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On Roto and Outliers

Not the Gladwell book, but the ability to make splashy predictions yet still trail in one's roto league.

I've gone on record with three fantasy predictions so far this season:

1) In a March podcast, I named Russell Branyan as my top fantasy sleeper for the season. Branyan just bashed his 21st homer of the season last night. He's on pace for 40+. You probably got him for $12 or less in a deep league, and maybe a few bucks (or less) in a shallow mixed league.

2) In an early-June interview with Beyond the Boxscore, I pegged Alexei Ramirez as my top fantasy sleeper for the rest of the season. At the time that I answered the interview questions, Ramirez was hitting .247/.292/.335 with 4 homers through 2+ months. In the four weeks since, Ramirez has popped six more homers and hiked his line to .273/.326/.405.

3) In April, I called Jarrod Washburn the next Cliff Lee. He threw a one-hit shutout at Baltimore last night, and is now 6th in the AL in ERA.

If all this seems like a thinly veiled excuse to brag, it isn't. Sure, it's pretty unusual to make only three predictions and have them all work out so well. But–and here's a topic I've often discussed with Chris Liss–what is the measure of a baseball/fantasy baseball writer's success? Is it making big, bold predictions that work out, or winning their individual leagues? Chris has argued that nailing the former may go further toward building a solid reputation. But I'm not in the same position as he is, being more of a catch-all sports writer than a fantasy writer. In that case, I'd probably prefer to win my leagues.

So far, it's not happening. Sure, I was savvy enough to snag Branyan for $10 in my deep, competitive, 12-team AL-only league. Better still, I nabbed Washburn in the fifth reserve round of that same auction. But I was never fortunate enough to land Ramirez, even when his value was depressed after a slow start. Plus I also made many errors at the auction table. Part of this may have been because I seem to draft better facing a live room of rivals than flipping through online, unable to maintain my concentration.

Whatever the case, you're not winning many leagues when you spend a combined $92 on Jason Giambi, Melvin Mora, Orlando Cabrera, Delmon Young, Magglio Ordonez and Scott Kazmir. I've made up a lot of ground through other avenues, and do have a slim hold on 2nd place in that league (top 4 cash in). But my lousy decision making may well come back to trump whatever clever predictions I may have had.

...like, say, trading Washburn for Marco Scutaro just before the start of this week. Granted, we lose all stats after a trade to an NL team, Washburn might be dealt to the NL, and I desperately needed an infield bat. But still. I'm an idiot.

So what say you, folks? If you write about fantasy for a (quasi-) living, better to win leagues, or Washburnify your way to fame and fortune? And readers...what wins more credibility in your eyes: a bunch of LABR or Tout Wars titles, or shot-in-the-dark predictions that turn to gold?