Would New York Yankees Play Better without Derek Jeter at Shortstop?

Derek Jeter has executed his patented jump-throw several times over his illustrious career. Now this range at shortstop has deteriorated, is it now time to remove him from the field? Video courtesy of MLB.com.

 

There is an absolutely zero percent chance of the New York Yankees having the guts to remove the legendary Derek Jeter from shortstop during his final season. While the future Hall of Famer is no longer a stupendous player at the plate or on the field, the alternative won’t propel the sinking Bronx Bombers to a postseason appearance.

The Yankees are still in striking distance of the final Wild Card spot, but their chances are fading. They’ve dropped six of their last 10 games, including a tough loss against the Houston Astros on Tuesday night behind the strength of Chris Carter’s 30th home run. Because some Yankees fans are the most fickle people on the planet, they even booed David Robertson—he of a 13.60 K/9 rate and 2.43 FIP—because revisionist history tells them Mariano Rivera never blew a save or allowed a home run, or baserunner.

If this was any other team in Major League Baseball, we can shrug, accept that they’re not that good and move on. After all, they sport a minus-40 run differential that ranks 21st in baseball behind the likes of the sub-.500 Tampa Bay Rays (+21),  New York Mets (-8) and San Diego Padres (-12).

Plagued with a cavalcade of injuries to their starting rotation, the Yankees are fortunate to sit over .500 at 63-60. The fact that they lurk four games out of a postseason spot is remarkable, but they’re unlikely to slitter any closer before September ends. I hate to be a Nelly Nihilist, but Yankees fans might be better joining Green Day in slumber for the next six weeks.

Of course, “Meh, screw it” isn’t the best organizational philosophy, so the club is trying everything it can to find a jolt of inspiration. Brian Cashman acquired some nice veterans (Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, Martin Prado) last month, but it probably won’t be enough to leapfrog the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners up the standings.

Well, have no fear, ESPNNewYork.com’s Wallace Matthews is here to the rescue! His plan for a late-season turnaround will cause New York’s faithful to assemble their pitchforks while everyone else smirks at his expert trolling. After watching Jeter play a couple of games at designated hitter last week to ease the 40-year-old’s burden, Matthews determined that lineup is the way to go for the remainder of 2014.

As the game unfolded, it became increasingly clear that this infield, seen for the first time all season, was the best collection of gloves the Yankees can put out there for their remaining 40 games.

And as anyone who has watched this team play its first 122 games could tell you, there is now so little margin for error that Girardi really can’t justify using anyone else.

He went on to state the obvious: Joe Girardi is (rightfully) terrified of stripping the most beloved Yankee since Mickey Mantle of the terrain he’s manned for 18 years.

Asked after the game if he agreed that the infield he put out there Sunday was the one that gives his team the best chance to win, Girardi gave as revealing an answer as any manager could while at the same time maintaining the decorum and diplomacy necessary in dealing with the final days of a legend.

“That’s not a discussion that I really want to have right now,” he said. “With Carlos [Beltran] being able to play the outfield, I can obviously do some different things. But Jeet’s my shortstop.”

That answer says so many things in so few words, but the gist of it is simple: I, Joe Girardi, am not going to be the one to tell Derek Jeter he is no longer my best option at shortstop.

As an emotionless robot who torments myself by rooting for the Mets, I’d have no qualms touting such a move if it tangibly made the Yankees a better baseball team. Such a move, however, won’t make a significant enough improvement to justify the intense backlash that will flood New York during Jeter’s farewell tour.

Under Matthews’ suggestion, which included no attempt at providing statistical evidence to his claim, the recently acquired Stephen Drew would slide over from second base to shortstop, his natural position. Utility man Martin Prado would leave the outfield to play second, with Carlos Beltran vacating the dugout to start in right field instead of at DH.

First things first, Drew is a better defensive shortstop than Jeter. Go ahead and wave around The Captain’s five Gold Gloves, but that just displays the ludicrously of past Gold Glove voters valuing offense over the actual skill getting awarded. Over his career, Jeter has fared terribly in two key defensive metrics. He has cost several runs on the field with minus-158 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and a minus-74.9 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR).

While he has become a more sure-handed fielder later in his career, he has also lost some range, because of course a 40-year-old shortstop won’t have the quickest pep in his step. Drew, on the other hand, posted a 5.3 UZR at short last year for the Boston Red Sox. This season, he has has saved four runs in limited work at his accustomed position.

But it doesn’t matter as long as Drew ‘s abysmal hitting offsets his stellar glove-work. Both shortstops in questions haven’t hit a lick, but Drew has looked so abysmal at the plate that Jeter gets an edge just by accumulating a few singles.

