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Thursday, May 14, 2009
Rankings reaction

By Matthew Berry
ESPN.com

The Talented Mr. Roto

That's the point.

The rankings are designed to make you react, evaluate, consider one versus another …

But just because the rankings inspire thought and analysis does not mean they are always correct. In fact, I'm guessing my reactions were similar to yours when I saw them.

"That's way too high for so-and-so!" "What the?" "Are these 2004 rankings?" "That's insane!" "Seriously, they should never be allowed to rank again."

I am speaking, of course, about the Maxim Hot 100 rankings that came out this week. Oh, and our own updated Top 250. Both left me puzzled in certain spots and so, without further ado, here are my reactions to both sets of rankings.

People I am much lower on than everyone else

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox (Aggregate rank: 22; Berry rank: 50): In my "50 facts and 25 things" column posted in March, I wrote this: "Prior to last year, including the minor leagues, Dustin Pedroia had never hit more than 13 home runs in a season." So far this year, he has one. Granted, he had just one home run through May 13 last year, so you can make the case that he's right on pace. And certainly, all his underlying numbers are in line with last year, including his batting average. And he does have four steals …

Dustin Pedroia
Is Dustin Pedroia that much better than Aaron Hill?

But I put him this low because I wanted to make a point, and it's a point that a reader actually pointed out to me. I can't find the e-mail now, so my apologies to that reader, but he asked me whether I thought Aaron Hill could wind up having a better fantasy season than Pedroia. And the answer is yes, I think he could. Which is also why I am highest among my rankings brethren on Hill (aggregate: 93; Berry: 51). My guess is Hill will hit more homers and have more RBIs, their batting averages will wind up about the same, and Pedroia will steal more bases and have more runs. But it'll be close in those last two categories, and with Hill being so close in terms of production, combined with bounce-backs from Robinson Cano and other strong starts by second basemen, I'm just not as high on Pedroia from a fantasy perspective as others. Oh, and he still can't hit the high, inside fastball …

Jose Reyes, SS, Mets (Aggregate rank: 7; Berry rank: 17): It's not as if I hate him. He's still a stud, and he's traditionally a slow starter, so I expect him to turn it around. And he has been running crazy lately. But I dropped him to the second round because his two most valuable assets -- speed and being a shortstop -- are both in greater supply this year than they have been in recent seasons. Therefore I don't value those attributes as much as I would have at the beginning of the season.

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers (Aggregate rank: 10; Berry rank: 20): This is entirely about health. He has yet to play more than 130 games in a season, and as great as he is, I have a hard time justifying first-round value for a guy who has yet to play a full season. I mean, he has had more than 500 at-bats or played more than 121 games just once in three seasons, so who knows whether he can stay healthy?

Olivia Wilde, No. 1, Maxim's Hot 100: There's no question she's a crazy Hottie McHotterson, but here's my issue with her topping the list: She's not as hot now as she was when she was on "The O.C." and making out with Mischa Barton. Look at pictures of her as a blonde and then look at her now. It's not close. Still hot, sure, but did we rank Matt Holliday higher when he left Colorado? Exactly.

Britney Spears, No. 17, Maxim's Hot 100: A much bigger name than actual production, this is a player who hasn't been elite since 2005 and yet still gets drafted by someone dazzled by her name. You'll get more production from No. 80 Jamie Gunns and won't have to pay nearly the price.

Dan Haren, SP, Diamondbacks (Aggregate rank: 27; Berry rank: 53): His second-half ERA in 2008: 4.18. His second-half ERA in 2007: 4.15. His second-half ERA in 2006: 4.91. Diamondbacks runs scored so far in 2009: second to last in the majors. Remember, the rankings are from this point on.

Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers (Aggregate rank: 34; Berry rank: 76): This is entirely about his steals. He's on pace for 25 swipes; if that keeps up, I'd move him further up. But my concern is that the Tigers keep him in the middle of the lineup, and he stops running. And without the steals, his value drops significantly.

Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners (Aggregate rank: 60; Berry rank: 97): See "Haren, Dan." Wake me when he puts together a full season.

