Commentary

The Talented Mr. Roto: 50 facts and 25 things

Updated: March 20, 2009, 11:10 PM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

What's the famous quote? There's lies, damned lies and statistics?

And that's sort of true. But not really. It's not the stats that are the problem, just the context in which they are presented. To wit:

In his last 14 games of 2008, "Player A" had very strong 83-27 strikeout-to-walk numbers in 87 innings and lowered his batting average against in the second half by more than 30 points.

"Player B," meanwhile, won only five games after the All-Star break with a 4.74 ERA, a disturbing trend since the previous year he had a 3.84 ERA in the second half and at age 32, the innings might be catching up with him.

Which player do you choose? Don't sweat it, because they are both Javier Vazquez. By the way, I'm halfway through my screenplay for "Being Javy Vazquez." Very excited for the scene where Ozzie Guillen walks into a room and everyone looks like Javy, so he has to curse out, like, 50 people in a row.

The truth of it is that I can argue for or against any player I want by just being careful with whatever stat(s) I choose to highlight. This list is no different, except that I used the phrase "to wit," because, apparently, I'm writing this in 1782.

There are many, many complaints about me (what's your favorite?) but one of the big ones is that I use shallow analysis. My response is no, I don't do shallow analysis. I do in-depth analysis. I write shallow analysis. There's a difference. You don't need to read paragraph upon paragraph of long stat after boring stat to know someone is good or bad. That's my job.

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What follows are 50 facts. Interpret them how you want but I specifically chose these stats to highlight what I feel about certain players. And use some common sense, OK? With facts Nos. 5 through 7, for example, I am not saying you want Bronson Arroyo over Josh Beckett. But merely that Beckett may be a bit overrated and Arroyo is going too late.

Some stats you have seen before but most should be new. And interspersed with the 50 facts are 25 random facts about me. I've been tagged so many times on Facebook about this that I'm gonna kill two birds with one column. Or, to put it another way, ESPN is about to pay me to answer Facebook quizzes. I'm living the American Dream.

So here ya go. Fifty facts you need to know before you draft and 25 random nuggets you probably don't care about. For those of you who resent having to read about me when I provide you with free advice, I've italicized the useless to make it easier to skip. That way, you'll have more time to tell me how misleading I am in ESPN Conversation (beta!) despite what I've written above. (Rule No. 43 of being a columnist: Give your audience what it wants!)

1. Derek Lowe has had four straight years of double-digit wins and an ERA under four.

2. Justin Morneau has had three straight years of at least 100 RBIs. He has hit at least 30 home runs in two of the past three years. Last year he hit only 23 home runs, yes, but he hit .300 with 129 RBIs and hit 47 doubles compared with only 31 the year before. He also underwent laser eye surgery in the offseason.

3. Last season, Aramis Ramirez hit .289 with 27 home runs, 97 runs, 111 RBIs and 2 stolen bases in 149 games. If you stretch out Evan Longoria's 122 games to the same number, you get .272 with 33 home runs, 81 runs, 114 RBIs and 9 stolen bases. Longoria is going 15 picks ahead of Ramirez in standard league drafts.

4. Brad Penny's career ERA prior to the All-Star break is 3.89.

5. After the All-Star break last year, Josh Beckett was 3-5 with a 4.19 ERA and 65 strikeouts.

6. After the All-Star break last year, Bronson Arroyo was 8-4 with a 3.47 ERA and 70 strikeouts.

7. Josh Beckett is currently going 146 picks earlier than Bronson Arroyo in ESPN live drafts.

8. In his career, Hanley Ramirez is a .313 hitter as the leadoff guy. As the No. 3 hitter, he's a .290 batter.

9. Gerald Laird hit six more doubles last year than the year before despite playing in 25 fewer games. He is starting in Detroit.

10. Wandy Rodriguez has won at least nine games every year he's played in the majors. His ERA has gotten better in three straight seasons. He had 131 strikeouts in 137 innings pitched last year. In 14 home games he had a 2.99 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. I continue to be obsessed with Wandy Rodriguez.

11. I've been "tagged" 14 times for one of those "25 random things" from various friends on Facebook. Every time I see that I've been tagged, I sigh and get a little annoyed. One more thing I have to write and I have no free time as it is. Then, every time one of my friends fills one out and I am not tagged, I get a little depressed. What? Why don't they want to learn more about me? This dichotomy should explain everything you need to know about me.

