I didnt get any gain from leaving a pod in the feed. I went to just using the large fingers and leaving out the small ones. I would lose a ball or two at the start.
I am a fan of the original crown for the same reasons you posted but the idea was poopoo'd here big time because of appearance, and they said I couldnt do it.
look what I built last night. Exact same size as original top lid and uses stock screws and holes.