Jeter: .267/.316/.321, 3 HR, 38 R, 32 RBI, 5.9 BB%, 14.1 K%, 78 wRC+*, -11 DRS, 0.1 fWAR

Drew:  .170/.241/.302, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 14 R, 8.5 BB%, 25.1 K%, 46 wRC+, 4 DRS, -0.4 fWAR

*Weighted runs created, which measures all-around offensive production while normalizing park factors. It’s measured on a scale of 100, meaning both are below-average, but Drew is especially terrible at 48 percent equivalency of an average player. 

If Drew can return to his 2013 offensive output, when he slugged .443, he’s the far superior choice. For now, any value amassed with his glove is neutralized, and then some, by his lethargic bat.

Then again, Drew is currently playing regardless. Prado helps the infield, but he’s not significantly better at second than at right field. Yes, New York can improve its infield defense by keeping Jeter away from it, but what about the outfield? Beltran, who has been relegated almost exclusively to DH duties, has cost the Yankees five runs when patrolling the outfield. Once a tremendous center fielder, the 37-year-old is now a liability even when hidden in Yankee Stadium’s short right field. He needs the protective shield of the DH spot just as much as Jeter.

Matthews is suggesting they solve one problem while ignoring the other problem it creates.

If upgrading their defense is the the Yankees’ No.1 priority, they can play Ichiro Suzuki instead.  But come on, do they want to give regular playing time to another 40-year-old with a .648 OPS? No, no they don’t. Heck, they could even play Brendan Ryan alongside Drew in the middle infield despite his .264 slugging percentage. Offense is for losers! Too bad their offense is already in dire condition.

Offense is actually a greater concern for a team that has prided itself on breaking the bank for top sluggers. They rank 20th in OPS and 21st in runs scored and wRC+. They’re not great defensively either, but they’re slightly better at 17th in Defensive WAR. If Drew doesn’t soon find his st

There’s also the matter of how everyone will perform in changed roles. Rationally speaking, the defensive position should bear no impact in the batter’s box. Human beings, however, are not wired to function as completely rational beings.

Beltran has welcomed the extra rest associated with DHing. When playing the outfield, he’s hitting .204/275/.357. When only concerned with batting, he’s sporting a .244/.298/.437 slash line. Not great, but still better than the alternative since he has belted 11 of his 14 homers when not playing the field.

Jeter’s six games at DH, during which he’s hitting .222, isn’t nearly enough of a sample size to draw a reasonable conclusion. Yet his reluctance to any such move could cause resentment, creating a negative mindset curtailing any benefits the extra down-time generates.

Could the Yankees be better off enacting this lineup renovation? Possibly, but only by a slight margin that won’t make a substantial difference in the standings. The potential benefit of removing Jeter from short far outweighs the dastardly cost to the teams’s business model. Even if it simply maintains status quo, fans will cite it as the reason they missed the postseason and call for Girardi’s job.

It’s not the outlandish proposal a Yankee fan thinking with his or heart likely perceives it to be, but a new defensive alignment won’t save the Yankees from missing out on the playoffs again. As long as their top pitchers sit on the DL while their offense dwindles, the goldest of gloves won’t salvage their season.

 

Note: All advanced statistics, updated as of Wednesday (8/20) afternoon, are courtesy of FanGraphs.

Here’s a TV Comedy Fantasy Draft, Because Why Not

Fantasy drafts are a whimsical, oddly logical process that’s often more fun than the season itself. Careful research, diligent list-making, waiting your turn. What more can you ask for?

It’s a shame some of you who don’t follow sports or prefer “going outside” can’t enjoy the drafting experience that fill many a day before the MLB and NFL seasons commence. If only the same procedure can transfer over to something else I love that non-sports fan can appreciate.

If websites can make March Madness brackets for best books, burritos and anything else under the sun that preferably begins with a B to keep the alliteration going, then it’s time for drafting to invade the outside world.

Actually, it’s really hot and sunny out there. Let’s stay indoors, turn on the TV and simulate how a draft would materialize with sitcoms.

For those unfamiliar with how a fantasy draft works, an order is assembled, usually randomly. The first person up picks any player of his or her choice, and the next person follows until everyone in the league makes a selection. For fairness, the order reverses during the following round, with the person picking last in Round 1 going first in Round 2, back to last in Round 3, first in Round 4 and so on.

This happens with a group of humans, but since doing weird things—along with crippling cynicism and low self-esteem, but that’s a topic for another day—like this leaves me with few friends, I’m doing the whole thing myself. One of the teams will represent my own personal picks, but the others are simulations that take overall popularity, quality and ratings into account.

