The Talented Mr. Roto: 100 facts
So I recently was a guest on "Super Fan Roundtable," a show on Howard 101 on SiriusXM radio, where hardcore fans discuss the Howard Stern Show. A few times a year, they have a "celebrity" version, always hosted by Jeff Probst (of "Survivor" fame) and Natalie Maines from the Dixie Chicks. As longtime readers know, I'm a huge Stern fan, so when they asked, I jumped at it without thinking twice.
When I announced it on my Twitter, the reaction was either "very cool" or "Uh, if it's celebrity, why are you there?" And frankly, I had both reactions.
Excited to do it, but nervous that, honestly, I'm not sure I'm a "celebrity" even by the loosest of definitions. Would all the other celebs be like "What's that guy doing here?"
The rest of the people on the show were Dan Patrick, Fred Armisen of "Saturday Night Live," Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty fame, Isaiah Mustafa (the guy in all the Old Spice commercials) and me.
So as I drove to New York for the show, I thought about it a lot. Did I belong? Would I embarrass myself as a sixth-rate guy with a bunch of stars? Who among that group is a "celebrity" and who is not?
Dan and Jeff are the most recognizable, having been on TV for the past 35 years combined or something like that, but unless you are a sports or "Survivor" fan, you probably don't know their names. The Dixie Chicks have sold over 30 million records, Rob Thomas collaborated on "Smooth" with Carlos Santana (no, not the Indians catcher), which Wikipedia claims (so it must be true!) is Billboard's most popular song of all time everyone's heard their work, but unless you were a big fan, you probably wouldn't recognize them on the street.
Name recognition-wise, people are probably the least familiar with Fred Armisen or Isaiah Mustafa, but everyone's heard of "SNL,' and Armisen plays Barack Obama. When you search for him on YouTube his first two Obama sketches have over half a million views. And while you don't know Isaiah's name, those Old Spice commercials have been playing everywhere, including in front of millions upon millions of viewers during this year's Super Bowl. You could argue that more people have seen his face than anyone else's on the panel.
Before the show, I was expressing my fear to Jason Kaplan, producer of the show. His reaction? "Dude, what are you talking about? You have more Twitter followers than any of them."
I bring this all up not to brag, I swear. I am very aware that any amount of awareness people have for me has everything to do with the popularity and reach of both ESPN and fantasy sports, so this has nothing to do with me. I'm very lucky.
But rather because perception is a funny thing. If I asked 10 people to say who was a "celebrity" on that list and who wasn't, I bet I'd get 10 different answers. And the truth is, all those lists would be right. And they'd all be wrong. To some people, Rob Thomas is a musical god. To others, he's "Who?" That perception is the truth to each individual person.
As you think about that, let me ask you which baseball player you would rather have?
Player A seems to be in a freefall. Never having lived up to his promise, his batting average has declined for three straight seasons, below .250 for the past two. Since 2008, his hits have decreased, his strikeouts have increased and, last season, he had a career high in fly ball percentage and a career low in ground ball percentage. Which would be fine, except this guy is a speedster. His one asset is speed, yet he's been flat in that category for three years now. He started last season on the DL, he's already had major shoulder surgery and, with 23 caught-stealings to his name the past two seasons, you have an injury-prone free swinger who might be losing a step.
Player B is one of those rare power-speed combos. He's always been fast; in fact, over the past three years, he's been top 10 in total steals in major league baseball. Now, the power we all thought was there has started to show up. He almost doubled his home run total from '09 to '10 and, in fact, the number has gone up every year since 2008. His walk rate, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, isolated power and speed score (per FanGraphs) all increased from '09 to '10. Even better? Last year's .304 BABIP was 30 points short of his career average, so some positive regression to his mean should result in an even higher average to go along with the power, the speed and the 90 runs scored for our multi-category stud.
Both guys are going in the seventh round, so which player do you want?
It doesn't matter, because they are both B.J. Upton. Which brings us to a harsh reality about stats, data and the truth. Incidentally, if I was a robot in a rock band, that would be the name of my first album. In each paragraph about B.J. Upton, everything I wrote is 100 percent true. It's just, like the story about the Stern show celebs or any other piece of statistical analysis you might read, not the whole truth. In each paragraph, I carefully chose what I wanted to show you and what I wanted to ignore in the hopes of misleading you and shaping your opinion about B.J. Upton.
