Commentary

Take your blinders off

Updated: May 18, 2011, 10:49 AM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

Pretend, for a second, that you are a network TV development executive. It's one of those jobs that everyone thinks is easy but is much more difficult that you can imagine. The ex-Mrs. Roto is one and my younger brother was one for a number of years, so I understand the job fairly well for someone who has never done it.

You read thousands of scripts. You meet with hundreds of writers, directors and actors. And you hear a million "pitches," which are ideas for TV shows. The biggest problem, of course, is that the idea is generally the least important thing about a TV show. A sitcom about four single friends living in New York City is the premise of "Mad Love," a current CBS sitcom that is on the bubble to get renewed past 13 episodes. It's also "Seinfeld."

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So, pretend you are a development executive for a moment. You need to find a new drama series. And the year is 1998.

Chris Carter comes in with a new idea. The creator of current hits "X-Files" and "Millennium" has a new TV show he wants to pitch, staying in the red-hot sci-fi genre of which he is the current master.

A guy you've never heard of comes in second. He's been writing unproduced movie scripts for the past few years and hasn't worked on a network TV show in more than six years. He wants to pitch a family drama. Popular dramas currently are all workplace-based, such as "ER," "The West Wing," "The Practice" and "Law & Order," or "otherworldly," such as "X-Files" and "Touched by an Angel."

So which would you choose? The newest sci-fi show from Carter or the family drama from the unproduced movie writer? Almost everyone would choose the Carter show. In a world of much uncertainty, he has the track record.

That's exactly what Fox did, and "Harsh Realm" lasted three episodes before being canceled.

But, as you've probably guessed, the family drama got picked up as well. The unknown writer was a guy named David Chase, and the family drama was "The Sopranos."

I cheated there a little bit because I wanted to make my point. Chase was well-regarded in Hollywood but certainly wasn't a name at the time the way Carter was. And frankly, mob drama was even deader than family drama, but that would have given it away.

Fox never had to make the choice of "Harsh Realm" or "The Sopranos," but I'd bet everything I have that, if given the choice, it would have chosen "Harsh Realm." And understandably so. Also, I have to cop to something: I chose the "Sopranos" example to make my point not only because I loved the show and Chase's story but also because it gave me an excuse to link to this. It's one of the first things I wrote for ESPN.com and still among my favorites; it's a review of "The Sopranos" finale. If you're a fan of mine or, more likely, a fan of "The Sopranos," check it out if you get a second. I rarely like anything I write, but I thought that was pretty decent.

Back to the point: We are, by nature, blinded by names. It happens all the time in fantasy as well. But we play with numbers, not names. We're more than a month into the season. It's still a fairly short time, but enough that we can start to make judgments on some guys ... if we're not blinded by the names. Yes, we know that guy is good, but how good? Yes, we know he's struggling, but how much?

At some juncture, you have to go away from name value and start looking for the guy no one has heard of but who is producing a quality TV show. Or good fantasy numbers.

Which brings us once again to a perennial fan favorite, the often imitated but rarely duplicated "blind résumés." Before we get into it, last week I got a number of emails about the Maxim 100 column, saying that people didn't understand the usefulness or point of defending preseason bold predictions. Which was not the point of the column; the idea was to take that information and act on it. Everything I write has an actionable item in it. You can disagree with the conclusions I've drawn, but, for example, I wasn't defending my preseason Dan Uggla bold prediction but rather showing you a guy who is a buy low. James McDonald and Erik Bedard are good pickups. Ryan Howard a sell-high. And so forth.

In this column, the idea is that the value that people place on all these players (based on name) in potential trades is different from the reality of their value. It does not mean that I think you should trade Player A for Player B or that you should ignore Player C's career track record when looking at a six-week sample size. I just want you to see the players for their performances so far, not for the names on the backs of their jerseys. I find it a useful exercise and hope you will, too.

All stats used are through Tuesday unless indicated. Some of the stats used were provided by Fangraphs.com.

Player A is striking out more and walking less yet has a much better (and fairly unsustainable) home run-to-fly ball (HR/FB) rate. Seems odd, but there it is. Player A is one of the current major league home run leaders, Alfonso Soriano.

Player B? Soriano's career averages. He is 35 years old. What's that saying about old dogs and new tricks?

Player C has a better average than Player A, and because he has fewer RBIs and more runs scored, we can guess that he hits higher in the order. But these are solid guys who probably should be owned at about the same rate, and either one is an upgrade over Player B.

Player B is Derrek Lee, the first baseman of the Baltimore Orioles. He is owned in 46 percent of leagues. Player A? Mark Trumbo of my beloved Los Angeles Angels. And with the news about Kendrys Morales being done for the season, playing time is no longer a concern. Player C is Mitch Moreland, owned in 94 percent of leagues. Trumbo is owned in just 21 percent of leagues.