Just to make things interesting, I’m not just ranking my favorite comedies in order. Not everyone is going to like the same sleeper running back you’re targeting, and not everyone is going to enjoy that offbeat network sitcom that lasted two seasons.

So remember, don’t freak out when you see The Big Bang Theory taken early. Based on the ratings they draw, it’s safe to assume that in a pool of eight random people, somebody needs a laugh track to know when to chuckle.

A few more notes for clarity:

  • Late-night talk shows are ineligible, or else I’d definitely look to grab Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in the later rounds. He’s like a premier closer. Sure, he doesn’t take the mound every day, but he strikes out the side every Sunday night. Variety and sketch shows (Saturday Night Live, Mr. Show with Bob and Dave, The Whitest Kids U’ Know, etc.) also are not included because I forgot about them.
  • I also left most dramedies out of the fold. Orange is the New Black and Weeds (the first three seasons at least) are really good, but I feel weird labeling either a comedy.
  • Somewhere along the line I decided that each team must roster one animated show. This introduces another layer of strategy to target scarcity, as there’s a clear elite tier of animated gems. Also, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m crazy.
  • In an actual draft, past production means nothing if a player can’t deliver for you during the upcoming season. That philosophy would eliminate anything off the air, so I’m not thinking in those terms.
  • I’m 23 and I’m the one writing this long post nobody will read anyway, so there’s a much heavier onus on recent shows. Not really banking on any senior citizens reading my personal blog.
  • Oh yeah, I pick No. 7 out of eight teams. Most people would probably assign themselves the first choice when the other eight people are imaginary, but I’m too considerate to display such greed.

 

Any questions? I’m guessing yes since this is so convoluted, but too bad. I can’t hear you through the computer.

 

Round 1

1.  The Simpsons

2. South Park

3. Family Guy

4. Friends

5. The Big Bang Theory

6. Arrested Development

7. Parks and Recreation

8. Seinfeld

 

My Pick: Parks and Recreation

In his first bite-sized taste of the majors, Mike Trout hit .220 in 40 games. Ever since, the 23-year-old—give me a minute for a nervous breakdown upon realizing we’re the same age—has consistently been the best player in baseball. This year, he may finally win the American League MVP trophy that erroneously eluded him the past two seasons.

Parks and Recreation is TV’s Mike Trout. After a brief, yet bumpy six-episode first season, this almost spin-off of The Office quickly evolved into the best comedy on the small screen, Leslie Knope ditched Michael Scott’s obnoxiousness, instead blending her frenetic hyperness and craziness with unmatched passion, dedication and care that made her admired rather than loathed by her peers. Ever since, Pawnee has become a consistent source of comedy gold, replicating Springfield’s wide array of recurring characters, none greater than wordy newsman Perd Hapley.

Also, Ron bleeping Swanson.

It’s sad to see Parks and Rec go after one more season, but it’s also relieving that showrunner Michael Schur and Co. get to conclude it on their terms before it turns stale.

 

Round 1 Thoughts

  •  Choosing between Parks and Rec and Arrested Development would have been a brutal choice, but the imaginary man (or woman, I didn’t think that far into their characters) in front of me spared me such a difficult decision. That person has good taste.
  • The animated shows flew off the board like running backs always do in football. I haven’t watched much of The Simpsons in years, but over a decade of greatness during my childhood give them the benefit of the doubt. What little connection I have with the outside universe will vanish once the Simpsons World app gets released.
  • If Parks and Rec is Trout, Family Guy is David Wright. This analogy pains me to type as a Mets fans who has given up on Family Guy, but both are way more inconsistent than you’d expect from an entity so great at its best. The Griffin family truly deserved a spot on the mantle years ago, but now it’s just toiling around. The pointless gags don’t feel clever anymore. They just feel pointless. Just how I fear for Wright’s decline amid the worst offensive season of his career, Family Guy is no longer what it used to be before getting cancelled.
  • There’s always one in the crowd to ruin it for everyone. From my painful experience watching The Big Bang Theory with my parents, I can’t recall laughing at something said by anyone other than Jim Parsons. Too often the joke is “Ha ha, they’re nerds. They’re weird because society says they are! Get it? Laugh, dammit.” But it must be popular to some people if the lead actors can net $1 million per episode. That comes out to roughly $555 per second of air time, including commercials.
  • I never got the gigantic appeal of Friends. Well, the show, not the concept of friendship. Come to think of it, I guess I’m not well versed in either. I’m not saying I dislike it, but it’s regarded as an all-time classic, and I just don’t see it. It’s decent. You can assemble a winning group of comedies with Friends in the mix, but not with it as the marquee draw. Kind of like Joe Flacco.