Kim Kardashian, No. 53, Maxim's Hot 100: I realize many people are big fans of Kim. I'm just not one of 'em. I don't like her personality or how she became "famous," and her look just doesn't do it for me. But here's the part that kills me. Beyoncé is No. 52, just one spot before Kardashian. Really? Are you telling me that, if you're standing at a bar and both Kim and Beyoncé invite you over for a drink, there are some people who'd actually head toward Kim? Or even think about it? They aren't even in the same universe. This is ridiculous. I will say, however, that if we were doing a ranking of publicists, whoever is Kim's would be No. 1. That person gets more publicity for her than humanly possible and must be considered the "Phoenix Suns trainer" of publicists.

James Shields, SP, Rays (Aggregate rank: 66; Berry rank: 139): I'm a little nervous about him. His road ERA in 2008 (4.82) made him a concern to me coming into this year as a consistent stud, and now his K's per 9 and K/BB ratio are at career lows. I'm thinking we might have seen him peak, and too many others out there have better numbers and fewer concerns.

Andre Ethier, OF Dodgers (Aggregate rank: 71; Berry rank: 99): This one is insane to me. Am I the only one who thinks Manny Ramirez's presence in the lineup had a significant impact on Ethier's numbers? Playing 50 games without Mr. Ramirez will significantly hurt his numbers. And "Ethierwood" just doesn't have the same ring, ya know?

Michelle Obama, No. 91, Maxim's Hot 100: I'm not saying she isn't a beautiful woman or isn't deserving of our respect as the First Lady. She's a smart dresser, and as First Ladies go, she's much hotter than, say, Barbara Bush. But come on. There's not a 14-year-old alive putting up a poster of her in his room. It's like Tom Glavine this year. You respect what they have accomplished, but you're not putting them on your team.

Roy Oswalt, SP, Astros (Aggregate rank: 73; Berry rank: 103): Another guy whose K/9 rate and K/BB ratio are currently at career lows. Plus, the Astros just aren't a good team. Oswalt is one of those guys who has great name value, but his stats will be merely good.

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Josh Beckett, SP, Red Sox (Aggregate rank: 92; Berry rank: 143): Three ERA figures for you: 5.01, 3.27, 4.03. Those are Beckett's end-of-season ERAs in the three seasons he has been in Boston. By my count, he has had only one season in which he was an elite fantasy stud, yet folks keep drafting him as if he is a top-of-the-line SP option. He's currently sixth in the American League in walks, has a 6.42 ERA, is still an injury risk and … hmm, after writing this, I think even I might have ranked him too high.

Lindsay Lohan, No. 23, Maxim's Hot 100: She seems nuttier than a fruitcake, so crazy that I'm amazed I haven't dated her. If you were being set up with her, you'd think about it for a second. She's famous, it would be a great story, probably a fun date … but she's a train wreck and might stalk me. You'd end up going on the date, but you would think about it for a second. And anyone you'd think about for even a nanosecond shouldn't be in the Hot 100.

Any closer: Ryan Franklin. Scott Downs. Fernando Rodney. Heath Bell. When I say you shouldn't pay for saves, it's because you can get them very cheaply at the draft or on the waiver wire. So that's why I'm probably lowest on most closers.

Any starting pitcher: Since these rankings are based on an ESPN.com standard 10-team mixed league, if it seems I'm particularly low, it's probably because I don't feel he offers anything that can't be gotten on the waiver wire by streaming.

Hilary Duff, No. 34, and Whitney Port, No. 83, Maxim's Hot 100: I just don't get it. Really?

David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox (Aggregate rank: 122; Berry rank: 200): He. Is. Done. Let me know when he catches up to Carlos Zambrano … in home runs hit this season. No power, no batting average, and he can't play the field, so he has no position flexibility.

People I am much higher on than everyone else

Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies (Aggregate rank: 23; Berry rank: 12): "Wait a minute, Berry. Didn't you write a piece during the preseason about how much you hate this guy? And now you're the highest on him? What gives, Frankie Flip Flop? Crazy much? I thought we discussed making sure you took your meds every day." Yeah, well, this just in … Sometimes I'm wrong. My "hatred" of Howard as a first-round pick was based on his not contributing in enough categories and his traditional slow start. My contention is that he would bury you in batting average the way he has each of the past three seasons. And frankly, that hasn't happened. He's hitting .268 with six home runs. He had his best April in three seasons, and that's with Jimmy Rollins struggling in front of him. We all know what he can do from June on; my problems with him dealt with April and May. And frankly, he has proved me wrong. I'm man enough to admit it. But what I don't get is why everyone except Eric Karabell and me has him ranked in the third round. Knowing what he traditionally does post-May, plus the fact that he has cut down on his strikeouts from this point a year ago, and accounting for Rollins' expected increase in production … I might even have ranked him too low. I definitely know everyone else has.