Two third basemen here with virtually identical starts to the season. Player A is faster; Player B has scored more runs. I threw in the career BABIP there so you could see that one guy wasn't getting particularly luckier or unluckier than the other. There are career track records to consider, but either way, people need to start valuing Player A, Mike Aviles, higher and Player B, Alex Rodriguez, lower.

Shout-out to Keith Lipscomb for his suggestion on this one, also involving third basemen. Player B has the better average and strikes out less while putting up almost identical numbers to Player A in 50 fewer at-bats. Player A has more speed, but that's pretty much it.

Now, I'm not saying that Player B, Ryan Roberts, will finish with a better season than Player A, David Wright. But it'll be closer than you think.

Pretty solid numbers from a couple of boppers, right? Player B has more RBIs and runs; Player A has a significant advantage in average. Well, based on what they are currently doing, these are the final stats that Player A (Paul Konerko, ninth-round pick) and Player B (Ryan Howard, third-round pick) are on pace for.

Player B has slightly more walks and strikeouts, but otherwise, this is the same player. As you can see, at this point in the season, that difference in average is only two hits. Player B is Yunel Escobar. Player A? Derek Jeter.

I look at the strikeout-to-walk rates of both guys, along with their BABIPs (Player A's is .244; Player B's is .324), and I feel Player A's average will come up and Player B's will come down, bringing them closer in that category -- and they are pretty close in all other categories. Player A is Carlos Santana, and Player B? Alex Avila. Yes, he's that good.

Three speedy outfielders here. Player A has gotten similar stats in fewer at-bats, Player C's strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests his average is not a fluke and Player B is, well, a strikeout machine, so that batting average isn't likely to shoot up.

Player A is Brett Gardner, owned in 94 percent of leagues. Player B is Austin Jackson, owned in 37 percent of leagues. And Player C is Michael Brantley, owned in just 16 percent of leagues.

Three starting pitchers. They have a different number of innings pitched, but all have good ERAs and similar strikeout-to-walk rates. Pitcher A has the best strikeout-per-nine rate of the group, averaging basically a strikeout per inning. These numbers are from Aug. 15 of last year through Wednesday. Pitcher B is CC Sabathia. Pitcher C is another fantasy favorite, although slightly less than Sabathia, the Giants' Matt Cain.

And the reason I chose Aug. 15 for this sample size is that's the date when Pitcher A, Homer Bailey of the Reds, came off a long DL stint and pitched his first game since May 23, and because he has pitched in only two games this season thanks to a shoulder injury that knocked him out late in spring training. So, although he's not exactly an iron horse, Bailey is available in 74 percent of leagues but deserving of much more ownership.

Ugh. Nothing terribly pretty here. Player B has real problems with control, but both guys are giving up too many home runs and not striking out enough guys. FIP, which is a fielding-independent statistic, is what each pitcher's ERA should look like after you take luck and fielding out of the equation. Pitcher A is the ol' innings-eater, Joe Saunders. Player B is Francisco Liriano, with stats that include his no-hitter. This is what he is right now, kids. He's Joe Saunders with a better name. Are you really hanging on to Saunders?

Two more starting pitchers, both pretty good ones. Pitcher A has one more start, gives up more home runs but also seems to be luckier, with a very high strand rate that is much higher than his career norm of 76.6 percent. So Pitcher A has been luckier this year, but both are very good pitchers. I wouldn't worry if I owned Pitcher A, Jon Lester. But it's nice to see Pitcher B, whom I've lovingly written about for three years now, finally put it all together and join the elite level, even if no one realizes it yet. His name? Jorge De La Rosa.

A study in contrast, as both have very similar underlying numbers, but one seems to have been the victim of bad luck and the other hasn't. Which is why the owners of Pitcher A, Tommy Hanson, are so happy. But perhaps you can still buy low on Pitcher B, Daniel Hudson.

Here are two closers, both among the elite. There are slightly more save opportunities for Closer A, but those fluctuate. Otherwise, you are looking at the two best closers in baseball since July 17, 2010, through Wednesday, as determined by saves conversion rate. Telling you that Closer A is Heath Bell shouldn't shock you. But I chose July 17 because that was the date Closer B, Chris Perez, had his first save with the Indians after Kerry Wood was dealt. I mentioned Perez in my preseason Love/Hate this year with this same stat, and he's kept it up. Perez is never mentioned in the elite class of closer, but he is.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- wonders whether you would like this column more or less if it had a byline of Bob Smith. Berry is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend

• Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
• Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
• Best-selling author of "Fantasy Life"