 

Round 2

9. Modern Family

10. Community

11. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

12. Two and a Half Men

13. Futurama

14. The Office (U.S.)

15. New Girl

16. Cheers

 

My Pick: Community

Phew, I was worried the team with two picks sandwiched between mine would grab Dan Harmon’s cult classic, but I now have a prolific pairing of the often optimistic Parks and Rec and the often despairing Community, which refuses to play by the rules of conventional cheery comedies. We have to take the gas leak Season 4 into account, and while Season 5 was better back under Harmon’s command, it wasn’t his best. But I feel this draft position takes that into consideration, as Community cracks my top five based on the second and third seasons’ brilliance.

It’s not for everyone. I get that. Not everyone cares for an abundance of pop culture references, and many viewers would rather follow the lives of happier, more normal characters. Unlike Big Bang with Sheldon Cooper, Community doesn’t dance around Abed Nadir’s Aspergers. Instead, it delves into his mind to give us an honest, deflating look into his struggles. There’s no holiday TV episode I enjoyed more than Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas, which packed a hallowing plot with a warm finish about friendship and all that gushy jazz.

What will happen now that the Greendale Seven (minus two) found new life on Yahoo Screen? Will it get even weirder without the confiding shackles of network executives begging them to tone it down? Now that six seasons has become a reality, will a movie follow?

 

Round 2 Thoughts

  • I lost track of Modern Family recently. I just couldn’t handle Luke Dunphy growing up.
  • Always Sunny and Futurama are both first-round caliber shows snagged in the second round. Countless shows tries to replicate The Gang’s horribleness, but none are able to revive the magic outside of Paddy’s Pub. The team with Arrested Development and Always Sunny is shaping up to be my top competitor. Futurama feels like the A- star who frequents multiple All-Star Games, yet never wins an MVP or has an eye-popping season. In my book, however, Planet Express has generated a better career WAR than Family Guy.
  • The same drafter who took Big Bang followed it up with Two and a Half Men, an even worse atrocity brought to you by Chuck Lorre and CBS. Ugh.
  • New Girl is special in that it appeals to both snarky, cynical 20-something males and 15-year-old girls who have 30 minutes to kill before leaving for the One Direction concert. Other than maybe Parks and Rec, what other shows have that wide-ranging allure? Zooey Deschanel eventually turned the quirky dial down from 10 to 7, and it veered into an ensemble upon realizing what it had in Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield.
  • Cheers paved the way for many of today’s premier comedies. It may feel cheesy watching it today, but it was a game-changer of a workplace sitcom at the time.

 

Round 3

17. 30 Rock

18. Curb Your Enthusiasm

19. How I Met Your Mother

20. Freaks and Geeks

21. Archer

22. Louie

23. Bob’s Burgers

24. Scrubs

 

My Pick: Bob’s Burgers

Too early? Not early enough? I don’t care, because as much as Family Guy likes to jab the newer FOX sitcom for riding on its coattails, I’d take Bob’s Burgers over Seth MacFarlane’s slumping show any day of the week. After seeing Archer go off the board, I wasn’t risking waiting any longer.

The puns are glorious. Every cast member is perfect for the character he or she is voicing, especially Eugene Mirman as the simple, fun-loving Gene and Kristen Schaal shrieking out mischief as Louise. Some could argue Tina Belcher is the family’s third-best kid, yet she was recently voted TV’s best character. Most importantly, it possesses one crucial element that the other top animated sitcoms often lack: a heart. Bob is a down-on-his luck chef for a struggling burger shop, yet this patriarch doesn’t strangle his son, suffer from severe alcoholism we’re supposed to laugh off or constantly dig the family in a devastating hole, only to save the day at the end. He’s just a normal dad trying to do his best for the family he loves.

 

Round 3 Thoughts 

  • 30 Rock to kick off Round 3 might be the steal of the draft so far. Tina Fey’s lightning-fast joke machine never received its full due for the litany of punchlines and gags it crammed into a half hour. I’ll never be able to attend brunch in my life without having to hide disappointment over it not being a combination of break dancing and lunch.
  • How I Met Your Mother undoubtedly dropped a few spots over the unpopular ending that toyed with viewers’ emotions. I won’t spoil it for those late to the party, but the finale offsets the final season’s entire story arc while taking a giant dump over Barney Stinson’s character development into an actual human being. Also, most people called the “twist” before it happened.
  • Freaks and Geeks is this draft’s highly touted “sleeper” that everybody ends up adoring by draft day. At this juncture, Judd Apatow’s short-lived teenage tale isn’t a secret to anyone with a Netflix account. It might even be a tad overvalued now. As someone who targeted Danny Salazar in all my fantasy baseball leagues, I learned my lesson about glamorizing the popular sleeper based on a short sample size.
  • Is Louie even a comedy? This is a tough one, because the show is whatever the hell Louie C.K. feels like making it any given week. The one prolonged episode from Season 4 was essentially a drama film. I’ll let this one slide, but there are plenty of episodes where he’s not at all fishing for laughs.

