Rebuilding a Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Disaster

There comes a pivotal point in everyone’s life where one must undergo deep introspection and admit things can’t stay the way they are. This applies to my uncertain career path and complete lack of social life, but I’m talking specifically about a fantasy baseball dynasty squad in desperate need of a complete rebuild.

Apathy is a fantasy baseball manger’s greatest detriment, and I let it bog me down for years. That, however, was when I actually had stuff to do in college. Now I’m home watching Netflix, twiddling my thumbs and staring into the abyss of a barren roster that bottomed out.

I don’t have many talents. Maybe this isn’t one of them either, but I know I’m not terrible at fantasy baseball. In this 18-team head-to-head league, missing the eight-team playoffs constitutes my idea of failure. So when I finished the 2015 season stuck in dead last—I can’t remember finishing last in any league since I joined my dad’s annual re-draft league in middle school—I was smacked in the face with a call to action. It’s time to turn this sucker around.

I also, however, don’t want to make quick, dirty fixes to instead place 12th, so patience is necessary. If I’m going to suck, I’m going to suck while blooming a future winner. After idly watching my roster age for years, it’s time for change. Other than Paul Goldschmidt and Madison Bumgarner, young stars in their prime who will take Godfather offers to move, anyone is fair game.

To show I mean business, I already executed three deals with Opening Day two months away. Here’s my thought process behind each maneuver.


Trade 1

I Give: Starlin Castro and Hunter Strickland

I Get: Steven Souza, Mat Latos, Carson Smith, Miguel Castro, Matt Boyd and 5th-round prospect pick

I opened the offseason by rearranging seats rather than burning the building for insurance money. This isn’t necessarily a rebuilding move, as Starlin Castro and Hunter Strickland will be 26 and 27, respectively, on Opening Day, but I landed 20-something talents at positions of grave need.

I’m also getting a lot of spare parts at the tail end. A Round 5 pick in a five-round draft is virtually a scratch-off ticket, but one I can use on a high-upside prospect a year or two away from rising up the rankings as someone a year or two away from making an impact. It’s no guarantee Miguel Castro and/or Matt Boyd make the final cut, but they definitely weren’t making the other guy’s final cut. I didn’t give anything extra to seize them.

A bit early to give up on Starlin Castro in a dynasty? Perhaps, but his value relies heavily on name recognition and a move to the Big Apple. Even after a late surge last summer, he hit a paltry .265/.296/.375 with 11 long balls and five steals. After stealing 25 bags in 2012, he has poached 18 bases in three combined seasons. Sorry if I’m not excited about a guy who can record 13 homers and seven steals.

As for Yankee Stadium fixing him, there’s only so much a small ballpark can do. Playing on a little-league field won’t cure last season’s 54.1 ground-ball percentage and 11.3 pop-up rate. He’s not going to exploit Yankee Stadium’s short porch if he can’t direct the ball beyond the infield.

Besides, I’m not quitting on him as much as investing in other guys I like. I ended the season with Joc Pederson, Nick Markakis, Ben Paulsen and Chris Coghlan as my outfielders, so Steven Souza offers an immediate upgrade with 20-20 upside. If he can fake his way to a .240 average and stay on the field in light of the Tampa Bay Rays acquiring Corey Dickerson—which happened after I got Souza—he’ll match or exceed Castro’s value.

Strickland has a clearer path to a closer’s role than Carson Smith, but Smith sported a 2.31 ERA, 11.81 K/9 and 64.8 ground-ball percentage. He’ll help out my ratios as an elite middle reliever as I cross my fingers for him somehow, somewhere finding his way back into the ninth inning.

Don’t sleep on Mat Latos. I got him as a throw-in, but I’m hoping he makes this exchange worthwhile. The 28-year-old’s stock is way down after accruing a 4.95 ERA and 1.31 ERA in 2015. In a free-agent market where Ian Kennedy netted a $70-million deal, the righty hasn’t found a new home.

He’s an ideal low-risk gamble for fantasy and MLB franchises alike. Despite the down year, he recorded a 3.72 FIP while masking red flags from 2014. While he wasn’t the ace of old, he upticked his average fastball velocity, strikeout percentage and swinging-strike percentage after enduring career lows in all categories the previous years:

  • 2014: 90.7 MPH FB, 17.6 K %, 8.1 SwSt %
  • 2015: 91.5 MPH FB, 20.2 K %, 9.9 SwSt %

I don’t have much in my rotation beyond Bumgarner, Taijuan Walker and Rick Porcello. (At least I’ll get another few months of Bartolo Colon on the Mets.) In the right environment, Latos can make a solid No. 4 or 5 starter in an 18-team league. Just keep him away from the Braves.