Is he a fantasy celebrity? Or just another guy you've heard of?
I've done the kind of "choosing" I did with Upton in pretty much every article, television spot or radio hit I've done. Basically, I study all the stats, do the research and talk to as many folks as I can, then I choose which stats I want to show/discuss/butcher. If I like the guy, its positive stats; if I don't, I highlight the negative.
You, I and everyone one else who ever tells a story, quotes a stat or has an opinion "based in fact" does the same thing every time, I just might be the only one to admit it. But we are all misleaders.
You could argue for or against any of the "celebs" at the top, as I showed. In each case, I gave you a small set of data that doesn't show the whole story. Like when I said Rob Thomas was of Matchbox Twenty fame, and maybe you were like "Meh." But then I remind you of "Smooth" and you've been humming it in your head ever since.
We shorten that data because we have to. Whether it's a personal interaction or a player breakdown, it's because of time. As I've written before, when I am on "SportsCenter" or the Fantasy Focus podcast or even writing a column, I have a finite amount of time. I can't speak/type/gesticulate wildly all day any more than you can listen/read/tolerate me. It's the same for everyone. We all have time limitations.
But even if we didn't, it wouldn't matter. Even if managed to absorb every single stat and research nugget and could see into the future to know what managers would do with platoons and closers and how they'd divide every at-bat, it wouldn't matter. Because there's always stuff we don't know. Is he worried about his contract, is he hiding an injury, is he dating Rihanna? How will he react with the game on the line or if he hears boos? There's a human element at play that no mathematical equation can capture.
And so, in order to force ourselves to make a decision on a player, we have to make choices. Your job is to interpret all the data (and/or find an analyst who does that in a way you agree with) and make decisions on your perception about players. Because your perception is what the truth will be for you. And that's all that really matters.
Everything that follows is 100 percent true. They all are facts about people. Some are about baseball players and teams, some are about me, and not one of them tells the whole story. There are 100 in all. What you do with them is up to you.
100 Facts You Need to Know Before You Draft
1. Last season, the San Diego Padres had 2,242 at-bats with runners in scoring position, 26th in Major League Baseball.
2. Last season, the Boston Red Sox had 2,488 at-bats with runners in scoring position, fifth-best in baseball.
3. Last season, Adrian Gonzalez hit .407 with runners in scoring position, best in the major leagues.
4. In 30 innings pitched with Mike Napoli behind the plate last season, Dan Haren's ERA was 4.20.
5. In 44 innings pitched with Jeff Mathis behind the plate, Haren's ERA was 2.25.
6. Mike Napoli is currently a member of the Texas Rangers.
7. Post All-Star break, Gio Gonzalez was top 10 in ERA and top 30 in strikeouts (among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched) and had eight wins.
8. So far this spring (as of March 16), Gio has a 13-to-3 strikeout-to-walk rate in just 9 1/3 innings and a 0.96 ERA.
9. I'm fairly high on Gio Gonzalez this year as a late-round sleeper.
10. I get really annoyed when I am not invited to things. Parties, leagues, to have lunch with the guys, anything. I always feel slighted and wonder why the hell they didn't ask me. Yet when invited, I rarely actually want to go. I like to keep to myself a decent amount, I'm terrible at small talk, I play in way too many leagues as it is and I have limited interests. That dichotomy should tell you everything you need to know about my insanity.
11. Searching for the term "Rickie Weeks injury prone" on Google returns 32,500 results.
12. Last season, not one player in major league baseball had more plate appearances than Rickie Weeks, who had 754.
13. After his start on May 14 last year, Max Scherzer was sent to the minors to work on his mechanics. He fixed a flaw and came back May 30.
14. From May 30 on, Scherzer was fourth in the majors in strikeouts, with 158. (Felix Hernandez had 167, Justin Verlander had 160 and league leader Jered Weaver had 159).