 

Round 4

25. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

26. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

27. Malcolm in the Middle

28. Entourage

29. Everybody Loves Raymond

30. Chapelle’s Show

31. That ’70s Show

32. The League

 

My Pick: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

This choice is all about upside. After an excellent rookie season, Michael Schur’s new hit showed immense potential, far exceeding Parks and Rec‘s rough opening episodes. This cop comedy found its stride immediately, perfectly utilizing Andy Samberg’szaniness as a character he described as “comedy McNaulty.” Comedies usually need time before reaching their apex, but Nine-Nine rolled out some brilliant TV after just a few introductory episodes. It surprisingly captured a Golden Globe, so critics are already on board. Expect this to eventually vault into the first round of sitcoms.

 

Round 4 Thoughts

  • Every time I re-watch Malcolm in the Middle, I remember just how underrated it is. Plus, it’s way more fun to envision Hal as Walter White. Good pick here by my budding rival. What a roster (AD, Always Sunny, Louie) this other team is assembling.
  • Thinking he was clever after Louie slipped through the cracks, CBS guy giggled as he snagged Entourage, thinking we’d all passed solely in thought that the douchebag handbook didn’t qualify. Nobody cared enough to tell him that a comedy needs to be funny, so they let him have it.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond…. that’s just a good show.
  • The one show actually about fantasy football gets grabbed at the end of Round 4. One would think I’d love a show depicting a passion of mine, but sometimes The League is crude just for the sake of being crude. Leave poor Andre alone already.

 

Round 5

33.  Boy Meets World

34. Workaholics

35. American Dad

36. Full House

37. 2 Broke Girls

38. Veep

39. Nathan for You

40. King of the Hill

 

My Pick: Nathan for You

Nathan for You is brilliant, and it somehow keeps getting better. Season 2 has drastically raised the bar, highlighting by his Dumb Starbucks stunt that attracted nationwide attention. Even that may not have been as mischievous as his scheme to trick people into buying souvenirs, thinking they were playing extras in a fake movie that Nathan Fielder later made to avoid legal trouble.

Where other comedians use such a format to embarrass their unknowing victims, Fielder presents himself as the ridiculous one, offering terrible yet weirdly clever advice to slumping businesses. He’s at his best when injecting painful awkwardness into his interactions, often asking his uncomfortable “clients” if they want to hang out as they nervously stutter with the camera watching.

So far, the top episode revolved around his bogus gas rebate, which customers could only earn by climbing a mountain. To his surprise, several game people with a clear schedule accepted his challenge, and his misleading sales tactic turned into a real, bizarre bonding ritual between him and the few with enough patience to stick around through the night. There’s nothing else like it on TV, and it’s still getting better.

 

Round 5 Thoughts

  • Everyone I know loves Workaholics, and I just don’t get it. These are people who share my viewing interests, yet they all swear by Comedy Central’s Always Sunny wannabee. I guess it’s just not for me.
  • We have a major nostalgia pick in Boys Meet World. That’s the equivalent of drafting Derek Jeter. It’s fun remembering how much you loved them in the late ’90s, but can you truly watch either now and still view them as great?
  • CBS lame-o strikes again with 2 Broke Girls.  After watching five minutes of it, it’s so horrible that I may actually owe Big Bang an apology. I can forgive cheap, low-brow, sexist, occasionally racist humor, but shunning proper AP style by writing two as a numeral is where I draw the line.
  • The drafter whose taste falls closely in line hoped I would bang the table due to missing Veep. Honestly, I’ve only seen a few minutes. I can’t explain why I haven’t committed any time to something that looks right up my alley, so I suppose that’s next on my watch list.

 

Round 6

41. The Jeffersons

42. Wilfred

43. The IT Crowd

44. King of Queens

45. Married… with Children

46. Reno 911

47. Beavis and Butthead

48. The Office (U.K.)

 

My Pick: Wilfred

What is Wilfred? If he a god, a demon or just your run-of-the mill weed-smoking man dressed in a dog suit? Not many comedies dare to start the party with the protagonist penning a suicide note, but Wilfred delightfully presents a trouble, timid man (played by Elijah Wood) who sees his neighbor’s dog as a person when everyone else just sees a dog. This bizarre final season trapped itself into a corner by dedicating to Ryan’s quest for answers regarding Wilfred. Was there a truly satisfying conclusion that strayed the line between too bonkers and too cliche?

