Commentary

The Talented Mr. Roto: Just sayin'

Matthew Berry dishes out dozens of fantasy nuggets

Updated: June 18, 2009, 4:20 PM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

The problem is the thinking.

Back from a week's vacation in Los Angeles and Orlando, but before embarking on those legs of the trip, I threw out the first pitch at the Oakland A's game on Friday, June 5. It was a very cool experience.

The problem is just the thinking. If all I had to do was go out and throw, it would have been fine. But I had to think about it. A lot. From Gary "Baba-Booey" Dell'Abate's pitch to our own Mike and Mike to the dude in the Charlie Brown costume at the Pirates game, bad first pitches have been in the news a lot lately.

So I thought about it. A lot. I couldn't help it, because it was all I got asked about for weeks. "You nervous?" "You gonna throw a strike?" "They'll let anyone throw out a first pitch these days, won't they?"

I got tons of advice. Stand on the rubber. Stand in front of the rubber. Wear short sleeves. Aim high. Throw hard. Throw soft. Aim your shoulder. Point your elbow. Hold the ball softly. Release it after your front foot lands. Don't screw it up. Do screw it up; it'll be great publicity.

Matthew Berry
Courtesy of Travis LoDolceHey! I'm pitching over here! Doesn't this dude realize that it's all about me?

A guy from the A's staff (in this case Brian, a cool guy who was also a fan) comes and gets you to walk you down to the field. They hand you a brand-new ball. You stand there, as all the other people out there go about their business. Warming up if you are a player and tending to the field if you are a groundskeeper. Which is like ... seriously, dude? When I saw the picture here and saw the guy in the background, I was like, really? I was on the mound for maybe 30 seconds. You couldn't wait to haul that hose for 30 seconds? Let me have a special moment alone? One day, I'm going to find out when that guy is getting married or has a kid graduating or something and just when he's about to take a photo to remember that moment forever, I'll walk across the background with a hose. Jerk.

Anyway, you come down, you walk to the edge of the field and they tell you a lot of information quickly. Walk to third-base line. Wait for your intro. Walk to the mound, wait for catcher to get in a crouch, wait for my signal, throw the ball, walk back here. And throw a strike! Ha ha! We'll take pictures. Seems fairly straightforward, but remember I'm not that bright and all I'm thinking about is "don't screw it up, don't screw it up." I'm trying to remember everything folks have told me. Elbow this, shoulder that, feet where again?

So I walk out as I hear the P.A. announcer say, "Please welcome ESPN's senior fantasy analyst Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- to throw out tonight's ceremonial first pitch." And I can actually hear the crowd has the same reaction most do. Some are fans and know who I am. Some are like ... "What the hell is a Talented Mr. Roto? Really? Who?" We all know "Hi, I'm the Talented Mr. Roto" is the worst pickup line in history, but let me assure you, it's not real high on the list of baseball stadium introductions either.

I go out and as soon as I step to the rubber, I get the signal. Throw it. I pause for a second. Throw it! Come on! Throw it! I throw it. It is, by most accounts, a high strike. Over the plate about shoulder high. A's pitcher Josh Outman was the guy who caught it. As he handed me the ball, I said, "Maybe a touch high, but Vladimir Guerrero would have still swung at it." He laughed and agreed.

And then it was over. All good. The actual throwing was fine. Fun, even. The problem was just the thinking. We all think too much. Especially when it comes to fantasy. Hours and hours we pore over our team, box scores, trade proposals, stats, potential pickups, standings and the like. And we should. But everyone once in a while, we should just pull a quick trigger. Don't think, just do. You can think something to death. Especially in ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues, where the rosters are fairly shallow. You have to act quickly sometimes and grab guys based on a small sample of success. Because otherwise they will be gone. And in leagues where everyone has basically an all-star team, you need every little edge you can get.

Which brings us to another edition of "Just Sayin' …" Percentages represent ownership in ESPN.com standard leagues and stats are current through June 16, 2009.

I'm just sayin'...

... That since getting his eye drops on June 8, David Ortiz (86 percent) is hitting .389 (7-for-18) with three home runs and six RBIs. There's also talk that he adjusted where his hands are in his stance.

... That Scott Podsednik (11 percent) is now up to .315 with nine steals. Five of those have come in the month of June along with eight runs in just 60 at-bats.

... That for deeper leagues, since Howie Kendrick went down, Maicer Izturis (1 percent) has been batting toward the top of the Angels' lineup. He's on pace for 20 steals and wasn't even playing full time.

... That Jason Frasor (4 percent) will get the first crack at saves for the Blue Jays with Scott Downs going, um, down. He's 4-0 with a 1.90 ERA, a 0.76 WHIP and 22 career saves.

