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Fake Teams Interviews Matthew Berry, ESPN Fantasy Expert

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Yesterday afternoon I had the privilege of speaking with ESPN.com's fantasy expert Matthew Berry.  Unlike a politican running for office, he didn't demand a preview of potential questions and spoke freely about his views on various players and baseball situations.  Any insightful answers he gave were off the cuff and certainly demonstrated his baseball/fantasy expertise.

Anyone who watches ESPN programming on a regular basis knows cross-promotion is a major advertising strategy in Bristol, CT.  However, I was under no pre-conditions on what I'd have to plug in exchange for the interview.  However, I am happy to plug the Fantasy Focus podcast he and Nate Ravitz do every weekday.  It is typically available around 11:30 AM EST on iTunes, which is where I download and suggest you do, too.  There is certainly a good chemistry building between the two co-hosts and their producer.  It is not quite Howard Stern/Robin Quivers stuff, but it is on its way!  

ESPN.com also has a slew of free fantasy information available on the website here.  For those interested in watching your fantasy information, check out the fantasy videos - Fantasy Focus, Fantasy 3:50 and Fantasy First Take - that can also be watched on the same page.

I took notes during our nearly hour long conversation so any misquotes are unintentional and anything that looks like a direct quote is only so for the convenience of a standard Q&A format. (Matt, sign-in to Fake teams and correct the record!)

FT:  Are you concerned With the slow starts of pre-season CY Young favorites Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia or Erik Bedard?

MB:  Not with Verlander or Bedard.  Verlander is a good buy low candidate as his BAA and WHIP so far are in line with his career norms (.234 2008 BAA vs .250 career BAA and 1.29 WHIP for each), and his K/BB is actually a little better (2.50 in 2008/ 2.38 career).  Erik Bedard has been trending upward for the past four seasons in all the stats that matter.  CC Sabathia, however, saw a big jump in his innings pitched last year.  In his previous six seasons, he had never thrown more than 200 innings.  In 2007, he threw 256 including the play-offs.  That has me concerned.

FT:  Do you see any dark horse AL Cy Young candidates, and who could, by extension, be good fantasy SP trade targets?

MB:  Dustin McGowan.  [There was no hestitation in his answer.]  A horse of a lighter color would be Daisuke Matsuzaka and Felix Hernandez.

FT:  How about a few sleepers for 30+ HRs this season?

MB:  Rick Ankiel in St. Louis, Xavier Nady in Pittsburgh, Mark Reynolds in Arizona and Ben Broussard in Texas for 25.  I still believe Nick Swisher is going to have a big year in Chicago despite reports that claim he will be batting lead-off.

FT:  Assuming the Tigers 0-7 start is indicative of a bad season, what do you think the fantasy implications on the negative side will be i.e. Miguel Cabrera as an MVP favorite?

MB:  First, I don't think it will have any effect on Miguel Cabrera's production.  Hanley Ramirez in Florida is still considered a top fantays player despite playing on a worse team.  Where it could have a negative effect is on the marginal player like Dontrelle Willis (who is unownable IMO), Jeremy Bonderman and Kenny Rogers.  Wins projections for these pitchers would be lower if the Tigers turn out to be a .500 or so club.

One thing I can see occurring in that scenario is the team trading Gary Sheffield to replenish their minor league system.

FT:  This is one of the key insights any fantasy team should take away in the event an expected contender fails to do so.  Look for veteran players to be dealt.

FT:  As a podcast listener I know the answer, but many in the Fake Teams community have not had the chance to ponder this question.  Anne Hathaway or Meghan Fox?

MB:  This question is filling my inbox at ESPN.  Many run along the lines of bringing Anne home to meet Mom.

FT:  I know I hadn't given it much thought, but found myself surprised how good Ms. Hathaway looked.  Meghan Fox left an impression from Transformers, but I had missed Ms. Hathaway's development.

Actually, the Anne Hathaway/Meghan Fox debate is analogous to looking at a fantasy player a little more closely and realizing they were much better than you thought they were.

MB:  That's why I wanted to come on Fake teams.  You're insight is second to none!

Part II of this interview will run later tonight/early tomorrow morning.  Matt didn't really answer my Hathaway/Fox analogy like that, but listen/download the podcast to see if it made an impression.