The ending is too fresh to dish out spoilers, but it felt like a fitting conclusion despite the main answer not being much a shock. I originally feared such an explanation, but when it came, I didn’t mind it. It beat the alternative of veering far into the supernatural while staying true to its tone with a conclusion that’s light-hearted and gut-wrenching at the same time.

 

Round 6 Thoughts

  • My nemesis snags IT Crowd, an off-beat British comedy that’s worth the minimal Netflix investment. There’s no rhyme or reason to most of it, but it’s in some ways a better version of The Big Bang Theory.
  • In comparison to the other shows CBS guy has taken, King of Queens is a damn laugh riot. It’s nothing special, but it’s decent for a conventional network sitcom. Unfortunately, it turns out he only started watching after reveling in Kevin James’ tour de force performance in Grown Ups. Of course he liked Grown Ups.
  • The U.S. version of The Office is tough to watch when Michael Scott is at his most annoying. From the few episodes of the original version I’ve seen, every scene of the U.K. version feels that way.

 

Round 7

49. Saved by the Bell

50. Eastbound and Down

51. Scooby Doo

52. Hey Arnold

53. Will and Grace

54. Adventure Time

55. Flight of the Conchords

56. All in the Family

 

My Pick: Flight of the Conchords

It’s still business time in Round 7. Another show simply too odd to survive in this cookie-cutter world, Flight of the Conchords lasted a mere 22 episodes before HBO sadly pulled the plug. New Zealand musical-comedy duo Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement played fictional versions of themselves as struggling artists living in a microscopic New York City apartment. While their songs ultimately netted them a show and made it so popular, the dry banter held its end of the bargain as well. Rhys Darby fit in perfectly as their incompetent band manager, Murray, who stole most of his scenes.

 

Round 7 Thoughts

  • CBS guy apparently watches Will and Grace reruns with his wife. That’s nice, I suppose.
  • I always hear about Adventure Time, but I’ve never seen it. Should I change that? Is anyone even still here?
  • I was super into Eastbound and Down early in its run, but then I lost touched when the shtick ran its course.

 

Round 8

57. Frasier

58. Better off Ted

59. Comedy Bang! Bang!

60. Silicon Valley

61. The Cosby Show

62. Undeclared

63. Rugrats

64. Golden Girls

 

My Pick: Better off Ted

I wanted this short-lived ABC workplace satire all along, but I knew I could wait since nobody else felt the same way. A poor man’s Arrested Development, Better off Ted kept AD’s slick style of humor alive. If anything, this is what a prequel examining the Bluth Company before its demise would feel like. Better Off Ted takes place in an evil corporation creating terrifying inventions with only the bottom line in mind. At the center of this madness lies Ted, a likable fella who plays the Michael Bluth role of preventing the entire place from falling apart.

I adore this show the way I’m infatuated with Corey Kluber. The Cleveland Indians ace has made me look like a genius by producing a Cy Young-caliber campaign, but Better Off Ted was unfortunately not afforded the opportunity to break out into an All-Star. It had a 2.75 FIP through two seasons, but nobody cared since the lack of ratings bloated the ERA.

Did any of that make sense? No? I don’t care. I’m more than 3,000 words in at this point. Even Bill Simmons is yelling at me to wrap it up. Just go watch Better Off Ted. You won’t regret it.

 

 Round 8 Thoughts

  • Comedy Bang! Bang! is formatted as a talk show, but it’s fair game since it’s not actually a regular talk show. In my mind, my rival flung his water bottle across the room as unleashed a bevvy of curses after I scooped up Better off Ted.
  • Undeclared doesn’t get discussed nearly as much as Freaks and Geeks, but that’s another early Apatow-influenced comedy with Seth Rogen playing a prominent role. While Freaks and Geeks tackled high school, Undeclared packed for college without over-glamorizing dorm life like other frat comedies. Then again, this is coming from a guy who fears crowded spaces and loud music.
  • A tad uneven at times, Silicon Valley showed promise during its opening stint on HBO. It often veers dangerously close to Big Bang-esque nerd stereotypes, but it never sins egregiously enough. The awesome cast gives Mike Judge’s comedy some leeway.

 

Missed the Cut

How did Chuck not get drafted? OK fine, it’s because I forgot about Chuck until now.  Fun fact, Chris Pratt was Josh Schwartz’s top choice to play Chuck Bartowski. Nothing against Zachary Levi, but how awesome would that have been?

