- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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It's only everything.
Perception, that is. Your perception of the truth makes it so in your mind. It doesn't matter what is fact, it only matters what you think is fact.
For example, say I offered to buy you a ticket to a concert. Why not? You seem a personable type. And it's a concert, so if you're weird, I don't have to talk to you. That's the great thing about concerts. Spending time with someone without actually having to talk to them. In fact, I'd like to invite all of you to a concert.
I'm going to give you a choice of two, actually. Both concerts will feature the hits of U2, only one of the biggest bands ever. All of the pop-rock hits you've come to know and love, from "Sunday Bloody Sunday" to "Where the Streets Have No Name" to my favorites, "Elevation" and "Vertigo." Same intimate venue, exact same set list, the songs are played by the same talented cover band.
The only difference is the lead singer, as concert A has the cover band's lead singer, Paul Hewson, and concert B features the real Bono, making a rare club appearance. Which concert do you want to see? Which ticket would you pay more to get?
The concert featuring Bono will be a scalper's dream, and folks will gladly pay thousands of dollars for a chance to see the legendary Bono in a small setting. But a few smart folks will spend the 10 bucks to grab a ticket to see Hewson, which is what Bono was called when he was born.
It's the names that throw us, you see.
Same singer, set list, venue, same everything, but 99 out of 100 would take a concert starring Bono than Paul Hewson and would pay more to do so. Bono is the coolest rock star ever. Paul Hewson is my dentist.
The point is, and I'm eventually going to get to it, is that in fantasy, we don't play with names. We play with numbers. I've made this point a million times and used the column to help make it over the years. We play with statistical pieces of meat.
It doesn't matter who is the most famous, which guy is on "SportsCenter" the most, or who is highest-paid. We play with numbers and nothing else.
Names only get in the way. They cloud our judgment, they distract from what's really important, they distort reality into perceived truth. I've always said that June 1 is the start of trade season. That you don't truly know what you have until then. But by June 1, you should have a decent sense and still have enough time to make a deal that will significantly help your team.
Below, I've done something we call "Blind Résumés." I've listed 22 players (in 10 different résumés, usually two at a time) who play the same positions and have very similar stats. As I reveal each name, you'll see that one is a fairly "big" name and one is much less so. The "big names" are going to cost a lot more to acquire at the trade deadline or fetch a lot more on the open market. The other names, you might be able to snatch up on the waiver wire, or at the very least trade for without having to part with a big-name player of your own. I've put the ESPN standard league ownership percentage for each player in parentheses.
Remember, names are what strongly influence the market value of these guys, but all you need are the stats. It's the same concert, just as enjoyable with Hewson as with Bono. Just one name is a lot more famous. But famous doesn't make the concert sound any better. Or win you titles.
Here we go...
OK, both are outfielders. And we can clearly see that both are pretty speedy, with solid pop and decent (not great, not terrible) numbers in runs and RBIs. Both have been brutal with their average, but it's expected that both will improve in that category, though neither owns a career batting average better than .270. It's worth noting that, over the past 15 days, among outfielders on the player rater, Player A is 16th overall and Player B is 26th.
Player B? His owners probably recognize B.J. Upton (100 percent). But how many can pick out Drew Stubbs (8 percent) as Player A? Stubbs is not going to hit for a great average. But if you can handle it, he's a solid speed guy with decent power, which are exactly the reasons why Upton is rostered in every league.
These two first basemen are on pace for close to 30/100 seasons and obviously, Player A, Ryan Howard (100 percent), is traditionally a slow starter who is probably going to hit his 30th homer before Sept. 1. But here's the thing: Player B, Adam LaRoche (89 percent), is also somewhat of a slow starter! Look, make no mistake, Howard is going to be a more valuable player by the end of the year. It's not close. But Arizona seems to be a good fit for LaRoche, he is still available in some leagues and if he's not, the price to get him should be fairly cheap compared to what you're getting.
Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I don't expect things to improve for Player B, Alex Rodriguez (100 percent). I mean, he's already upgraded from Kate Hudson to Cameron Diaz. He has four home runs this month, and if he ends with that, it will be the second-lowest May total for him in since 1997. But I chose this comparison because I wanted to highlight Player A, Alberto Callaspo (100 percent), whom I don't think is a fluke. My concern with Callaspo, as listeners to our podcast know, was never Alberto but rather Kansas City. Why a team going nowhere is playing Alex Gordon at Triple-A, for example, is beyond me. But somehow the Royals have realized what they have and have kept Callaspo on the field, mostly at third and some at second. A-Rod will steal more and have at least 10 more home runs and threaten for the league lead in RBIs, but again, the difference in the cost to get A-Rod versus the cost to get Callaspo will be much greater than the statistical difference between the two.