Trade 2

I Give: Brandon Phillips

I Get: 2016 3rd round pick (No. 52 Overall) and 2017 4th

A successful fantasy manager weeds out personal biases, operating as a cold-calculated machine rather than an irrational fool.  Then again, fantasy baseball is a silly game. It’s supposed to be fun, and rooting for people whom you don’t like is no fun.

I don’t like Brandon Phillips.

It’s baffling to see a professional baseball hitter—albeit a successful one—say he doesn’t pay attention to on-base percentage. This is no longer an advanced stat for Moneyball nerds blogging in their mom’s basement—I have my own room upstairs, thank you very much. It’s a rudimentary stat included in TV broadcasts and traditional box scores.

My league uses the traditional five-by-five categories, but reaching base more means more base-stealing and run-scoring opportunities. Phillips drew walks in 4.3 percent of his plate appearances. Then there was callously cursing out a Cincinnati Reds reporter doing his job by pointing out the veteran’s his indifference to plate discipline. What a class act that Brandon is.

Phillips’ .315 weighted on-base average (wOBA) and 96 weighted runs-created plus (wRC+) both depict his 2015 campaign as slightly below average at the plate. From a fantasy perspective, however, he provided considerable value by hitting .294 with 12 homers and 23 steals.

I’m not buying it. Don’t think a career .274 hitter flirts with .300 again. Can’t see him sniffing 20 steals again during a season in which he turns 35. He poached seven combined bags in 2013 and 2014 and averaged 15 from 2010-2012.

How did I end up with a guy I obviously dislike? He was part of a convoluted trade last July where I parted with a few veterans (Matt Holliday and Dan Haren among others). He wasn’t the key return, and I planned to flip him all along. So I shipped him out to the first willing buyer, acquiring two picks in our five-round prospect draft. (Available MLB players are also on the table. Other than a reliever stumbling into a closer’s gig, there’s usually no veterans of significant interest.)

Neither the No. 52 pick this year nor a fourth-rounder next year is much of a loss for a contender looking for a stop-gap upgrade. Yet I have nothing better to do than copiously research prospects in hopes of hitting the jackpot late. Some names taken outside the top 50 last year: Alex Reyes, Brett Phillips, Manuel Margot, Gleyber Torres and Orlando Arcia.

In retrospect, I’m worried I might have made this trade just for the sake of doing something. When you know something needs fixing, taking any action feels better than remaining a hopeless spectator. Of course, not every move is for the better.

Yet inaction has put me in this pickle. If I held out and didn’t receive a suitable offer, a .265, 12-12 season would rob the veteran of any remaining luster. On the other hand, I mistakenly thought Ketel Marte or Asdrubal Cabrera still had second-base eligibility, and I also sent Castro packing. Looks like I may open the season with Wilmer Flores (part of the trade where I acquired Phillips) as my starting second baseman. Whoops. This was my most Sam Hinkie move of the trio. Trust the process.


Trade 3:

I Give: Adrian Beltre

I Get: Jorge Soler

*I also give a conditional 2017 3rd round pick if Soler hits more than 22 home runs this season

From both a real-life and fantasy perspective, Adrian Beltre rarely receives the respect he deserved. A career .285/.377/.477 hitter with a stellar glove at the hot corner, he’s a deserving Hall of Famer who found new life as a top-shelf fantasy third baseman from 2010 onward. He spent all those years raking for my club, and for that I am truly grateful.

He’s also an old man. Beltre will turn 37 in early April, and I’m not contending any time soon. His slugging percentage and home-run tallies have dipped each of the past three years, and he hit below .295 (only .287) for the first time since 2009. As a productive veteran with existing, yet gradually diminishing value, he had to go. Given my lack of marketable veterans, getting a significant return for him was crucial to my rebuild. I hope to have found my man in Jorge Soler.