12. From April 1, 2006 until Oct. 1, 2008 there were only nine players in the majors who drove in more runs than Raul Ibanez. He had more RBIs during this time frame than Manny Ramirez, Carlos Lee or Mark Teixeira, among others. And now he goes to a Phillies team that was tied for eighth best in the majors last year in terms of runs scored. (Seattle was 26th.)

13. Orlando Hudson hit .305 last year and will be batting behind Rafael Furcal and in front of Manny Ramirez. In 2007, when he got more than 500 at-bats, he had double-digit steals and home runs.

14. Troy Tulowitzki hit .291 with 24 home runs and 99 RBIs with seven stolen bases in his rookie year. He hit .327 after the All-Star break last season and showed underlying numbers right in line with his rookie year. Derek Jeter hit .300 with 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases last year. Jeter is going four rounds before Tulowitzki.

15. I lived in Virginia until I was 12 and then moved to Texas, where I grew up. That's where my Redskins fandom comes from. I lived in Los Angeles from the time I graduated college until I got the job with ESPN, hence my Lakers and Angels fandom. I still have my Lakers season tickets.

16. What do Aramis Ramirez, Evan Longoria and Troy Glaus have in common? Among other things none of them hit as many home runs last year as Mark Reynolds, who hit 28 of them with 97 RBIs. He also hit .239. But he is only 25, he hit .279 two years ago and he hit .279 against lefties last year. He is a career .280 hitter in the minors.

17. Speaking of minor league stats, Nelson Cruz hit 37 home runs in Triple-A last year. He then hit .330 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs in 31 games in the majors.

18. I am a creature of habit. If you ever have a meal with me more than once you will realize this quickly. (Editor's note: Surf and turf wherever possible. Otherwise, some sort of sandwich or burger with lettuce and mayo. And enough Diet Coke to drown a giraffe.)

19. I highly recommend therapy to everyone. Without it I would still be in an unhappy marriage and a career I hated. I am a much better and happier person now than I ever was 10 years ago.

20. The last time Juan Rivera got over 400 at-bats was 2006. That year, he hit 23 home runs. Since becoming an Angel in 2005, he has 52 home runs in 1,097 at-bats. That's a rate of one home run per 21 at-bats. ESPN fantasy currently projects Rivera for 454 at-bats. At a rate of one per 21 at-bats, that's 22 home runs for a guy not being drafted in most mixed leagues.

21. Prior to last year, including the minor leagues, Dustin Pedroia had never hit more than 13 home runs in a season.

22. The past two years in the minors, Josh Anderson had 82 steals.

23. Starting in May 1 of last year, Robinson Cano hit .297 with 12 home runs and 65 RBIs the rest of the season.

24. My favorite movie of all time is "The Princess Bride." It's also my favorite book. I admire brilliance in any form. Read the book because it is actually two different books in one. It's a remarkable piece of literature and a million times better than the movie, which I love.

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ESPN.com"I love me some me."

25. I have been accused of being completely narcissistic. I completely admit to that. I will say, however, to be any good at a job where you put yourself out there, predicting the future and letting yourself be judged on everything, you need to be narcissistic.

26. Edwin Encarnacion has increased his home run total each of the four years he has played in the majors. He hit 26 home runs last year, eighth best among third basemen. He is 26 years old.

27. Melvin Mora has hit at least 80 RBIs in three of the past four years and at least 20 home runs in three of the past five.

28. As long as we are talking third basemen, here are the home run totals for Adrian Beltre over the past three years: 25, 26, 25.

29. Last year, after the All-Star break, Ty Wigginton hit 15 home runs. Alex Rodriguez hit 16. Despite getting fewer than 400 at-bats last year, Wigginton ended the season with his third-straight 20-plus home run season.

30. I am obsessed with fairness. The things in life that have caused me the most grief, pain or made the angriest are things that I have perceived as being unfair. I often stick my nose where it doesn't belong when I believe someone else is not being treated fairly and it's made my life more difficult as a result. I truly believe in the cliché: "no good deed goes unpunished."

31. I am a pretty nice guy. I am an unbelievably loyal guy to my friends and co-workers, unless you cross me. If you betray that friendship and trust, I become a mean, petty, vindictive bastard. I'm trying to find some gray in my black-and-white world.

