BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In the rich and diversified world of University
at Buffalo research and knowledge, Alan Gellin's expertise might
appear a notch separate from the breakthroughs in medicine, the
arts and technology.
Gellin is UB's resident fantasy baseball expert, a reputation
built on a consistent record of performance. Combining a love of
baseball with a math acumen perfectly in tune with the unending
world of baseball statistics, Gellin belongs in the ranks of UB
professors and administrators with special knowledge in their
The difference in Gellin's stock in trade is finding hidden
jewels in the diamonds, in this case the baseball diamonds. Gellin,
assistant to the associate deans in UB's Graduate School of
Education by day, has put his ability to judge talent and decode
the arcane world of baseball statistics to a worthwhile and
practical cause: winning the multiple fantasy baseball leagues in
which he competes.
"I have a pretty good sense of what I am doing," says Gellin,
the subject of a Buffalo News feature two years ago when he
finished first in all of his four fantasy baseball leagues and had
recently returned from an all-expenses-paid trip to a fantasy
baseball conference in Arizona he won for finishing first among 73
fantasy league subscribers. "But there are also years when I don't
do as well.
"The driving force for me is the statistical aspect of the game.
The numbers. It's always fascinated me. And I've always liked math.
I've gone to my share of games, but I don't really look forward to
that. I just look forward to the games being played and seeing how
things fall out. It's the statistics, and how players do as the
season wears on."
Gellin also shares the public university values of his
colleagues -- a willingness to give something back to the world.
Rather than keep his predictions and tips of the best teams and the
most promising players to himself, he's willing to share at least
some of his knowledge.
First, before he releases some predictions, a few
Gellin is not of the field-of-dreams,
baseball-as-pastoral-poetry school of thought. He's in it for
"Part of it is bragging rights," says Gellin. "I'm very
competitive and, regardless of what I do, I want to win. I don't
care if we're playing Scrabble or whatever it is. My goal is to
Let others wax poetically about the game with no time clock and
the rich green of infield grass.
"If I win my league," he says, "I'm happy."
He also gives no guarantees. Past results, Gellin says, do not
necessarily indicate future successes, especially with all the
unpredictable factors that go into a major league baseball
"I can fool myself into thinking I'm really smart the years I
win," says Gellin. "But luck drives so much of what happens in
"So when we win, it's because we're smart. And when we lose,
it's all because of injuries or other factors. You tell yourself,
'What can I do? That's baseball.'"
Despite the qualifiers, Gellin is willing to divulge some
results of his research of websites, inside information, experience
and pure instinct. Here are some players to watch, some of whom may
be far from household names to the casual baseball fan:
GELLIN'S PLAYERS OF INTEREST IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE:
Gellin singles out three players he expects to do well this
-- Pablo Sandoval, third baseman for the San Francisco Giants.
"He is the heart of the Giants' batting order," Gellin says. "Last
year, he was a little bit off, but supposedly he lost some weight
this year and is really focused. I think he's going to have a big
-- Andrew McCutchen, center fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates,
and Justin Upton, right field for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"These are two young outfielders who have been around for a few
years," Gellin says. "They've both got some power, speed and they
can potentially hit for a high batting average. They're exciting
players to watch. They can do it all."
In the world of fantasy baseball, where points are awarded for
home runs, runs batted in, batting average, stolen bases and runs
scored, McCutchen and Upton are valuable because their talents can
produce well in all categories, where someone like Sandoval has to
make up for his lack of steals with power hitting.
AMERICAN LEAGUE HITTERS TO WATCH:
-- Billy Butler, designated hitter with the Kansas City Royals.
"He's a little like Sandoval," Gellin says. "He hits for power and
a batting average. He's starting to establish himself as one of the
top young hitters in the game."
-- Ian Kinsler, second baseman for the Texas Rangers. "Kinsler
is similar to McCutchen and Upton in that he has power, can steal,
hit for average.
"I'd also put Jacoby Ellsbury (center fielder for the Boston Red
Sox) in that same category."
"And I think A-Rod (Yankee third-baseman Alex Rodriguez) is
going to have a big year," Gellin says. "Even though he is 36 years
old and has been injured the past few years, reports are coming
back that his attitude is really good and he really wants to show
he still can produce. And when you look at milestones, this year he
will move into the top-10 all time in runs scored, runs batted in
and total bases.
Predicting the performance of pitchers is almost impossible,
Gellin says, because of all the factors that affect how they play.
Nevertheless, Gellin has some favorites:
Zack Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers. "A few years ago he had a
really monster year," Gellin says. "Then he had some personal
issues that really messed with his abilities on the field. He got
that under control and then he had some injuries. Last year he
started out slowly, but had a really big second half. A lot of
people are expecting this to be a year when he puts it all together
Jake Peavy of the Chicago White Sox, and Francisco Liriano of
the Minnesota Twins. "Both have had great years in the past,"
Gellin says. "Peavy has been injured, but people are starting to
think he's also going to put it all together again this year.
"Liriano is another player that has been chronically injured. He
had an amazing spring training. When he's on, he's exciting to
watch. Many are hoping this is the year he's going to stay
OTHERS TO WATCH:
Brandon Belt, first baseman with San Francisco Giants. "He's got
a great swing and he has the potential to be a really, really good
player," Gellin says.
Lorenzo Cain, centerfielder with Kansas City Royals. "A young
player with a lot of speed, who surprised people with some power
during the spring."
Drew Smyly, pitcher with Detroit Tigers. "He's a relative
unknown who made the team out of training camp. Young pitchers are
especially hard to predict, but he had some solid numbers in the
OUTLOOK FOR THE 2012 WORLD SERIES:
Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Angels.
"The Phillies again have the best pitching staff in baseball
with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels," Gellin says. "And
they picked up (closer Jonathan) Papelbon. I still think they are
the team to beat in the National League.
"Albert Pujols (acquired by the Angels in the off season) is the
kind of player that lifts up everyone around him and makes them
better. The Angels also have a great pitching staff, and they're my
pick for the best team in the American League.
"But you know what? There are probably going to be two teams in
the World Series nobody would've predicted at the beginning of the
season. Teams come out of nowhere as the season wears on. That's
the unpredictability of baseball."