The Chicago Cubs outfielder likely wouldn’t have been available last year after generating a .573 slugging percentage in 97 rookie plate appearances. Yet in a larger sample size, he clubbed a tame .262/.324/.399, hitting 10 homers in 101 games with an alarming 30.0 strikeout percentage.

I used those season setbacks as a buying opportunity. A small sample size tricked re-drafters into overpaying last year, so they’ll treat his postseason dominance (9-for-19, 3 2Bs, 3 HRs, 6 BBs) with skepticism. But hey, it happened. Blend those stats with his 404 regular-season plate appearances, and his slash line soars to .273/.340/.434.

He doesn’t get cheated at the plate, belting a 27.8 line-drive percentage and 35.9 hard-hit percentage during the regular season. Although he won’t hit for a high average without fixing his strikeout woes, he’ll make the most of his batted balls, which puts him in line to hit around .270-.280.

That conditional third-round pick—an interesting idea issued by my trade partner—is no mere throw-in. The first two deals demonstrated my desire for accumulating assets, and another horrid season will make that an early third. Joe Ross and Raisel Iglesias were among two of the last winter’s opening third-round selections. Then again, if Soler smashes 23 or more dingers, I’ll be too ecstatic about landing a young building block to mind the loss.

So long, old friend. Hello, new pal. Hopefully we form a strong bond over the years as you one day lead a new battalion back to the Promised Land. Or at least the playoffs.

Note: Advanced stats 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.

6 Strange Stats From Opening Weeks of MLB Season

Numbers are usually our friends, but they have a mean streak in small doses. A limited sample size often betrays our perception of reality, which especially bears true in the early weeks of the 162-game MLB season.

Chris Colabello isn’t going to lead the American League in RBI, Dayan Viciedo won’t seize the AL batting title and Aaron Harang isn’t going to hold the National League’s best ERA. Those bizarre stats didn’t even make the cut, but it just shows what craziness lurks less than a month into the year.

This statistical variance occurs throughout the season, but these outliers currently stand all on their own, without previous months of data to prove their fickleness. In July, these odd stretches are mere blips on the radar. In overall, they stick out more than an honorable character on Game of Thrones.

Unfortunately, neither lasts too long, but these stats are interesting while they stick around.

Note: All advanced stats, updated as of Thursday, April 24, are courtesy of FanGraphs.


Jeff Samardzija: 1.53 ERA…. and Zero Wins

I present to you Exhibit 23,457 on why individual wins are a meaningless measure for starting pitchers.

Jeff Samardzjia has thrown at least seven innings in each of his first five starts. The righty has surrendered just six earned runs this season, not allowing more than two runs in a single start. Despite his superb start, he still has not notched a single victory.

The Chicago Cubs have scored a combined 12 runs through all of his starts, and even that number is misleading. Three of those scores came in the 11th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals, after Jose Veras blew a save (and Samardzija win) in the ninth. Although the offense finally showed up for him in his last outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks, poor pitching and defense allowed Arizona to register nine runs in the ninth to squander Chicago’s 5-2 edge.

Meanwhile, Jean Machi has already tallied four wins. Who’s Jean Machi, you ask? With four wins, he surely must be a burgeoning ace hungry to challenge Jose Fernandez as the game’s new premier hurler.

Nope, he’s a middle reliever who has pitched nine innings for the San Francisco Giants. He only needed to record one out in two of those victories. In conclusion, don’t judge a book by its cover, and never judge a pitcher by his win total.


Brett Lawrie: 18 RBI… While Hitting .165

RBI, although not as evil, are wins’ mischievous cousin on the hitting side. Batters can often enjoy spiked RBI totals due to the hard work of those ahead in the batting order. Constantly approaching the plate with runners in scoring position isn’t a skill, but rather the benefit of favorable circumstances.

How else can one explain Brett Lawrie’s head-scratching start? Somebody who remains loyal to the basic numbers will have a perplexing time summarizing his April. We can all agree his .165 batting average is dreadful. Surprisingly, 11 players currently hold worse averages, dubiously led by Curtis Granderson’s woeful .125 clip.

But despite his inability to hit the ball (and his .221 on-base percentage isn’t helping matters either), Lawrie has managed to drive in 18 runs. Only six players (Giancarlo Stanton, Colabello, Jose Abreu, Nelson Cruz, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo) have obtained higher tallies.