15. From May 30 on, Scherzer's ERA was 2.46. Among pitchers who had at least 120 innings pitched, that was third-best in baseball. (Felix with 1.77 and Adam Wainwright with 2.44 were the only ones better).
16. Max Scherzer is currently going in the 11th round.
17. Last season, there were only nine players in the majors that had a better at-bat-per-home run ratio than Luke Scott.
18. Scott has never gotten 500 at-bats in a major league season. This year he is scheduled to be the starting left fielder, and manager Buck Showalter told the Baltimore Sun if Derrek Lee misses time, Scott will play first base.
19. Among the players who hit home runs less frequently per at-bat than Scott last year? Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Pena, Alex Rodriguez and Troy Tulowitzki.
20. I recently heard "Ice, Ice, Baby" on the radio, and you know what? It holds up really well. I bought it and downloaded it on my iPod. Love that song.
21. I just wish Def Leppard was on iTunes. Seriously. I have a strong hair-metal '80s-band love. "Gunter glieben glauchen globen" would be a pretty good fantasy baseball team name. Just saying.
22. Jonathan Sanchez has increased his strikeouts and lowered both his ERA and WHIP in three consecutive seasons.
23. Last season, among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched, no one had a higher BABIP than Brandon Morrow and his .342 surrendered on balls in play.
24. Morrow's strikeouts-per-9 (K/9) was higher (10.95 to 9.54) and his walks-per-9 (BB/9) was lower (4.06 to 4.47) than Jonathan Sanchez's, who is going basically four rounds ahead of Morrow.
25. Incidentally, I love Jonathan Sanchez. Love Morrow more.
26. Last season, Ted Lilly was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31. From Aug. 1 until the end of the season, Ted Lilly was top-10 in strikeouts (77), tied for sixth-best with seven wins and had a 0.99 WHIP over in 76 2/3 innings.
27. He also had a 3.52 ERA.
28. Over the past three seasons, Lilly's ERA at Dodger Stadium is 2.91.
29. Last season, Jered Weaver's strikeout-per-9 jumped from 7.42 in 2009 to 9.35. His career K/9 entering the season was 7.31.
30. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, since the year 2000, there have been only seven other pitchers in the majors who, with at least 500 career innings coming into a season, pitched at least 175 innings saw their K/9 for the season be 2.0 higher than his career rate.
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31. Besides Weaver, that list includes Verlander (2009) Joe Blanton (2009), Big Fat Bartolo Colon (2000), Doug Davis (2005), Zack Greinke (2009), John Lackey (2005) and Ben Sheets (2004).
32. In each case, the following season, they had a lower K/9, fewer strikeouts, a higher ERA (except for Verlander) and, except for John Lackey, Bartolo Colon, and Verlander again, a higher WHIP.
33. I got into an argument over these stats with my editor Pierre Becquey. He thinks this is very misleading, pointing out that there's regression and then there's "just not quite as good." In some cases (like Greinke, Blanton and Davis), the pitcher was significantly not as good as the previous years, in some cases (like Colon, Lackey and Verlander) they were still very solid, just slightly worse. My argument back is that I know it's misleading, I want it to be misleading, that's the whole point of this article. He replied there's misleading and then there's misleading. So, fine. My reason for pointing this all out is that I expect Jered Weaver to do worse than last year. Pay for '09, not '10, and you'll be fine.
34. In 20 2/3 innings pitched last year, Craig Kimbrel's K/9 was 17.42
35. That is not a misprint.
36. Neither is his 6.97 BB/9. Sigh.
37. In 60 1/3 innings after the All-Star break, Jhoulys Chacin had a 2.24 ERA and 58 strikeouts.
38. Last season, only 34 players scored at least 90 runs.
39. Of those 33, only 20 of them also hit 25 home runs.
40. Of those 20, only 14 of them also had 90 RBIs.
41. Of those 14, only two of them also had 25 steals.
42. Their names are Carlos Gonzalez and Chris Young.
43. Last season, Gonzalez was No. 1 overall on our Player Rater and Young was No. 38. The 37 spots apart due, of course, to batting average.