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (Aggregate rank: 64; Berry rank: 63): Well, at least folks who accuse me of being a Yankees hater might quiet down a bit; I like Cano much more than four of the seven other rankers. And for the record, I am a Yankees hater, but only as a fan. It doesn't affect my analysis, and here's a case in point. Since May 1 of 2008, Cano has played 163 games and has 18 home runs, 84 RBIs, 86 runs and a .302 batting average. Those are Pedroia-like numbers without the speed (although he does have three steals). And, oh yeah, Cano is also playing his home games now in what appears to be a bandbox of a stadium and is on pace for 29 home runs in '09.

Stacy Keibler
That's right, Stacy Keibler is even hotter than this in person.

Stacy Keibler, No. 77, Maxim's Hot 100: I've met a lot of famous women in my life, and I actually met Stacy at the Super Bowl this year. It's rare that you can say this about most women who are photographed for a living, but she's actually prettier in person. By a lot.

Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers (Aggregate rank: 79; Berry rank: 70): He's a career .311 hitter who is coming off three straight years of at least 20 homers and 100 RBIs. Currently he's hitting .239, but his batting average on balls in play is .277, below his recent norms. I'm not worried, and I'm buying low.

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (Aggregate rank: 70; Berry rank: 45): He was the first guy mentioned in the "Love" area in my preseason "Love/Hate" column, and now he's seventh on our ESPN Player Rater. As in, seventh overall. I don't expect him to keep hitting .370, but I do expect the power and speed production to continue … and for him to take a better player photo. Seriously, click on his name and look at that thing. It's brutal. But it's the only thing not to like about the guy for whom the Orioles traded Erik Bedard.

Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays (Aggregate rank: 93; Berry rank: 51): See "Pedroia, Dustin."

Miranda Kerr, No. 58, Maxim's Hot 100: Like players for the Nationals and A's, Kerr doesn't get as much press as she should because she's Australian. But trust me on this one. If I had gotten to work with her instead of Paul Hogan, "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" would have been a much better movie.

Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (Aggregate rank: 94; Berry rank: 59): I wasn't alone in my preseason drooling over Cruz, so I'm not sure why I am now, considering he is on pace for 34 home runs, 108 RBIs, 20 steals and a .270 average this season. Where I come from, we like 30-20 guys.

Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers (Aggregate rank: 103; Berry rank: 71): He was healthy and hitting well, and when he returns from suspension, he'll have something to prove. And we know what a motivated Manny can do. Look, he's eligible to come back on July 3. Here's what he did last year from July 3 on: 21 home runs, 68 RBIs, .394 average. There's no reason to think he can't do that again, especially with the talent he has around him.

Marisa Miller, No. 18, Maxim's Hot 100: The fact that she's not in the top 10 is nuts. The fact that she is behind Britney Spears is laughable. The fact that she is married is depressing.

Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Astros (Aggregate rank: 132; Berry rank: 89): My Way-Rod obsession has been going on for three years, and it's finally paying off in a big way. He is currently 10th among starting pitchers in our Player Rater, and there is nothing to suggest his hot start is a fluke.

Bengie Molina, C, Giants (Aggregate rank: 146; Berry rank: 108): Eight home runs so far. Hitting .286. And he's a catcher.

Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks (Aggregate rank: 180; Berry rank: 116): He is currently on pace for 39 home runs and 19 stolen bases, and he's hitting .250, which won't kill you. He's Adam Dunn with more speed. Granted, he never really stole bases in the minors and had only 11 steals last year, but still, a guy with 40-homer potential and double-digit speed? At worst, he's Adam Dunn. And he plays third base. And he's still available in 20 percent of ESPN standard leagues. What's the guy gotta do?

Anne Hathaway, unranked, Maxim's Hot 100: Seriously? Unranked? I wonder whether she needs to be consoled.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is on Twitter at @TheRealTMR. He may or may not be entertaining. He is a five-time award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also 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. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend