The Talented Mr. Roto: What's in a name?

It seems re-evaluation is in the air. To wit …

Brent (Yokota AB, Japan): Mr. Berry, I have been doing some re-evaluations myself. Over the past year or so, when I first started using ESPN for some of my fantasy information, I kept seeing you on the weekends on SportsCenter blurting out your fantasy football advice. Hated it and hated you, always wondering what the heck you were talking about. Then came baseball, in which your rankings and projections would throw me into an Irish tirade that consisted of me mashing my keyboard and spouting spiteful posts on whatever "Matthew Berry Sucks" thread I could find. Despite my growing hatred for you, however, I was slowly growing fond of the Fantasy Focus podcasts. Then one day I noticed a slight irritation in me when you were not on the show. Confused by this absurd conflict of emotion, I started to realize that I didn't like beer or Listerine at first either … but eventually I came to like 'em. I have re-evaluated myself. I like you now. Nice correlation of offensive rankings of stadiums with regards to a team's pitching staff in your last column, by the way.

TMR: "The Listerine of Fantasy Sports." I smell a marketing campaign ...

Alternate TMR line I thought of using: "They tolerate me in Japan! They really tolerate me!"

Alternate, alternate TMR line: Yes, and if you drink beer while reading me, you'll enjoy both even more!

Chuck (Athens, Ga.): I can't believe I actually trust you to answer this, but here goes: I have a load of outfielders in a 14-team mixed league. I also have Justin Duchscherer, whom I'm trying to deal, along with Xavier Nady. I feel both are going to be worthless to me come playoff time. I've been trying to package the two for multiple quality starters (Roy Halladay, C.C. Sabathia, among others). The real question is, do you think Duchscherer is going to fall off like everyone else? I checked your rankings awhile back and picked him up, much to my dismay, but you didn't steer me wrong here. I need pitching (I feel like Fresno State in the College World Series), and I don't think Duchscherer is going to cut it in the end. Help me.

TMR: Much to your dismay? Come on, Chuck. Dukes has been lights out. He is 8-5 with a 1.91 ERA. He leads the league in ERA, dude! He has 55 strikeouts and just 19 walks. If he had any other name, you would not be questioning it.

Which brings me to the point of today's column: We play with numbers, not names. We get influenced by names. Yes, past history must be brought into the conversation, but Duchscherer has a career 3.01 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 370 career innings. It's not like he can't pitch.

We need to look more at numbers and less at the names. If the ownership percentages are any indication, many of you are not doing this.

So I've done this from time to time over the years, and it's time to do it again. (Incidentally, I've used that as a pick-up line more than once.) I'll go around the diamond with stats (and ownership percentages in ESPN.com standard leagues in parentheses) from this year, heading into Tuesday's games, and compare players.


Player A (21 percent ownership): .287 average, 32 runs, 3 home runs, 26 RBIs, 2 stolen bases
Player B (80 percent): .277 AVG, 28 R, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 6 SB

Four steals. That's the only thing that player B, Ivan Rodriguez, has over player A, Kurt Suzuki. Why not try to use the latest Tigers upswing to deal Pudge and then pick up a guy like Suzuki or Rod Barajas?

First Base

Player A (4 percent): .241 AVG, 41 R, 11 HR, 44 RBI, 0 SB
Player B (86 percent): .267 AVG, 37 R, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 0 SB

Here we have a better, but still not good, average but less in every other category for the guy owned in 86 percent of leagues. And it's worth noting that according to our ESPN Player Rater, Player A (Baltimore's Kevin Millar) is ranked higher than Player B, who is the Rockies' Todd Helton. Remember when he used to be Todd Helton? See if you can pawn him off on someone who still does.

Second Base

Player A (10 percent): .261 AVG, 42 R, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 13 SB
Player B (83 percent): .215 AVG, 48 R, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 11 SB

Slightly more power in player B, but the batting average is such a killer that player A is much more valuable. You're not getting these players for their home runs anyway. Look, I've heard of an East Coast bias, but … a Brewers bias? Because that's the only explanation for 73 percent more people owning player B (Rickie Weeks) than Player A, Luis Castillo of the Mets.


Player A (33 percent): .257 AVG, 40 R, 4 HR, 37 RBI, 5 SB
Player B (96 percent): .271 AVG, 38 R, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 2 SB

Now, I can sort of understand the skepticism with player A, Oakland's Bobby Crosby. He has been very injury-prone in his career. But he is certainly healthy now. Why do I think most of the Oakland A's aren't getting any fantasy respect? Apparently, TMR loves TBA (The Bay Area)! But fine, I'll see your injury-prone argument and add in this guy:

Player C (14 percent): .320 AVG, 31 R, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 0 SB

Despite having fairly similar stats, player C, Ramon Vazquez of the Rangers (who played 19 games at shortstop in 2007 and 12 there this year), has almost 100 fewer at bats than Edgar Renteria, who is Player B. This is not a mark against Edgar, by the way. I like him. Just a shout-out to Crosby and Vazquez.

Third Base

Player A (99 percent): .260 AVG, 47 R, 10 HR, 40 RBI, 2 SB
Player B (5 percent): .260 AVG, 28 R, 9 HR, 39 RBI, 0 SB

That's a significant difference in runs scored, so I have no problem that more people own player A (Alex Gordon) than player B (Pedro Feliz). But in four other categories, they are basically the same guy this year. The gap in their ownership is way too great.


Player A (100 percent): .296 AVG, 55 R, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 7 SB
Player B (54 percent): .300 AVG, 53 R, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 6 SB

Props to reader Brian from Ridgefield, Ct., who pointed out this one to me. Player A is Kosuke Fukudome of the Cubs -- fine, no problem there. But no one seems to respect Player B, the Cardinals' Skip Schumaker.

Player A (52 percent): .281 AVG, 35 R, 14 HR, 32 RBI, 2 SB
Player B (100 percent): .283 AVG, 41 R, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 1 SB

As an Angels fan and an owner of him, I'm a little depressed to tell you player B is Vladimir Guerrero. But as a guy who wrote about him a few weeks ago, I'm happy to tell you Player A is Luke Scott of the Orioles.

Player A (53 percent): .282 AVG, 51 R, 6 HR, 23 RBI, 13 SB
Player B (100 percent): .301 AVG, 44 R, 9 HR, 28 RBI, 6 SB

I feel these guys are close because three home runs and 20 batting average points is about the same as seven runs and seven steals (considering steals are so valuable in Roto play). Player B is slightly better overall -- fine, because that's Detroit's Curtis Granderson. But how many times must I tell you about Player A, the Giants' Fred Lewis?

Player A (100 percent): .231 AVG, 48 R, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 4 SB
Player B (19 percent): .263 AVG, 41 R, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 0 SB

Looking at these numbers, can someone please explain to me why everyone owns Player A, Chris Young of the Diamondbacks, yet player B, Jason Kubel of the Twins, remains available in 81 percent of leagues?

Player A (100 percent): .266 AVG, 37 R, 10 HR, 40 RBI, 5 SB
Player B (12 percent): .264 AVG, 28 R, 11 HR, 32 RBI, 8 SB

You can argue Player A (Hunter Pence) is having a worse year than he should, and I'd agree with you. But the fact remains that not enough people own Player B (Jayson Werth).


Player A (100 percent): .276 AVG, 41 R, 15 HR, 47 RBI, 4 SB
Player B (91 percent): .274 AVG, 46 R, 14 HR, 46 RBI, 2 SB

Finally people have finally caught on to player B, but I put this one in here just for me. Player A is Evan Longoria. Player B is Aubrey Huff, whom I hyped several weeks back. Just sayin' ...

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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