The Talented Mr. Roto: Re-evaluating things
It was like I had heard it for the first time.
The song has been around since 1984, and so have I, so I've heard "The Warrior" by Scandal, featuring Patty Smyth, for almost a quarter of a century now. But for whatever reason, hearing it in the car the other day, I heard something I had never really paid attention to before.
The chorus goes like this:
"Shootin' at the walls of heartache, bang, bang, I am the warrior "
And I thought to myself Really? Bang, bang? It had never really clicked in for me for some reason. After talking about shooting at the walls of heartache, she actually makes shooting sounds? But it's not a sound effect of a gun, mind you. She actually says the words "bang, bang."?
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And a gun doesn't really go "bang, bang," you know? This isn't a cartoon or the old "Batman" TV show. Who does that? It's insane. Can you imagine writing that? You're sitting there, with the lyrics, and you've got, "Shooting at the walls of heartache, I am the warrior." And you look at it and say, "You know what it needs? A 'bang, bang.'"
What? No, seriously. What?!
What if you used sound effects in your everyday life?
"Can't make the game, Bob. I'm painting the garage this weekend. Splat, splat. I am the painter." What if athletes did it? "Well, I just got a pitch up in the zone that I could drive. Boom, boom. I am the slugger."
I still enjoy the song, but even though it's almost 25 years old, I've just now re-evaluated it. No longer a great anthem for the battle of the sexes, it is a cheesy pop song that, officially, contains the dumbest attempt at lyrics in the history of cheesy pop songs. "Bang, bang."
Which brings me to my point. Which is what I meant to do all along, I swear. No matter how much time has passed, it's never too late to re-evaluate something. And as we reach the official halfway point of the fantasy baseball season, it's time to adjust our thinking on some players and some commonly held beliefs.
- "Bobby Abreu has no power." He hasn't had more than 20 home runs in a season since 2005, but he currently is on pace for 21. And don't forget, he hit 11 after the All-Star break last year, compared to five before. Don't be surprised to see Abreu finish with 25 home runs and 120 RBIs.AP Photo/Jim MoneJoe Mauer is more interested in making small talk at first base than playing small ball to second.
- "Joe Mauer has speed." A trendy fantasy catcher not for just his batting average but also for the fact that coming into this year, he averaged a stolen base every 13 games. Well, he has exactly zero stolen bases this season. And just as telling, he has had only one attempt.
- "Mark Grudzielanek isn't any good." Only two second basemen have better batting averages than Grudz's .303 this year. Not a lot power or speed, but only 12 runs fewer than Placido Polanco and in 44 fewer at-bats. Grudz is owned in only 3 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues, while Polanco's ownership is 99 percent. Look, I love Polanco, and he's better than Grudz. But not 96 percent better.
- "Vladimir Guerrero is an elite fantasy player." He's turned it up some in the past month (thank goodness), but he's going to finish with close to 30 home runs, 100-some RBIs and a batting average just north of .300. Good numbers, sure. But not gotta-get-him-in-the-late-first-round-or-early-second-round numbers. He no longer steals, he's injury prone and, as much as it pains me to say, he's basically just a very big name with slightly above-average production attached to it.
- "The Pirates' offense is bad." Currently, only the Rangers, Cubs, Red Sox and Phillies have scored more runs than the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. Swat, swat. They are the Pirates.
- "The Red Sox don't run." After years of being among the most stationary teams in baseball, only three teams have more steals than the Sox this year.
- "The Marlins do. They have to in that park." Meanwhile, a team that used to run all the time, the Marlins, is 22nd overall in steals. However, no team in baseball has as many home runs as the Florida Marlins.
- "Comercia Park in Detroit is a pitchers' park." Only U.S. Cellular Field (home of the White Sox) gives up more runs per game than Comerica. Of course, that has a lot to do with the terrible Tigers staff, but they do come with the park.
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- "Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, however, is a hitter's haven." It's among the bottom 10 in terms of runs scored per game. (It is, however, fourth in home runs allowed, so you still can launch one there.) Part of the equation, of course, is the Reds' staff. Speaking of having to re-evaluate preconceived notions.
- "McAfee Coliseum in Oakland is a pitchers' park, too." In fact, the place the A's call home is sixth in home runs allowed per game. So, the lesson here is, while there might be some truth to all these park reputations (it takes a lot more than half a season of data to determine a ballpark factor), don't let that influence you too much in your day-to-day decisions.
- "John Danks is a young pitcher with promise." No, actually, he's a fantasy ace. Consider that Thursday, he pitched six innings and did not allow a run. It was the fifth time this year he has done that, most in the majors. To give you a comparison, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Jon Lester have each done that four times this year.
- "Robinson Cano is just having one of those seasons." He's hitting .294 in June. He hit .343 after the All-Star break last year.
- "Russell Branyan isn't any good, period." Only two players have more home runs this month. He's owned in only 33 percent of ESPN.com leagues. That doesn't make sense. Of course, neither does his batting average, but if all you need is power, and I bet more than 33 percent of you do
- "Gary Sheffield is done." A career .294 hitter, he was dropped in a ton of leagues when he was hurt and struggled out of the gate. Now he's back, healthy and crushing the ball. Bop, bop. He is the bopper.
- "Carlos Gomez is one of the elite base stealers." Since May 1, 25 players have at least as many steals as Gomez's nine. Among them? Jerry Hairston Jr., Joey Gathright and Fred Lewis. Yes, Fred Lewis.Working the Wire
Quickly, here are some guys who recently have seen an increase in value and might be available in your league (with ownership percentages in parentheses).Alex Cintron, SS, Orioles (0 percent): A career .276 hitter with some pop and speed, he's the new starting shortstop for the Orioles. Stop, stop. He is the shortstop.
Jeff Keppinger, SS, Reds (19 percent): Very quietly, he was activated from the DL this week and is hitting .311 this year. Seriously, it didn't make a sound. Hush, hush. They are the Reds. Still, a little pop and a little speed with a high average. I really like Keppinger.
Christopher Davis, 1B, Rangers (0 percent): Was hitting .333 with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs at two levels of the minors this year. He'll play first until (if?) Hank Blalock comes back. Davis can rake.
Max Ramirez, C, Rangers (1 percent): Davis' minor league teammate will split some time at first and catcher while Gerald Laird is on the DL. He was hitting .363 with 17 home runs and 50 RBIs at Double-A when he was recalled.
Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays (1 percent): Two home runs in his past three games. He's always hit in the minors, and now he gets another chance to do it in the majors, and for a new manager.
Others Receiving Votes: I've mentioned them in previous columns and podcasts, so trust me, I've done the analysis. In case you missed it, though, some guys who might still be available and you should check out include pitchers Seth McClung, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Matt Garza and, of course, my beloved Way Rod (his mother calls him Wandy Rodriguez). For the hitters, check out Ramon Vazquez, Joe Inglett, Eric Patterson and Brian Buscher.
That's all I got this week. Have a great, festive weekend. Glug, glug. I am out of here.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year. He also is the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off.
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- "Bobby Abreu has no power." He hasn't had more than 20 home runs in a season since 2005, but he currently is on pace for 21. And don't forget, he hit 11 after the All-Star break last year, compared to five before. Don't be surprised to see Abreu finish with 25 home runs and 120 RBIs.