Thursday, January 15, 2009

Vote him off Fantasy Island

With all due respect to the late Ricardo Montalban...

Keeping with the theme of looking over last season's NFL predictions, we have the inimitable Matthew Berry of ESPN. Dubbing himself "The Talented Mr. Roto," Berry is more of a "throw the dart and pray" kind of guy when it comes to making predictions about the upcoming season from a fantasy football perspective. I (sorta) hate to rip on a guy just making wild predictions about stats, especially in this year's NFL, but man, how can I get paid for that kind of job? (Yes, I'm insanely jealous. Now, somebody hire me.)

Witness this page, posted back on August 21, where Berry lays out 50 predictions about the upcoming season. He admits that:

It all depends on the way you play. I'm the type who constantly goes for it. I don't care what others say or think. I've fallen flat on my face many times and will do so again in the future, but generally speaking, it has served me very well, both in fantasy sports and in life. I play to win. And winning isn't being happy with third, it's being angry about it. If I don't win, I don't care if I finish fourth or dead last. As the saying goes, no one remembers second place.

On the surface, this seems to make sense. (Then again, do you really want as your web site's fantasy guru, a guy who says he's often "fallen flat on my face many times and will do so again in the future"?) Obviously, you have to take risks, especially in fantasy football, where there's "first place" and "everyone else."

But sometimes you can get just a little silly. Like that fantasy football magazine I picked up two years ago that listed as its top running back (and cover boy) not LaDainian Tomlinson or Larry Johnson or Shaun Alexander -- but Willis McGahee. Predicting breakout seasons or having a few wild picks are fine. But it's better if they're based somewhat on reality or are held somewhat in check. McGahee as a top five back in 2006? Sure, I might have believed that. As the #1 overall? Nuh-uh. Needless to say, I won't be buying a magazine from them again. After reviewing his predictions for 2008, I'll consider Berry just about as reliable.

Most pre-season predictions are made and, if inaccurate, never brought up again. But here at Defensive Indifference, we like to see some accountability. And, if you're going to be as in-your-face as Berry is ("You heard me."), you'd better have a pretty good track record.

Here are the results. For any case where he rates someone as "a top X fantasy back/receiver/QB," I'm using the rankings on pro-football-reference:

31, 38, 46

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48, 50

12, 15, 17, 22, 26, 34, 35, 42, 49

A few notes:
1. Anquan Boldin probably would have made the numbers Berry quotes if not for missing four games, but I debate that he wouldn't have been better than Larry Fitzgerald.

10. Brady Quinn started in week 10. Close, but not quite.

14. Calvin Johnson was spectacular; Jon Kitna, not so much. Sorry, but if you put an "and" statement in your pick, they both have to come true.

27. I almost want to give him a pass on this one, because nobody could have predicted what actually happened, and I really thought Tom Brady would have thrown 40 TDs. But I'm going to be harsh.

28. If not for Pierre Thomas rushing for 625 yards, this one would be true.

29. There's a little subjectivity here; Eli Manning did throw for only 21 TDs, but I don't think anyone would rate his second half as "disappointing."

34. Still could happen (the last part). Wouldn't surprise me.

35. Still could happen. Wouldn't surprise me.

43. Frank Gore scored only 8 TDs, but was the #14 RB (according to PFR), and had 1,413 combined yards. Close!

46. Probably the best prediction in the bunch, and one I would have flatly denied at the start of the season. Kudos, Matt, that's a home run.

So, that's a total of three correct predictions out of (removing the meaningless ones) 41. Berry says

The idea is not that I nail every prediction...Hey, if you swing for the fences, sometimes you'll strike out. Or maybe you'll hit a double. It doesn't mean it wasn't worth trying.

I don't care what league you're in, if you go 3-for-41 (0.073), you'll get sent down to the minors.

Really, he gets paid to do this?

1 comment:

Pacifist Viking said...

You know, somehow I didn't mind Berry's "crazy predictions" column as much as I minded the columns where he actually tried to make claims based on some sort of argument.

I've discussed this with some of my fellow fantasy footballers--the main thing separating the paid experts from serious fantasy participants is time (and maybe luck). Most of the statistical data you would want to analyze is freely available, and paid experts have time to look at it and make claims. That's pretty much it.