Fantasy Baseball Expert Interview – Matt Lutovsky

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Welcome back to the newest installment in our series of
interviews aimed at giving readers insight into the minds and backgrounds of
those fantasy writers and pundits who have reached the level of
“expert.” It seems there has been an explosion in the number of
people claiming the title in the last few years, but no one seems to know where
they come from. These interviews aim to change all that, while also giving
aspiring “experts” (such as myself) some advice on both how to break
into the industry and ways to improve your fantasy skills.

 

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Our guest this week is Matt Lutovsky, one of the top fantasy
writers for industry leader The Sporting News.

 

In your opinion, what
makes you a fantasy expert? (basically the polite way of asking – why should
people listen to you?)

 

I have good feel for what it takes to be competitive in
fantasy leagues — types of players you want, types to avoid, draft situations,
etc. But more than that, I enjoy digging through stats and trying to prove or
disprove widely held beliefs about players or trends. For instance, I was
confused this year as to why everyone just took for granted that Josh Hamilton
was a first-round pick, but Carlos Quentin was dropping to third or fourth
rounds in a lot of drafts. They’re basically the same player and have about the
same major league track record. Based on per plate appearance numbers, Quentin
was better last year (which a lot of people might not realize). Yet, fewer
people believe in him than Hamilton. Why?

 

I love looking for stuff like that and expounding on it. Sometimes
you start digging through the numbers and find out you’re wrong. So be it, but
you have to look. I take pride in doing that, and I take pride in always
looking ahead and trying to figure out potential issues before they even pop
up. I’m not always right, but I’m always looking.

How many years have
you been playing fantasy?

 

Early on, I intentionally avoided fantasy sports because I
knew once I started playing, I would be hooked. In 2001, a friend desperately
needed another manager for a fantasy basketball league or he wouldn’t be able
to hold his draft that day. I reluctantly agreed to help him out, and that was
that. Now it’s football, baseball and basketball every year, with numerous
teams in both football and baseball.

 

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When did you start
writing on the subject?

 

I began doing freelance fantasy pieces in late 2004, and I
started at Sporting News in September of ’07.

 

How did you get your
start?

 

I came across an online job posting for contributing fantasy
writers, and I answered it. I didn’t get paid much, but it was still good
experience and helped me get some published clips under my belt. I saw the
Sporting News job posting online and sent in my resume and clips. I wish there
was a better story, but that’s really all there was to it.

 

What made you want to
get into the industry?

 

Well, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a traditional
reporter, and I’ve always loved reading and analyzing stats. Obviously, I also
had a love of fantasy sports in general. Writing about fantasy sports allowed
me to take a more analytical approach to things and really delve into stats and
situations more than just writing news or even features. Plus, I knew how
quickly the fantasy sports industry was growing, and I knew that its potential
— especially in terms of coverage — was nowhere even close to being
maximized. I wasn’t quite getting in on the “ground floor,” but it
was close. And I think that’s always an opportunity you want.

 

What advice
would you have specific for people who want to break into the
industry?

 

Keep writing (on any site that will let you) and keep
researching. Research is really the key, especially with baseball. People are
more stat-savvy now, so you need numbers to back up your arguments. You need to
learn where to go to find the numbers you need, then you need to learn what to
make of them once you find them. That’s half the battle. From there, you just
need to figure out your writing style and try to get your name out.

What advice would you give writers who
are working for a smaller site or their own blog, but want to make the leap
to a more mainstream site?

 

Aside from making it a daily habit to check out the various
job-posting sites such as Monster, Careerbuilder, JournalismJobs.com, and
fswa.org, I’d say just keep working hard and periodically send your resume and
clips to a site you’d like to work for. Worst case, they say “Thanks but
no thanks.” Best case, you get the job. Most likely, you don’t get the job
right away, but at least they’re aware of you.

 

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Let’s play a quick
game of “favorites.” Player?

 

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to have a favorite
player, especially when you’re a fan of a mid-market team like Minnesota. The
good ones don’t seem to stay around for very long. Before last season, it was
without a doubt Johan Santana. I remember watching him as a reliever and knew
he’d be a star someday. Right now, it’s probably Kevin Slowey. Well, no, it’s
probably Mauer, but that’s too easy. Plus, he can’t be my favorite
“player” when he’s not actually “playing.” As far as
non-Twins, it’s still probably Johan.

 

Fantasy
memory/moment?

 

Overall, it’s definitely Brandon Jacobs getting three TDs —
including one in overtime — in the Sunday nighter in Week 16 this year to help
me win a fantasy title by 0.8 points.

 

For baseball, it’s probably something really random, like
the time I picked up Russell Branyan for a week and he hit four homers. It’s
more difficult to pinpoint with baseball. I don’t think I’ve ever personally
watched one of my fantasy players dominate — maybe Santana sometime — so it
would have to be something stupid like Branyan hitting the homers or the time
last season when Manny Ramirez stole his first base in two years, which led to
me winning SBs by one that week.

 

Actually, I do remember on a Sunday back in 2005, Torii
Hunter went 1-for-4 with a homer, four RBIs and two SBs and it singlehandedly
won me RBIs and SBs and broke the tie in homers for that week. How sad is it I
actually remember that?

 

Fantasy writer at a
site other than your own?

 

I’ll cheat a bit and say the guys from Yahoo! I think
they’re all solid writers.

 

Do you enjoy fantasy
sports more or less since you entered the industry?

 

Mostly more, but there are days I feel like I’m in too many
leagues. That takes some of the fun away. I really don’t like AL- or NL-only
leagues, but I’m in one of each since it helps me write about single leagues.
But, ultimately, I get competitive about every league I’m in, so I still enjoy
it all quite a bit.

 

Do you enjoy sports
more or less?

 

Definitely more. I feel like I know more about sports now,
especially since I’m able to watch more games. There are times when football
and baseball are overlapping that it can get pretty busy, which makes you just
wish one of them didn’t exist, but that feeling doesn’t last long.

 

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In 2 sentences or less, what’s your best
Fantasy Baseball tip for 2009?

 

Keey ya head up (I stole that from 2PAC, but I’m fairly
certain he was talking about fantasy baseball when he said it).

What advice would you
have for people who are playing in their first season?

 

Don’t get overwhelmed and quit if you’re team doesn’t do
well right away. Baseball is pretty different from football, and it can be hard
to stay on top of things. You don’t need to be obsessive about it, but if you
stick with it, you’ll eventually figure out a pattern and things will get
easier.

Thanks for your time.
Before I let you go, any prediction for our upcoming matchup?

 

Well, given my early-season pitching problems, I’ll
say you win 4-6. Or me 10-0. One of the two.

2 Comments

Your favorite fantasy football moment is my least favorite football gambling moment. I had the Panthers + 3.5. Hoo knew I could make it into overtime and still lose?

Toby,
I really enjoyed this interview, especially the questions about breaking into the industry. I know I am young, but I’m trying to do that right now… get my name out there, etc. I’m pretty excited for my fantasy team, and I think I’ll start writing Haikus about them lol.
Elizabeth
http://redsoxgirl46.mlblogs.com

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