. None of them have won a championship in that time. Only five regulars have escaped the four-wiffler curse recently: Shane Gentry, Spence Hasler, Jed Pope, Kevin Walsh, and Jeff Cain. They have nine titles between them.

A Solution

I’d like to introduce a new method for determining teams which uses the useful data we’ve gathered over the last 5 years. Statistically Guided Team Selection would automatically place people on teams based on their past performance. The goal is to make all the teams as even as possible. As an example, take last year’s field + Kevin Walsh and feed it into SGTS and you get the following 6 teams, in no particular order.

  • Gentry, Mayfield, Walsh
  • Hasler, Sip, J Cain
  • Lietz, Presson, C Shoemaker
  • Pope, Warnes, Morgan
  • Endsley, J Hixson, Kirby
  • Morton, D Cain, G Hixson

What do you think? Is there one team that jumps out as the favorite/worst? Should we try this out this year? Do I need to get a life?



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2010 Tournament Recap

by Seph Lietz

Hello wifflenerds! I am fully refreshed and ready to fulfill all of your wettest analytical dreams after emerging from my annual medically-induced winter hibernation in my hermetically-sealed osmosis-cocoon.

First things first. You might recall that, as part of the run-up to the 2010 festivities, last year’s championship odds were calculated using my patented Wiffleball Champion Prediction Model. Let’s see how those numbers held up.

Chance of winning in blue; actual winning percentage in orange

You don’t exactly have to be a Chief Scientist to see that the predictions ended up being, in technical terms, pretty damn close. I’m told that SLW Alumni Association President Geoff Hixson has submitted a proposal to the Commissioner’s office that, if approved, would end the need to play future games, as the winner would simply be calculated and announced, simultaneously increasing both the time allotted for beer drinking and the chances that he might someday actually win a tournament. Please direct any questions or concerns to the Commissioner’s office.

Call it strong pitching or weak hitting; the result is the same. 2010 was the lowest scoring in at least the last five tournaments. Just under 10 runs per game were scored on average, down from just under 14 runs per game in 2008 and 2009.

The “bottom 3” (Yellow Bat Fury, Tollbooth Willies, and Crystal Seph Heads) teams proved to be particularly futile. They combined to average just barely more runs per game than Vagazzle did alone, and they each rank in the bottom five in runs scored over the last five years. Yellow Bat Fury wins the award for most anemic team ever by averaging 2 runs scored per game in their 4 games, including the “Greatest Pitcher’s Duel Ever” opposite the Crystal Seph Heads, an extra-inning affair (was it 8 or 9 innings?) in which Yellow Bat Fury only managed a single run in a heartbreaking 3-1 loss.

On the other side of the coin, Vagazzle and Crystal Seph Heads proved to be particularly stingy in allowing 3 (best in statistical era) and 3.833 (4th best) runs per game, respectively.

Next time, I’ll uncover some frightening trends and provide a solution for evening out the SLW playing field. Stay tuned.

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Commissioner Hixson Family Research Uncovers Long Line of Baseball Royalty

By Kevin Walsh:

The sound of the push mower revving up, the taste of mosquito repellent adding that extra buzz to our beers and the morning smell of fresh baked orgasmic breakfast sandwiches (yes, they are that good) have all been well-known staples of the Shangri La’ Wiffleball history and lore. The family behind the experience though, is not quite as well known as they would like us to believe.

Recently uncovered documents recovered after the Shangri La’ flood of 2001 show that SLW history has been shaped by familial ties to some of baseball’s most controversial commissioners. Papers have indicated that Hixson blood ran deep in the veins of MLB commissioner’s Kenesaw Mountain Landis and A. Bart Giamatti. Coincidences in the two leagues histories can no longer be written off as happenstance.

As baseball’s first commissioner, Landis is best known, not for his banning of ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson following the 1919 Black Sox scandal, but instead for his ruling in a fledgling central Illinois wifflleball league. At that time Landis was known east of Champaign, IL as ‘that little Hixson boy’, a reference to his family ancestry in the land. At the time the wiffleball league was just establishing itself as the premiere wiffleball league in Middle America, when the talented, but quick trigger Landis, not pleased with the outcome of the 1917 classic, banned Series MVP Dane Gentry for an unsubstantiated, but widely circulated rumor of throwing games. While the charges were never proven, the Gentry family received a lifetime ban from the wiffleball field and Hall of Fame.