44. This year, Carlos is currently 10th overall and Young is going 88th overall, or 78 picks later.
45. Regardless of whether I fit the definition of "celebrity," the weirdest part for me is when I know someone sort of recognizes me -- I see it in their face or overhear them whispering -- and they don't approach me. They're staring and in some cases pointing or whispering and maybe they're scared or not a fan or aren't sure, but it's odd. Think about a time when you knew someone was talking about you while you were standing close by. It's strange, right? Now add to that the fact that you don't know them. It's just a very uncomfortable sensation.
46. The other part of that is when I overhear them say something like "Who is that? I've seen that guy before." Or "That's the fantasy guy. What's his name again?" Like, what do you do there? "Hey, I'm Matthew." Or "Hey, couldn't help but notice you staring and pointing. Do you watch ESPN? Or play fantasy sports, because that's probably how you know me." I'm (generally) very happy to meet people, but it's weird if I go up to them. So then I just sit there with my friend or whoever trying to ignore the guys (it's always guys) who can't quite place me but keep talking about me. I have no idea what you're supposed to do there. Yes, these are the kinds of things that run through my head. What do you want? I'm neurotic.
47. Dan Uggla's batting average at home (in Florida) the past three years: .223, .251, .264 (average: .247)
48. Dan Uggla's batting average on the road the past three years: .296, .235, .308 (average: .280).
49. In 181 career at-bats at Turner Field, Uggla is hitting .354 with 37 runs, 12 home runs and 36 RBIs. That equals out to an AB/HR rate of 15.08. His career AB/HR is 19.01.
50. Last season, the league average for BABIP among pitchers was .293.
51. Mat Latos' was .273
52. Latos increased his innings pitched by 61 1/3 last season.
53. Latos' ERA in his final seven starts last season was 5.66.
54. Steven Glasser of ESPN Stats & Information looked at pitchers who pitched at least 100 innings one season and then increased that total by over 50 the following year. Over the past five years, 37 pitchers fit the criteria.
55. Of those 37 26 pitched fewer innings and 15 pitched over 50 innings less, 21 saw an increase in ERA, 20 saw their K/9 rate drop and 19 of them saw their WHIP increase. Of course, two of them (Tim Lincecum and Greinke) also won the Cy Young. But even if Latos doesn't wear down and performs at a high level, it's worth noting
56. The Padres' offense was just 22nd in runs scored with Adrian Gonzalez. (See fact No. 3).
57. Mentioned this in "Love/Hate" but it bears repeating here. Logan Morrison started his first game last year July 27. From that day until the end of the season, only four -- count them, four -- players in baseball had more runs scored than Logan's 43.
58. I know my articles are long. I don't care. My needs > your needs.
59. Last year, "Player A" had 94 runs, 16 HR, 56 RBIs, 33 steals and hit .286 in 570 at-bats.
60. Last year, "Player B" had 84 runs, 16 HR, 63 RBIs, 26 steals and hit .268 in 507 at-bats.
61. Player A, Andrew McCutchen, is going in the fourth round as the No. 10 outfielder. That is 158 picks and 16 rounds ahead of Player B, Andres Torres, the 47th-drafted outfielder.
62. More blind résumés: Player C had 45 runs, 22 HR, 59 RBIs, 5 SB and a .259 avg in 359 at-bats.
63. Player D had 60 runs, 20 HRs, 56 RBIs, 6 SB and a .254 avg in 358 at-bats.
64. Player C is Mike Stanton, currently going 67th overall.
65. That's 155 slots ahead of Player D, Tyler Colvin of the Cubs.
66. Only four players last season got more runs scored for them than David Price.
67. Since coming to the league three seasons ago, Hiroki Kuroda has improved his K/9, lowered his ERA and kept his WHIP below 1.20 in back-to-back seasons.
68. Over the past two seasons, as a starting pitcher, Brian Duensing is 12-3 with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in 138 1/3 innings. He issued just 37 walks in that span.