Player A has more runs scored, but the biggest difference between these two players is, of course, the steals. But I'm not convinced Player A will really get the 25 steals he's on pace for. Yes, his team runs, but Evan Longoria (100 percent) has a career high in steals of nine (and that includes the minors). But let's say he gets there. Fine, he's still basically identical in all other categories with Player B, the Brewers' Casey McGehee (100 percent). And before you dismiss, consider this -- I mentioned it last week, but it bears repeating -- McGehee started getting regular playing time around June 1 last year. Since then, he has 25 home runs, 103 RBIs, 76 runs and is hitting .309. Over that same time frame, Longoria is hitting just .274, with 29 home runs, 96 RBIs and 94 runs. More runs and homers, lower average and fewer RBIs. I'll grant you the steals, but I don't think folks realize how good Casey McGehee is.
I'm not saying that Player A, Jason Heyward (100 percent) isn't all that and a bag of Fig Newtons. He is. Fantasy Focus 06010 fans know we love to Unleash the Kraken and all that. But not nearly enough people are aware of what Player B, Jonny Gomes (39 percent), is doing in Cincy. He's been a top-30 outfielder the past month on our Player Rater as he's been a big part of the Reds' surge. He tends to be streaky, so you just gotta ride it out with him; the average will come down (career .244) but he's a 25/100 guy this year, minimum.
This is a two-fer, as I not only get to shine the bright TMR light on Player B, the always-overrated-in-fantasy Nick Markakis (100 percent), but also get to point out a guy I've always liked, the always plucky Cody Ross (79 percent). Still available in some leagues, Ross has been ridiculous lately, as he's been a top-20 outfielder on the Player Rater for the past 30 days. Markakis doesn't steal, guys. There's only one category I think he's a guarantee to finish ahead of Ross in: batting average, where Ross is a career .269 hitter who is currently enjoying a .378 BABIP (batting average on balls in play; his career number is .307). And 30 batting-average points isn't insignificant. But it's not as big as the difference between what it will cost to get either guy.
If you've read me for any amount of time, you know that I am an Angels fan and I'm not surprised that Player B, Kendry Morales (100 percent), has picked up right where he's left off. And if you were at ESPN the Weekend's Insider Lounger this year, you heard me tell an incredulous Buster Olney that I thought the Reds would compete for the wild card this year. I'm not saying I foresaw the stats of Player A, Scott Rolen (51 percent), but I will say that if he can stay healthy, he's going to be a very solid corner player this year. Break up the Red Legs. I believe.
I swear, I don't have anything personal against Player A, the Tigers' Johnny Damon (100 percent). I mean, taking the money from the Yankees after winning a World Series with Boston struck me as slightly ... whorish, but whatever. I always say, if you're gonna sell out, sell out big. (Exhibit A: "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles"). But he's not the same guy out of Yankee Stadium, and Player B, Fred Lewis (9 percent), has a new lease on life in Toronto. I'd grab Lewis, deal Damon and not think twice about it.
It's always harder to do pitchers here for a couple of reasons. Even less of a sample size, and in standard 10-team leagues, starting pitching is less of a commodity, because decent spot starters are always available. But I did this because I want to highlight what Player B and Player D are doing. So when I tell you that Player A is CC Sabathia (100 percent) and Player C is Felix Hernandez (100 percent), it probably makes you at least raise an eyebrow at Player B (Kevin Millwood, 13 percent) and Player D (Ervin Santana, 34 percent), no?
It's not like Player A is having a bad year. Quite the opposite, in fact, as A.J. Burnett (100 percent) is on pace for tying a career high in wins, his best WHIP since coming to New York, and the best ERA of his career. But it's more about what Player B, Gio Gonzalez (15 percent), is doing out in lonely Oakland. He was a trendy preseason sleeper for lots of folks in the fantasy community, especially due to his high strikeout-per-9 ratio last year. Well, at age 24, he's putting it together, but he's doing it for the A's, so no one is noticing. Or caring. Maybe he should yell at A-Rod too.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- took the blind taste test and preferred the taste of "Diet Cola B." 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. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend
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