The ban remained until 1994? when Gentry’s great-grandson, playing under the alias, Shane Gentry, was approved for league play. His tenure lasted until 1996 when it was discovered he was an heir to the Series MVP and subsequently re-banned. After 12 years of under-the-table negotiations, Shane Gentry was allowed to rejoin the league, but forced to bat left-handed and, regardless of championships and towering home runs not allowed the join the most hallowed Hall in the land – the SLW Hall of Fame.

Followers, fans and supporters of SLW were appalled to learn of the first connection to a dirty MLB commish, but in 1998 the loyalists were floored when it was learned that A. Bartlett Giamatti, who was responsible for banning the ‘Hit King’ Pete Rose in 1989, was also posthumously involved in the banning and shaming of another legend, Cousin TA. TA, best known for his uncanny rally-killing ability at the plate and buzz-killing ability off the diamond, was forced into elimination from the tournament by young Jaime Hixson in his first act as commissioner.

Shortly after taking office, Hixson learned the ‘A.’ in A. Bartlett stood for Alblingler and that Giamatti, after seeing TA at the bat as a youngster in 1984 deemed his spawn as unworthy of ever stepping foot on the sacred Shangri La’ ball field, thus robbing the crowds of years of entertaining at-bats and awkward conversations.

Luckily, after a full review of the Hixson/Alblingler/and wherever else they come from-family tree has proven to have no connection to Bud Selig – they are Catholic after all. The SLW leadership should be in capable hands for years to come providing Jaime, Geoff or Jed ever produce a male heir, if not it’ll be a wiffleball version Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and Geena Davis and we will all be shamed into coming back and pretending we enjoy women’s athletics.

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SLW to Sponsor Car in NASCAR


Ever since the start of the year many of the followers of SLW have been shocked at how much money the SLW front office has thrown into the promotion and marketing of SLW.  And then the “SLW Marketing Machine” has surprise its loyal following with a major announcement this morning.  To further the reach of SLW, Jaime and Geoff Hixson have decided to sponsor a ride in NASCAR!  I have followed racing for a real long time and I am completely excited.  I am already looking forward to seeing what the car looks like.  Will it have the SLW on the hood or the Shangri La script?  What track will the SLW Racing Team make it’s debut.  One item that we will not have to wait for is who the driver will be.  Jaime Hixson stated that Cousin Tom has been signed to drive the SLW car, “T.A. has the tools to take our racing team to a NASCAR Championship, he has cut his teeth at the local tracks and raced in serveral demolition derbys,” stated Hixson.

This is the vehicle that took T.A. to a 4th place finish in the Piatt County Demo Derby in 2007.

  It was announced that T.A. and the Hixson Bros. have agreed on the number of the car, it will be “24”.  T.A. fought long and hard for the number 24 and that it was agreed upon late last night.  The number 24 has long been the number of Jeff Gordon, but T.A. has petitioned NASCAR for the rights to have the number on his car.  The local media did catch up to Jeff Gordon for comment and he did not shed to much light on the subject, “T.A is coming to NASCAR….is that the guy that keeps sending me those naked pictures?” stated Gordon.

Cousin Tom was excited beyond belief at his chance at NASCAR!

After the announcement in true “Commish Hixson” style, he quickly thought of a way to profit off of the new SLW race team and Cousin Tom.  Jaime has already started to sell merchandise, which you can purchase by sending Jaime Hixson a non-refundable check.  All proceeds go to help further renovate Lake Front Stadium and pay the grounds crew.  The merchandise (shown below) will go on sale this weekend for 30% off.

Get this exciting Cousin Tom Merchandise on sale this weekend!!!!