32. A.J. Burnett has won more than 12 games only once in a 10-year career. He has pitched more than 200 innings only twice in the past six years. His ERA and WHIP last year were the worst they've been in five years.

33. Derek Jeter's batting average has gone down for three straight years. He was ninth last year among shortstops in home runs and 12th in steals.

34. Only one player hit more home runs on the road last year than Pat Burrell.

35. My favorite part of the day is doing my podcast. It's by far the thing I am best at and the truest representation of my personality. The least favorite part of my job is anything that involves office politics, me trying to convince a nonbeliever in the power or fan base of fantasy or asking why and being told "Because you're not Bill Simmons."

36. I don't think I am the best fantasy player in world. I think there are a lot of people who know as much about fantasy sports as I do. I think if you pay attention, watch games and play for a while it's fairly easy to be pretty good at fantasy sports. I never refer to myself as an "expert" but prefer the term "analyst." That said, I think I am phenomenally good at my job. Player prediction and performance is only one part of my job. Promoting ESPN Fantasy to anyone who will listen and being able to generate entertaining, informative content for our fans on the many ESPN platforms are right up there as well.

37. Fifteen different catchers had double-digit home runs last season.

38. In 17 road games last season (and 104 2/3 innings), Jamie Moyer was 10-3 with a 2.92 ERA.

39. Jim Thome has had at least 34 home runs and 90 RBIs each of the past two years. Take out his injury-plagued 2005 and he has hit at least 34 home runs since the year 2000. Over the past two years there are only seven players in the majors with more home runs. He is currently being drafted 143rd overall.

40. Only three teams in baseball scored more runs last year than the Minnesota Twins.

41. I realize it's insane considering what a big pop culture guy I am, but I have never seen an episode of "24," "Lost" or "The Hills." At some point I will catch up with "24" on DVD. I don't watch "Lost" on principle because of something fairly show-biz nasty involving my ex-wife (whom I am still close to and care about). See No. 31.

42. During a drinking game, I was recently asked who my favorite person in the entire world is. I answered my brother Jonathan.

43. Only three pitchers in baseball threw more innings than CC Sabathia (686 2/3) from April 1, 2006 until Nov. 1, 2008.

44. Those three, by the way, are Brandon Webb, Roy Halladay and Johan Santana.

45. From April 1, 2007 until Nov. 1, 2008 (the past two years), there is no pitcher in baseball who has thrown more innings than Sabathia.

46. Since 2002, no starting pitcher that the Yankees signed as a free agent or traded for in the offseason has had a better statistical year for New York than he had with his previous team.

47. I am a huge fan of children's literature. My office at home is covered with tons of art and books from it, most specifically Curious George stuff.

48. I have no regrets about leaving show business but my biggest regret while there was that nothing ever happened with the Muppets. I am a huge Muppets fan and a few years ago my former writing partner Eric Abrams and I were hired to do a new version of "The Muppet Show" for Fox with The Henson Co. and the producers of "Austin Powers." It was a really funny script, among the best things I've ever written. Everyone loved it except the guy running Fox at the time, who decided he no longer wanted the Muppets. If that show had gotten on the air I probably wouldn't be here right now.

49. James Shields at home last year: 9-2, 2.59 ERA. Away? 5-6, 4.82.

50. Prior to last year, Roy Halladay had only one season with better than a 7 strikeouts per 9 rate (2001, his first good season). His rate has been worse than 6 the previous two years. He is second in innings pitched over the past three years. He has a career .254 batting average against. Last year, it was .237.

51. Last year, Coors Field was third in home runs allowed per game. U.S. Cellular, home of the White Sox, was second. But no park gave up more home runs per game than ... Camden Yards.

52. After coming back from surgery, Yovani Gallardo pitched in three games, a regular-season start and then two playoff relief appearances against the Phillies. He pitched 11 innings and struck out 11, allowing one earned run.

53. At home last season, Scott Baker was 5-1 with a 2.78 ERA, Nick Blackburn was 8-3 with a 2.95 ERA, Kevin Slowey was 7-4 with a 3.38 ERA and Glen Perkins was 7-3 with a 3.84 ERA. Francisco Liriano was better than all of them.