69. Jose Tabata started his first game of the year June 9 last season.
70. He finished the year with 405 at-bats, 61 runs, 4 HR, 35 RBIs, 19 SB and hit .299.
71. From June 9 until the end of last season, Jose Reyes had 335 at-bats, 52 runs, 9 HR, 32 RBIs, 16 SB and hit .307.
72. Jose Tabata is going in the 22nd round.
73. More on perception and our reactions to people. I think there's a reason we, as a country, cheer Charlie Sheen for his relationships with adult film actresses and castigate Tiger Woods for the same thing. It's not just the fidelity issue. It's perception. Sheen, we sort of expect that from him. Woods? We did not. Both are world-famous, but Tiger isn't mentally unhinged and hasn't broken any laws. Yet Woods has 644,000 followers on Twitter. Sheen? 2.8 million.
74. Last season, Shaun Marcum had a 5.64 ERA in 10 starts against the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.
75. Those three teams ranked 1-2-3 in the majors last year in runs scored.
76. In all other games, Marcum had a 2.74 ERA.
77. Marcum is now toiling in the NL Central.
78. As shown in my Draft Day Manifesto, home runs are being hit at a five-year low for almost every position.
79. The exception, first base, is nevertheless at its second-lowest total in the past five years (2007 was worse).
80. Which means that, overall, home runs per game are at a five-year low.
81. Stolen bases, meanwhile, are at a five-year high for outfielders, with 1,608 steals by outfielders last year, 109 more steals than the next-most-productive season (2009).
82. Last season, Josh Beckett had a 5.78 ERA and 1.54 WHIP.
83. Against the Yankees, however, he had a 10.04 ERA and a 2.03 WHIP over 26 innings.
84. He was injured, but seemed to be healthier after the All-Star break. Pre-All-Star break, he had a 7.29 ERA. Post? 4.94.
85. If you remove just the Yankee starts, Beckett's full-season ERA goes from 5.78 to 4.69.
86. And his second-half ERA, without the Yankee starts, would be 4.20.
88. In ESPN standard leagues, you can start or bench pitchers every single day, like when they play one particular team they seem to have trouble with.
89. I have no idea what I will do in the fall if there is no football. None.
90. Last season, only two teams in baseball stole more bases than the Oakland Athletics.
91. No team last season had fewer save opportunities than the 86-win St. Louis Cardinals. They had 42.
92. And there were only four teams in baseball that had more save opportunities than the 67-win Kansas City Royals. They had 65.
93. The Diamondbacks (65 wins), Dodgers (80 wins) and Phillies (97 wins) all had the same number of save opportunities last season: 59.
94. The great Mike Polikoff, who oversees our fantasy baseball game, compiled the following data by querying our prize-eligible leagues (read: most engaged and competitive); teams that drafted No. 1 or No. 2 won the league over 25 percent of the time.
95. Normally, you'd expect any two spots to be about (2/10 = 20 percent), so, at least last year, that was statistically significant.
96. Last year, the most popular first two picks were Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez.
97. Same as this year.
98. Over the past two years, there are only eight players in baseball that have more home runs than Paul Konerko.
99. And only 12 with more RBIs. He's hitting .288 over the past two seasons. And he's going in the ninth round.
100. I'm lucky to have you as a reader, I'm lucky to have this job, we're all lucky to have baseball.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- wants to have more Twitter followers than Charlie Sheen, but just can't fake that level of crazy. He 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
2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit
2011 Projections and Profiles
• Top 300 | AL-only | NL-only | Cheat sheets
• Catcher: Rankings | Preview
• First Base: Rankings | Preview
• Second Base: Rankings | Preview
• Third Base: Rankings | Preview
• Shortstop: Rankings | Preview
• Outfield: Rankings | Preview
• Designated Hitter: Rankings | Preview
• Starting Pitcher: Rankings | Preview
• Relief Pitcher: Rankings | Preview
• Top 50 prospects for 2011 | 51-100
• Tristan H. Cockcroft's Top 250 keepers
Talented Mr. Roto
• Cockcroft's dream team
• 2011 sleepers and busts
• Closer sleepers
• Jason Grey's plant-my-flag players
• Should you buy in: 20 youngsters
• Eric Karabell's "Do Not Draft" list
• Jason Grey's "10 I'm not buying" list
• Notable offseason moves | All moves
• Kings of Command: Pitching sleepers
• The real value of the Player Rater
• Rankings summit recap
Strategy/Primers• How best to apply the BABIP stat
• Deconstructing ERA