We will keep you posted on when the SLW Race Team will make its debut, stay tuned, but until then let’s all hope that the debut will come soon and that Cousin Tom will dominate much like he has during many demolition derbys!!!
Lord Hear Our Prayer!
Tank Cain


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Commish to Postpone Show for Ballgame

by Geoff Hixson

It seems that the weekly SLW podcast listeners will have to wait an extra day (at least) for their “all things Shangri La Wiffleball” fix. It seems that Commissioner Jaime Hixson has unilaterally postponed the weekly podcast in order to attend a local minor league game. His response when questioned was even more disconcerting. “We will do it Wednesday if it works, or maybe next week.”

What this tells newly commisioned blogger Geoff Hixson is that the fate of this tournament, league and nation of wiffleball is in the hands of someone who only wants to be in charge if its convenient. I for one, think the loyal listeners are owed something more than that.

Interest is at an all time low on the Shangri La’ site and instead of addressing the masses, the younger Hixson is sucking down suds instead of serving the very people he relies on for so much – probably using money from the wiffleball treasury to do so. I urge you all to weigh in on this “what, me worry?” approach of your fearless leader.


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In Our Defense

by Seph Lietz

In my previous column, I was pretty tough on my Bement brethren for their lack of commitment when it comes to SLW activities. Also, for one of them being a cheap bastard who, a full week later, unbelievably still owes me $1200. So, I think it’s only fair that I spend some time this week defending my compadres.

The truth is, we’ve had a good number of slanderous comments thrown our way over the years. For example, everyone has heard the claim by some that we drink 1 beer and are in bed by 9:30 the night before the tourney. I think it’s been brought up in every podcast. But I’m not going to waste my time today on hearsay.

One of my many, important responsibilities as SLW Chief Scientist is to rigorously research the vast repository of SLW data and use that information to discover innovative approaches that might possibly be employed in order to better our beloved tournament. To that end, I have compiled some telling statistics, encompassing the last 4 years (2006-2009), the only time such detailed information is available. And as it turns out, the Bement contingent dominates the wiffle diamond.

Let’s start with defense. Our teams have given up a combined 233 runs over 49 games, for an average of 4.76 runs/game. There is only one wiffler who put up better defensive numbers than that (Hasler: 76 runs, 19 games, 4 runs/game). Nobody else is particularly close.

That stellar defense has helped lead to an equally stellar run differential for our teams of +101, for an average of +2.06/game. Only two wifflers have done better (Gentry: +28, 4.67; Hasler: +56, 2.95). The next closest are James Morton (+1.05) and Chris Shoemaker (+0.86). (Or was it Brian? Even on paper I can’t tell the two apart.) Everybody else has a +0.15 or worse.

[4.66666666666667], [2.94736842105263], [2.5], [2.375], [1.05], [0.857142857142857], [0.15], [0.142857142857143], [0.05], [0.0], [0.0], [0.0], [-0.142857142857143], [-0.25], [-0.272727272727273], [-0.318181818181818], [-0.583333333333333], [-0.91304347826087], [-1.23809523809524], [-1.38888888888889], [-1.66666666666667], [-2.2], [-2.75], [-2.80952380952381], [-4.77777777777778]

Who is the mystery wiffler at the far bottom right with the worst run differential?

Naturally, as should be expected with a run differential like that, we have won a lot, compiling 34 team wins for a .694 win percentage. Again, only Gentry (6-0, 1.000) and Hasler (15-4, .789) have better individual numbers.

But really, does all of this mean anything? No. I think every wiffler comes to win championships. And nobody has done it better than us.

Going back 6 years (perhaps more, but I don’t think so), every single SLW Champion has had at least one of us on their team. And out of the 18 slots (6 years * 3-wiffler teams), 9 have been filled by us.

[2004: 3], [2005: 2], [2006: 1], [2007: 1], [2008: 1], [2009: 1]

Can a Bement-less team win a championship anymore?

Let’s just consider the last 4 championships (again, when the only detailed records are available). What are the odds of those happening randomly? 1.33%, or 75:1 for you gamblers out there. I estimate the odds for us winning 6 in a row to be roughly 300:1.

Imagine if we actually showed up every year?


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