To brighten these frustratingly slow days before regular season action starts, we have a new series of Bat Flips and Nerds articles for you. Baseball chinwags are quick chats with a few of our favourite characters within the baseball broadcasting/fantasy baseball world. We hope you enjoy them.
What do you get when you combine a former actor, a best-selling author, tutor of stage combat and podcast host? The answer is everyone’s favourite New York Italian fantasy baseball expert, Mr Joe Pisapia.
Joe is the creator of the best-selling Fantasy Baseball Black Book series and a host/contributor for a variety of baseball shows, and he even hosts a pro-wrestling podcast.
He very kindly allowed us to intrude into his busy schedule, and we started by telling him that Bat Flips and Nerds is a UK website offering a British take on all aspects of baseball from MLB to grassroots play over here in the UK, and from the World Baseball Classic through to fantasy baseball.
What are your experiences of the UK? You studied Shakespeare at Oxford didn’t you?
I did indeed study Shakespeare and classical theatre at Oxford. Certainly not your usual fantasy sports path. But I acted professionally in the States for a decade and a half. I loved my time in England and worked with many wonderful actors and professors.
Plans to return?
I haven’t been back in many years, but my goal is to make an NFL game there someday.
Any interest in our TV or football?
I’ve always had a love for UK culture. Perhaps my dad’s Monty Python obsession helped it. I remember laughing my head off at Fawlty Towers. I grew very accustomed to the pub lifestyle while I was living there and just adore so much of the music, film and TV produced there. For instance I am Original BBC Office ONLY! The American version doesn’t exist for me.
As far as soccer goes, I’m still on the Italian end of that spectrum
With MLB in the UK set to explode, we explained that support for the game had grown from a foundation of hardcore followers brought up on a diet of one televised match per week, which was broadcast after midnight.
I don’t think I fully expressed the excitement we have about the forthcoming London Series. I still can’t believe that the two biggest teams in the world are coming to the UK to play regular-season games.
What is your take on the London Series?
I may be in the minority here in the states, but I love when our games become global. I think MLB taking a chapter from the NFL playbook here is smart and if baseball is given a chance, it fits the intellectual British condition quite well. It’s a thinking man’s game as much as it is an athlete’s game.
“Intellectual British condition” – I like that! I’m going to use that. And there might be a lot more substance to that triplet than first meets the eye.
We switched attention to Joe’s Fantasy Baseball Black Book which is now on its 9th edition. Readers can get it in paperback (£11.80) or Kindle (£7.90) from Amazon or even download it from iTunes.
Despite being a best-seller every single year, it continues to improve, and the 2019 edition has even more contributions from different fantasy baseball experts. One of the unique aspects of the Black Book is RPV (relative position value), a fantastic evaluation tool which takes ADP (average draft position) and tiers into the next dimension. It is a must for all fantasy baseball players.
You must be very proud of the brand that you have created. What was your hope when you published the first edition and what will it look like in 10 years from now?
After being basically screwed by two websites I wrote for, I decided to write my first book. I thought it would sell 50 copies. It went to No.1 in Fantasy Sports that year. There was a void in the marketplace for direct to consumer fantasy products like mine and Relative Position Value (RPV) was a unique theory. Every year folks had success with it, and every year they came back in bigger numbers.
Last year the football Black Book was No.1 in Football Books on Amazon ahead of Tom Brady’s book for a few weeks.
There’s no such thing as an overnight success. So many hours, over so many years. My goal was to always make the product better, different and most importantly applicable.
There’s so much content out there that’s in the same mould and it’s mostly useless to fantasy players. I wanted to quantify position value of players. I wanted to give people real strategies. I wanted to give them an actual advantage in a world where the playing field is more level than ever.
The Black Book has been the independent little engine that could, and it keeps on going. I’m very proud of the brand, and always looking to improve it.
Either with or without wearing his fantasy hat, we asked Joe about his opinion for the forthcoming 2019 season.
Can you give us a couple of undervalued/underappreciated players that MLB fans in the UK should look out for this year?
I think Cole Hamels is undervalued. Once he left Texas, he went right back to be dominant. He was just awful in that ballpark.
Jimmy Nelson (Milwaukee Brewers’ starting pitcher) is another arm that is being forgotten about that shouldn’t be.
Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera are being tossed aside due to age and down years. However, first base is weak this year and they should be given one more shot.
Joe has an obvious talent both in front of the camera and behind a microphone. We asked about this and his future ambitions.
No-one ever says a bad word about you. What is your secret?
Oh, I am sure there’s plenty of bad words. Haha. But I do my best to treat my colleagues and my readers/listeners with respect. Many analysts dismiss them. I play in leagues with them. You are nothing without your fan base. I was lucky enough to turn a reccurring guest spot on SXM into my own show for 5 years, then on to FNTSY Radio for 2+ years.
What ambitions are left? Will we see Joe Pisapia anchoring ESPN or Fox Sports?
I don’t know if I fit the mould of what the big networks do, but rest assured I will sell out the first chance I get!
When all is said and done, I think my passion and joy for the work comes through in my shows and my books. That’s what people latch onto. Fantasy is supposed to be fun! I make people laugh and give them good information. That’s the key to my success. Too many boring people doing fantasy coverage, or fun people with no real knowledge. I like to think I’m the balance of both.
Finally, what one piece of advice you would pass onto any British youngsters keen to get involved in sports media or fantasy baseball analysis?
Do the show YOU want to hear, not the show you think you want others to hear. Have passion. Have a unique voice and perspective. I just did an NFL UK Podcast called 5 Yard Rush. Those guys are starting out and you can tell they LOVE what they are doing. That can’t be faked.
FINAL QUICK PITCHES
Roto, points, categories or DFS? I am a head-to-head points guy always, roto bores me, even though it’s the industry standard and I play it. I just don’t think a save or a stolen base should be counted the same as a home run a six-inning win for a pitcher.
CBS, ESPN, Yahoo or Fantrax? Fantrax. And not because they pay me. They really have the deepest player pool and user friendly site.
How many leagues are you in? Usually about 6-8. I like quality over quantity and they vary in terms of format.
Favourite players? Keith Hernandez in my youth! Jose Altuve now.
Favourite sports writer? Jeff Pearlman. His biography work is untouchable in my opinion.
Baseball rule you would change I would shorten the regular season, expand the playoffs and start them in August. Universal DH. It’s time. Pitchers don’t hit in high school, college, minors, or AL. Just the NL. It’s silly at this point.
Where will Bryce Harper sign? I still say Yankees find a way. If not, back to Nationals.
And Manny Machado? Whoever overpays for him.
Winners of the 2019 World Series? Yankees. That bullpen is unreal.
Defintely the final one now. What do you have planned from now until Opening Day? Drafts and Podcasts baby! And thanks again for asking me to do this!
Make sure you follow Joe on Twitter @JoePisapia17 and definitely go and buy the Black Book if you haven’t already got the 2019 edition. You also need to check out Joe’s Fantasy Black Book Show on the Fantrax Podcast Network.
This preseason, we want to hear from you. Follow us on Twitter @batflips_nerds and join in the discussion.