Like most shows penned by Aaron Sorkin’s, Sports Night was remarkable at times and unbearable on other occasions. Think The Newsroom, only it’s a half-hour sitcom centered around sports instead of hard news. It doesn’t take itself as seriously as the preachy HBO drama, but the same love dynamics and quality vs. ratings struggles are still at center stage.

Since they always get cancelled after a season or two, there are too many Comedy Central candidates to keep track of them all. The Jeselnik Offensive had a great run, but a longer life may have put Anthony Jeselnik at risk of becoming as tiresome as Daniel Tosh. I can hide behind the sketch comedy label to explain Key and Peele’s absence. Hopefully Andy Daily’s Review sticks around long enough to find its voice.

 

Prospects to Watch

Garfunkel and Oates flashed potential to fill the Flight of the Conchords void after an encouraging pilot. The comedy-music folk duo of Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome mask a sharp crudeness behind campy smiles and a ukulele, and IFC is the perfect place to harness their weirdness. They’re known for their songs, yet everyone else from the pilot worked so well that the music interlude felt unneeded.

To my chagrin, You’re the Worst is not a Britta Perry spinoff. Can Gillian Jacobs at least make a cameo somewhere along the way? Nonetheless a show about two awful people dealing with the other’s awfulness presents the type of hatred I love.

I really hope Mulaney turns out good, just because I love John Mulaney’s stand-up. From the early looks, however, it seems like too much or a corny network sitcom. Hopefully the early trailers are misleading.

 

What else should have made the list? I’m always up for something new to binge-watch instead of accomplishing anything that actually matters.

Yankees Winning Trade Season, Ryan Howard’s Downward Spiral and Other MLB Thoughts

The New York Yankees are ruthless spenders who clear their pockets in exchange for victories. That’s fine; they have the influx of cash and are willing to part with it for championships. Every fan wants his or her team’s owner to proceed the same way.

In exchange, we all get to laugh when an expensive transaction falls on its face. With lavish spending comes lavish overpays, as players made available via free agency or trades are usually old and past their peak while still commanding a hefty price tag.

Carlos Beltran making $15 million while registering a minus-0.8 WAR? Yikes. Brian McCann slugging .373 in the first season of a five-year contract as a 30-year-old catcher? Ruh roh. Jacoby Ellsbury getting top dollar to run less and provide average defense while Yankee Stadium fails to uptick his power production? Zoinks!

See how much fun that is, provided you’re not a Yankees fan? That’s why it stinks to see them make two savvy trades for under-appreciated players worth more than the general public believes.

In desperate need of a starting pitcher to procure some innings, they sent Vidal Nuno and cash considerations to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy. Nuno, 26, wasn’t cutting it in New York’s rotation, so the Bronx Bombers instead snatched a quality arm quietly having a nice year.

I can hear the cranky old talk-show host yelling now about McCarthy’s 5-10 record and 4.49 ERA. How on earth is that a nice year? They should take Ferris Bueller’s advice and look around once in a while, as there’s a bunch of other juicy stats to chew into.

Usually a poor strikeout pitcher, McCarthy has amped up his K/9 rate to a career-high 7.71, all while maintaining his typical pinpoint command. He’s utilizing his fastball at a much-higher rate (63.1 percent) than during previous years, which has worked since he’s also firing it at a higher velocity.

Over the past three years, his four-seam velocity has hovered slightly below 91 miles per hour. This year, he’s reaching at average speed of 92.9 on the radar gun.

The Diamondbacks wouldn’t have realized that, since none of these metrics are included on their special grit box scores. Sure, his 55.3 ground-ball rate elicits multiple easy outs and his 2.90 xFIP is excellent, but how dirty is his uniform?!?

The move has yielded immediate results. Through three stars, McCarthy has tallied a 1.45 ERA, 17 strikeouts and three walks in 18.2 innings. He’s also a 31-year-old in a contract year, but Brian Cashman made a rare Yankees move by accepting damaged goods to save the farm system.

 

Speaking of damaged goods, Chase Headley is hitting .233/.297/.356, which represents career lows in all three categories. The 30-year-old will never duplicate his MVP-caliber production from 2012, when he delivered 31 homers, 115 RBI, 17 stolen bases and a 7.2 WAR, but this season has transpired much worse than he hoped for as he prepares to embark on the free-agent process this offseason.

Since the San Diego Padres failed to sell high two years ago when they had the chance, they accepted a dull return from the Yankees. Rather than landing substantial future pieces, they settled for Rafael De Paula—a 23-year-old pitcher with a 4.15 ERA in high Single-A—and Yangervis Solarte, a 26-year-old infielder who fell back down to earth after a monstrous start.

While Headley is a shell of the star that briefly shined a couple years ago, he still provides Gold Glove defense at a position New York needed to upgrade. He’ll also play half of his games in Yankee Stadium instead of Petco Park, a monumental shift that should spark an offensive revival.

During his career, Headley has hit .286/.360/.444 on the road. Petco’s spacious confines have drastically suppressed his power, but he could morph into a 15-20 homer hitter if he stays with the Yankees for a full season. Aside from the 2012 outlier, he has never exceeded 13 long balls in a given year.

By FanGraphs’ measure, a struggling Headley has still contributed 1.6 wins above a replacement-level player in 2014. That places him third among New York’s position players behind Brett Gardner (3.0) and Jacoby Ellsbury (2.5).

 

Ryan Howard: $138 Million Platoon Hitter

Ryan Howard’s career continues to descend steeper than Great Adventure’s new Zumanjaro ride. Once a top power bat who hilariously wrung a five-year, $138 million extension out of the Philadelphia Phillies, the 34-year-old is no longer even an everyday player.

The slugger, who is MLB’s highest-paid position player this year at $25 million, has tested the team’s patience with a .224/.305/.377 slash line. Skipper Ryne Sandberg has put his foot down, benching the first baseman over the past couple of days in favor of Darin Ruf.

Everyone who bemoaned the lavish extension signed in 2012, when two years still remained on the former MVP’s deal, took a victory lap with the news of Howard’s latest shaming. After all, Howard has accrued a minus-0.7 WAR over the past three years while getting paid like a superstar.

But all three elements of his slash line dipped in both 2010 and 2011, during which he respectively hit 31 and 33 homers after averaging 49 long balls per season in the prior four years. Throw in a colossal strikeout rate, poor contact skills, no speed and anemic defense, and everybody besides Ruben Amaro Jr. knew that deal was terrible.

So let’s move on to another question: Should the Phillies leave Howard on the bench? He’s certainly not performing like a quality major league starter, but Darin Ruf touts the same incomplete repertoire.

Last season, Ruf essentially acted the part of a lesser Howard, batting .247/.348/.458 with 14 homers through 73 games. Like Howard, he whiffed often with a 31.1 strikeout percentage while providing negative value on the basepaths and field. At age 27, he’s also not much of a prospect the organization needs to scout with a big league audition.

Assuming Howard’s at-bat against southpaws conceivably makes sense, but the righty Ruf sports a career .217 average against them. Considering his .785 OPS against them, it could be worth trying out to shield the veteran from lefties from Howard. Then again, he’s not faring any better against righties this season, posting a .682 OPS compared to a .681 versus lefties.

In terms of actual production, Ruf can’t do much worse than Howard. If the Phillies are serious about ignoring sunk costs and leaving financial commitments out of the discussion, he at least warrants a platoon unless Howard can regain his stroke at the plate.

 

Tigers Trade for Amazing Closer, Will Continue to Use Terrible Closer

Looking for a boost in a tough American League, the Detroit Tigers bolstered their bullpen by trading for Joakim Soria. The All-Star reliever, who is enjoying a resounding comeback after missing all of 2012 and most of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his injured elbow, represents a significant upgrade for a bullpen currently brandishing a 4.37 ERA.

Much of Detroit’s late-inning woes fall on the arm of Joe Nathan, a once proud shutdown closer who is now posting a hideous 5.73 ERA. After coming back from a significant injury of his own in 2012, he also rebounded spectacularly, notching a 2.09 ERA and 80 saves in 2012 and 2013.

This year, however, he has been a train wreck due to a decreased velocity and career-worst walk rate (3.82 BB/9) as a reliever. Soria, meanwhile, is standing strong with a 2.07 ERA, 1.07 FIP and 42 strikeouts to just four walks.

One would have reasonably expected the former Texas Ranger to usurp Nathan, another former Texas star, in the ninth inning. Nope. Detroit is sticking with Nathan, a move that would be infuriating if closers held as much importance as many fans believe.

In truth, it doesn’t make a huge difference whether Nathan stinks in the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth inning. Due to his long track record of success, Brad Ausmus won’t cease using him altogether. Meanwhile, a pristine eighth inning from Soria serves just as well as a superb ninth.

The bothersome part about this development: Few, if any MLB managers share this sentiment. If Ausmus asked himself which heralded reliever is more qualified for the prestigious role and concluded Nathan deserves the better assignment, wow.

Unfortunately, he probably fell prey to the familiarity bias, sticking to his guy rather than switching allegiance to Detroit’s new acquisition. One more blow-up outing, however, could cost Nathan the role he has slayed for the past decade.

 

Note: All advanced stats are courtesy of FanGraphs. Contract information obtained via Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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