How is such a horrible hitter such a fruitful run-producer? The third baseman has swung for the fences all season and succeeded five times. Only one of those homers was a solo shot, with a two-run blast, two three-run flies and a grand slam thrown in the mix. That’s 13 RBI earned on five swings.

Brandon Belt has collected 13 RBI all season despite hitting .299 with seven homers. Chase Utley has a dozen RBI with a .384/.425/.644 slash line. Lawrie has had a poor offensive season, but he has enjoyed great timing.


Tim Hudson: No Walks

If opposing batters want to reach base against Tim Hudson, they’re going to have to take the bat off their shoulders and swing.

In his first season with the San Francisco Giants, the veteran has not walked a single batter through 30 innings pitched. Even Cliff Lee, the pinnacle of preciseness, has issued two free passes.

Hudson has always displayed sharp command, wielding a career 2.68 BB/9 ratio. But not throwing four balls outside the strike zone to a batter is hard to continually do through four starts.

Adam Wainwright enjoyed similar success last year, not allowing his first walk of the season until April 23. The St. Louis Cardinals’ ace went 35 innings before finally surrendering a base on balls to Bryce Harper.

Hudson has feasted on his new NL West rivals, posting a 2.40 ERA against the Arizona Diamondbacks (two starts), Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres. His streak will be put to the test on Friday night against the Cleveland Indians, who have drawn the third-most walks entering Thursday.


Koji Uehara: Minus-.10 FIP

For those unfamiliar with the fielding independent pitching (FIP) metric, it is essentially an ERA meant to more accurately gauge a pitcher’s value by removing defensive factors. With that said, FIP is appraised similar to ERA. Gregg Holland led MLB with a 1.36 FIP last year, a marvelous showing to support his 1.21 ERA.

As of Thursday, April 24, Koji Uehara has pitched so well that he holds a FIP below zero.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t realize that was possible until taking a gander at his minus-.10 FIP through eight innings. The metric favors pitchers with high strikeouts and low walks, and the Boston Red Sox closer has amassed 14 strikeouts to one walk while not allowing any earned runs.

The mark will eventually hover well below zero, but the 39-year-old is proving that his masterful 2013 was far from a fluke. Nobody should question his status as one of the game’s premier relievers.


Jean Segura: One Walk and a 73.2 Ground-Ball Rate

These numbers are less strange than worrisome, as Jean Segura has two truly ugly numbers attached to his early stat sheet.

A year after breaking out with a .294 average, 12 homers and 44 steals, the Milwaukee Brewers shortstop has struggled to conquer the dreaded sophomore slump. He’s batting a measly .247/.273/.341. While he’s swiped five bases, his four failed attempts offset any gains earned by claiming those extra bags.

There are two eye-popping numbers that explain his slow start. Through 90 plate appearances, the 24-year-old has drawn just one walk, earning him a microscopic 1.1 walk percentage. Never known for his patience, he sports baseball’s third-worst walk rate  a year after registering a 4.0 percentage. Who’s fared even worse? Steve Lombarozzi of the Baltimore Orioles has yet to earn a free pass in 67 plate appearances.

All of Segura’s swings cause the ball to go in play much more often, but most of those batted balls roll through the infield dirt. He has netted a league high 73.2 percent ground-ball rate, and clearly not enough are finding enough open space for the speedster to reach base. Segura is never going to morph into a patient, line-drive machine, but such extreme metrics will cause him to suffer all season if not corrected.


Mark Buehrle – 0.64 ERA

Sometimes trying to make sense of the senseless is a futile endeavor. There are no words to explain how Mark Buehrle holds an MLB-low 0.64 ERA.

This is the same 35-year-old with a career 3.81 ERA. The soft-tossing veteran is just expected to engulf innings with decent productivity, not dominate. Yet here we are.

His 6.11 K/9 rate is above his career 5.19 K/9 ratio, but right on par with last season’s 6.11 mark. Eleven of those punchouts, however, came in his first start of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays. After that, he has collected eight strikeouts and four walks through his ensuing three outings.

His .253 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) will rise, especially if his 29.3 percent line-drive rate remains so bloated. Pitching to contact with a fastball in the low-to-mid 80s will yield disastrous results along the way, so don’t be surprised when his pretty ERA is ruined by an seven-run slaughtering.

For now, let Buehrle enjoy his moment. Just don’t get caught off guard when it abruptly ends.