Simile Saturday: TV Edition

Hey, folks! The Common Man and me will both be stopping by here on weekends to provide the same kind of general idiocy you can see regularly from us over on The Platoon Advantage, but hopefully in a slightly more organized and thematic way. For now, I’ll be borrowing an idea Dustin had: delivering yesterday’s top stories to you in simile form. Will I keep doing this indefinitely, or will I eventually become a real boy and think up my own thing? Stay tuned to find out!

Anibal Sanchez is like Scrubs.
From 2006, National League pitchers have given up an average of  almost exactly a hit an inning (9.005 hits per nine innings, roughly). Now, starters give up a few more hits than relievers — they’re at 9.261 per nine since ’06 — but still, Anibal Sanchez’s 8.780 career mark is very good, but hardly spectacular. That’s a hit a game more than Carlos Zambrano and Matt Cain have given up during that time, for instance, and he’s a full hit and a half behind Tim Lincecum. Above average, not spectacular. Similarly, his 7.0 career strikeouts per nine are a couple ticks above average for a starter. Injuries have limited Sanchez to basically the equivalent of two and a half full seasons since he came into the league five years ago, but all indications are that at age 27, he is what he is: a good “number-two” or very good “number-three” starter, comfortably above average.

Which makes it a bit surprising that Sanchez has now produced three gems most above-average pitchers would be awfully lucky to see even one of. As a rookie in 2006, he no-hit the D-Backs; last year, a fifth-inning single and seventh-inning walk were the only damage the world-champion Giants were able to do to him; and then last night, he took a no-hitter into the ninth against the red-hot Rockies, losing it when Dexter Fowler bounced a weak single between the first and second basemen. It’s not clear to me whether Sanchez is an above-average pitcher with flashes of true brilliance, or an above-average pitcher who has benefited from great luck and good defense three times, though I’d guess it’s a little of both with more of the latter than the former (considering his nine strikeouts yesterday set a career high).

I’m a big fan of the bygone NBC-then-ABC sitcom “Scrubs.” Or I was, at least, until the final season, when they made an entirely different show with a different plot and mostly new cast and slapped the same name on it. But we’ll just pretend that final season never happened (as I always try to): for the most part, Scrubs was just high-quality, mainstream, network television: clever, funny, inoffensive, hardly ground-breaking. I’ve seen every episode several times, but I can still watch them whenever they reappear in syndication, and I think part of the reason for that is that for the most part, they’re enjoyable but forgettable.

But there are just a few episodes — and they kind of come out of nowhere — that are among the best twenty-two minutes of television you’ll ever see. The second-season episode “My Philosophy,” for example, which features veteran actress Jill Tracy as a dying patient who gets a literal swan song, is shockingly beautiful. In “My Life in Four Cameras,” the show brilliantly (and ultimately, touchingly) parodies a more traditional, laugh-tracked sitcom like “Cheers.” The inevitable musical episode, in 2007, was the best such episode I’ve ever seen.

So Anibal Sanchez is like Scrubs. Typically solid, if a bit inconsistent, with this quirky propensity to suddenly overwhelm you with brilliance.

The Red Sox are like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Thanks to Netflix, I’ve become completely addicted to Buffy over the last several months. I never watched it when it was on — couldn’t get past the terrible movie by the same name — but I’ve since discovered the error of my ways and the unsurpassed brilliance of Joss Whedon. His first big TV series, Buffy starts awfully slow, trying to find its voice and struggling mightily (and sometimes hilariously) with the limitations of the special effects available to WB Network programs in 1997, but slowly gets better as it nears the end of season one and, starting in season two, is just endlessly engrossing and fun. (Or I’m told that continues, anyway — I’m still in the middle of season five.)

The Red Sox, as I’m sure everyone taking the time to read this knows, started more than slowly, going 0-6 and then 2-10, trying to find a starting pitcher other than Josh Beckett who could get outs and struggling mightily with the vagaries of BABIP and the luck dragon. Since then, though, they’ve been unstoppable. They’ve won six out of seven, and done it in impressive fashion, beating up on the Jays, on the A’s and Gio Gonzalez, and then last night, managing four runs (two earned) off of heretofore seemingly invincible superdemon Dan Haren in a victory over the Angels. Like Buffy, the Sox seem to have really hit their stride after a few early missteps, and I wouldn’t count on any slowing down anytime soon.

And then there’s Carl Crawford. While the Sox seem to have fully recovered from their first-two-weeks blues, Crawford has kept chugging along at an almost unbelievably poor level, managing just three singles and two walks in his 26 PA during the Sox’ six-of-seven run, including an ugly 0-for-4 yesterday.

I expect Crawford to be just fine. His batted-ball rates, given the small sample size, are well within range of his career norms, and certainly don’t justify an incredibly ugly .167 batting average on balls in play.

Carl Crawford, then, is Buffy’s Xander Harris; even as the rest of the show took the leap and became a top-quality series, Xander was (at best) wildly inconsistent, a kind of out-of-place comic relief in a show that didn’t need any, interjecting awkward jokes and generally failing to justify his existence. They snapped him out of it, though, and he eventually became an integral part of the show, and was the focus of one of its very greatest episodes. Give Crawford a month or so, and Red Sox fans will be awfully glad he’s there.

Albert Pujols is 30 Rock.
I’m sure you can point to off episodes here and there, but 30 Rock is consistently brilliant and hilarious, and has kept its near-perfect tone and pace throughout its five seasons to date. It sounds like it might be coming to an end after next season, which would be terribly sad for me, but which means it has a good chance of being one of the few shows in history to stay strong throughout and go out on top. There have been moments when I thought it might be going downhill, but then it comes right back with things like the live show they did earlier this season and reaffirms that it’s one of the funniest shows on TV.

Pujols had people whispering about his buckling under the pressure created by his uncertain contract situation, and at 31, there’s always the chance he might just be declining a bit — after a start that bottomed out at .143/.225/.229 through his first nine games. In eleven games since, though, he’s hitting a Pujolsian .333/.380/.689, including a 1-for-3 yesterday. He’s exactly the brilliant, almost frighteningly consistent hitter he’s been since day one.

Kind of a cop-out to end with, but really, Albert Pujols is so great that writing about him is always going to be a cop-out. Back next Saturday with more (or maybe something completely different)!

Just FYI, Bill is pretty active on Twitter, too, @Bill_TPA. You know, if you’re into following things.