After a brilliant college career at the University of Washington, Steve Emtman played six years in the NFL as a defensive lineman. While his professional career was disappointing at best, many will remember him as the first overall draft pick in the 1992 NFL Draft.
Not me. I’ll remember him for his role in the inspiring peewee football flick, Little Giants .
In case you were living under a rock in 1994, Little Giants centers around Danny O’Shea (Rick Moranis, aka Wayne Szalinski), the loser younger brother of hometown peewee football hero Kevin O’Shea (Ed O’Neill). Danny was bullied his whole life and when his daughter is cut from the football team his own brother coaches, he decides to start his own team of misfits—the Little Giants. As the Little Giants prepare for their epic showdown with Kevin O’Shea’s team, they get some much needed help from John Madden and a couple of pros who are lost in this tiny town.
Side note: This movie never could have happened if Madden wasn’t afraid to fly. His role in Little Giants is undoubtedly his greatest contribution to football.
Long story short, Emtman tells the Little Giants not to worry about their lack of talent because “football is 80 percent mental and 40 percent physical.”
So, what does a peewee football team have to do with fantasy baseball? Actually, nothing at all. But when I was brainstorming this article, Emtman’s line was the first thing that popped into my head. If I had to rewrite it to suit our purposes here at Baseball Professor, it would go something like this: “fantasy baseball is 80 percent statistical and 40 percent instinctual.”
By that, I mean that a huge part of winning at fantasy baseball is understanding the stats, recognizing trends, and making the right moves before anyone else knows they’re the right moves. However, sometimes the best moves you can make are the ones that the stats don’t fully back.
Pittsburgh’s Garrett Jones made a splash in 2009, batting .293 with 21 HR, 44 RBI, and even 10 SB in just 82 games. Even with just a half-season’s worth of stats, Jones was 2009’s 65th ranked outfielder. This means that his per-game production was ranked somewhere in the mid-30s, making him a solid third outfielder or utility guy in 10- and 12-team leagues.
Did anything in his minor league career suggest Jones would be so valuable? Well, his numbers—particularly his batting average—did pick up a little in his last few seasons with Triple-A teams Rochester and Indianapolis, but Jones still averaged just .258-25-99 with eight stolen bases per 600 AB over his minor league career. Those numbers are good, but you can find a lot of guys who could hit 25 homers with a terrible average. I’m looking at you, Mike Cameron .
In case you need me to hold your hand through this, here’s how Jones’ abbreviated 2009 compared to his minor league career:
Anyone who took the gamble on Jones got near-40/20 production for the great low price of free! Maybe the stats suggested he’d be nothing special, but I liked his potential power/speed combo and used a waiver claim on him. My gut said he could be useful and it was worth the risk.
Like with Nelson Cruz , sometimes even the smallest change can trigger a dramatic turnaround. If you want to add someone, read up on them and look past their stats.