... That you don't need me to sell you on him, but I just think it's amazing that David Wright is on pace for 47 steals this year.

... That his teammate, Gary Sheffield (13 percent), has three home runs in his past five games.

... That there is nothing interesting or sexy about Jeff Suppan (3 percent). But he is 2-0 with a 2.74 ERA in the month of June (four starts) with a 12-6 strikeout-to-walk rate, he has given up three earned runs or fewer in nine of his past 10 starts, and you could do a lot worse in an NL league or deeper mixed league.

Mike MacDougal
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesMike MacDougal's career ERA is 4.10 with a WHIP of 1.52.

... That it has nothing to do with fantasy or even baseball, but my Lakers won the NBA championship this week. Ha!

... That John Lannan (2 percent) of the Nationals has a 1.16 ERA in his three June starts. An 8-6 strikeout-to-walk rate in 23 innings makes me think he is not nearly this good, but those three good starts included the Mets and Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. That said, in seven home starts this year he has a 1.72 ERA.

... That in case you missed it, Mike MacDougal (2 percent) is the Nationals' closer of the moment. He is also still Mike MacDougal. You know what you are getting into.

... That Cody Ross (21 percent) is hitting .308 in the month of June, with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 52 at-bats.

... That I randomly met Ron Jeremy last week in Los Angeles. When he found out I was with ESPN, he told me that he loved the fact folks called the Orlando coach "Stan Van Jeremy" and constantly made references to him. He also told me he is working on a new movie called "Jurassic Park." Except instead of "Park" it's a word about Ron's anatomy. That made me laugh very hard.

... That when catcher Ramon Hernandez (60 percent) plays first base, he is hitting .200.

... That for the past three years, Garret Anderson (3 percent) is a .313 hitter after the All-Star break. He's back healthy now, adjusting to the NL and I have a gut feeling he's due for a big second half.

... That Stephen Drew (82 percent) has two home runs and 10 RBIs in his past 10 games. He is hitting .323 in June. This is your last chance to buy low.

... That The Arizona Republic noted the other day that Chris Young (64 percent) has changed his grip on the bat. Over the past seven games, Young is hitting .316 with two home runs, three RBIs and two steals.

... That Corey Hart (92 percent) is hitting .433 with three home runs and 10 RBIs over his past eight games. Hopefully, that stems some of the panicky e-mails I keep getting about him.

... That since May 29, no player in the American League has more home runs than Jose Lopez (77 percent), who has seven since then.

... That Aaron Cook (4 percent) now has an ERA of 3.00 in four June starts. He's walked only four batters in his past 27 innings and struck out 16.

... That Troy Tulowitzki (87 percent) has four home runs, nine RBIs and four steals in his past 10 games. Your last chance to buy low is now.

... That Ian Stewart (32 percent) is hitting .314 in June with five home runs and 14 RBIs.

... That Kevin Kouzmanoff (8 percent) now has three home runs in his past five games, four in his past 10 along with 13 RBIs, and is hitting .333 for the past week.

... That Gavin Floyd's (38 percent) ERA over his past five starts is 1.69. He has a 36-8 strikeout-to-walk rate in that time.

... That I've had a hard time believing in Jason Marquis' (21 percent) 8-4 record or 3.77 ERA. But apparently he changed his delivery in the offseason and that's been making a big difference.

... That Winston Abreu (0 percent) was recently recalled by the Rays. He had 10 saves, a 1.41 ERA and a 49-10 strikeout-to-walk rate in 32 innings at Triple-A. He's a bit of a journeyman, but he's pitching very well right now.

... That John Smoltz (22 percent) is rejoining the Red Sox's rotation. When he pitched last year, he had a 2.57 ERA in 28 innings. His K per nine was over 11. His skills are still there, he's now healthy and he's joining a team with a good offense and bullpen. What are folks waiting for?

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... That as a lead-off hitter, which is where Aaron Rowand (32 percent) is now hitting, he is batting .346 in 26 games with three home runs and three steals.

... That in his past four starts, Brad Bergesen (2 percent) is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP and a 15-5 strikeout-to-walk rate.

... That in his past six starts, Dallas Braden (8 percent) is 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA. He has a 3.31 ERA on the year.

... That Travis Hafner (49 percent) has three home runs and eight RBIs while hitting .310 in the eight games since his return.

... That Glen Perkins (5 percent) came off the DL this week. Overall terrible numbers, yes, but at home this year he is 2-1 with a 3.48 ERA in six home starts and a 24-9 strikeout-to-walk rate.

... That I'd like to mention my Lakers won the NBA title last week. What? Your team wins, you can mention it twice too.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- will be naming his first child Kobe, regardless of gender. 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"