54. Only two stadiums yielded fewer runs per game last year than the Metrodome.

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55. I hate pictures of myself. Even ones where I'm not kissing myself. I almost always "untag" photos of myself on Facebook. Hate looking at photos of myself, never take a good one, I get really self-conscious about my skin in pictures. I have really terrible skin.

56. As a "talent," my biggest professional influence is Howard Stern.

57. Only four players hit more doubles last season than Alex Rios. He is 28 this year.

58. Last season, Lance Berkman was 18-of-22 in stolen base attempts. He walked more than he had in any of the previous three years and struck out less than he had the year before despite playing in six more games (159) than he did in 2007.

59. Among second basemen, only Brian Roberts and Brandon Phillips have more stolen bases the past two years than Kaz Matsui. Both have more than 400 at-bats more than Kaz during that time. Matsui hit .288 and .293 the past two years.

60. I think being "The Bachelor" would be absolutely hilarious. I think if we get more than 1,000 signatures we have a shot.

61. By far the most e-mail I get is about my dating life. I date a lot. I alternate between wanting a really serious relationship and wanting to enjoy being single. Apparently, I'm like pretty much every male ever.

62. Over the past two years, Aramis Ramirez has only two more home runs and eight more runs scored than Adrian Beltre. Ramirez has 36 more RBIs over that time, Beltre has 20 more steals. Ramirez has batted .299 during the span, Beltre has hit .271. Ramirez is going 61 picks ahead of Beltre.

63. Over the past two years, no outfielder has more RBIs than Magglio Ordonez.

64. David Ortiz's home runs, RBIs, walks, slugging percentage, games and at-bats have each gone down each of the past three years.

65. I don't eat vegetables. Ever. (Lettuce on a sandwich doesn't count. That's just garnish to keep the mayo and the meat apart.)

66. Of all the things I have done in the fantasy sports industry among the things I am most proud of is giving tons of writers their starts. Among the things I am most disappointed in is seeing some of those people then turn around and trash me and/or rip me off in an attempt to make themselves look better.

67. Only 11 players have saved more than 50 games in a season. Only one of 10 (Francisco Rodriguez' follow-up season is coming up), Eric Gagne in 2003, has followed that up with another 50-save season. In fact, five of the 10 failed to save even 40 games the following year. The average number of games saved after a 50-plus-save season is 35, and that includes Gagne.

68. Growing up, I never wore a tie, always wore jeans and never thought about what I was wearing. Now, I spend most days wearing makeup and clothes by Nat Nast.

69. The most overrated part of being an "expert" is where you finish in an "expert" league. That's not what ESPN pays me to do, the leagues are always drafted early and half the people in them don't pay attention. Your personal league is probably a lot more competitive than most "expert" leagues. I've won a lot and gotten my butt kicked in others and neither outcome is an indication of my ability as an analyst.

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70. The other thing is this ... Part of the appeal of fantasy is winning the league and proving how "smart" you are, you know? And I don't mean to sound cocky because I recognize how lucky I am, but once I got the job at ESPN, everything changed. I still play and want to win but I care about individual leagues less. Which is why it's no fun to play in a league with me. I don't care enough. Because there is not a league in America that I could win that would beat being the fantasy guy at ESPN, you know?

71. Last year, Jonathan Papelbon and Brian Wilson had the same number of saves. Brian Fuentes, who started last year as Manny Corpas' set-up man, had the same number as Bobby Jenks. Troy Percival had one more save than Billy Wagner.

72. Carlos Zambrano had a no-hitter. Including that no-hitter, his ERA over the final two months of the season was 7.28. His ERA after the All-Star break last year was 5.80. Since 2003, only seven pitchers in baseball have pitched more innings, including Livan Hernandez, Mark Buehrle and Barry Zito.

73. When I don't get something right, I get mad at myself. Then I get mad at myself for getting mad at myself. Then I have a Pop Tart. I think the world would be a better place if, when things got heated, everyone was forced to stop and eat a Pop Tart.

74. Last year, in 39 spring training at-bats, Dustin Pedroia hit .179. Robinson Cano hit .447. Ervin Santana had an ERA of 5.09.

75. I predict the ESPN Conversation (beta!) conversation pages will be more about the 25 random things than they will be about the baseball facts.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is on Twitter as TheRealTMR. He may or may not be entertaining. He is a five-time award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also 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. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend

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

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