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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: May 16-22

Given the month, it only makes sense to pay tribute to Curtis Mayfield with this week's category titles.  I didn't use "Talking About My Baby" since I dunno, as much as we root for our fantasy players, referring to them as my babies feels a little weird.  Maybe it'll happen if Vince Vaughn's character from Swingers ever takes over this column, though then the focus will switch from fantasy baseball to NHL 94 player analysis.

Anyway, I'm babbling.  Let's get to this week's notes...

Keep On Keepin' On: Norichika Aoki.  Basically the only flaw I can point to in Aoki right now is his mediocre steal rate (four CS in 10 attempts this season) but unless you're in a league that penalizes getting thrown out, Aoki is a force right now.  He's hitting .299/.377/.445 with 21 runs scored and even four homers, a performance that stands out all the more considering that Aoki really was pretty ice-cold in April after a big opening week. 

I'm tempted to consider that Aoki is too streaky to be counted on for consistent fantasy performance, but even at his worst he's still getting on base and scoring a ton of runs atop Milwaukee's lineup.  Last season's 30 steal performance might be too much to ask for again (Aoki stole 45 bases combined in his last three years in Japan) but as a run-scoring, high-average, high-OBP third outfielder, Aoki is your man.  If he does pick up his theft rate, it's all gravy.

Hard Times: Jay Bruce.  I've never been a big Bruce fan in fantasy ball* simply because he's not a reliable everyday outfielder given his poor career splits away from Great American Ballpark (.710 OPS) and against left-handers (.748 OPS).  These splits were still apparent last season when Bruce his a career-best 34 homers and 99 RBI, numbers that no doubt led him to be drafted a few rounds higher than he should've this past spring.

* = huge Bruce fan in music, however.  His concert with the E Street Band in Toronto last August was maybe the best concert I've ever seen in my life.  Three-and-a-half hours of music!  29 songs!  A 40-minute encore!  No, I'm not getting off-topic, Springsteen and baseball go together hand in hand!  He sings about a speedball in "Glory Days" which is totally a real pitch.  Sure.  Whatever. 

Bruce owners are paying for their mistake now.  The Reds right fielder has just three homers to go with a .258/.306/.403 line entering Tuesday's action, plus a league-worst 52 strikeouts.  He's simply having trouble getting the bat on the ball right now, as evidenced by the fact that he's swinging at more pitches than ever (52.5%, up from his career 48.7%) and connecting on a career-low 78.8% of pitches in the strike zone, well below his 84.3% career average.  Moving Bruce now would definitely qualify as a sell-low situation but there's evidence Bruce could sink even lower; his BABIP is a whopping .365.  When the balls are falling your way over six weeks and you're STILL not hitting, that's a bad sign.

Future Shock: Matt Moore.  The Rays southpaw had a textbook quality start on Tuesday, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks over six innings, striking out eight Red Sox batters in the process.  You could say that three runs was a lot of damage given how impressive the rest of Moore's line was, perhaps making this the first time that Moore hasn't been kissed by Lady Luck during a start. 

Moore entered his start with a 2.14 ERA in real life but a lot of shaky peripherals --- a 4.46 FIP, 4.23 xFIP, 4.23 SIERA, 4.9 BB/9 and a BABIP of just .196.  Let's also not overlook his 96.1% strand rate, which is comically high even for a strikeout pitcher like Moore.  Roto Authority's Alex Steers McCrum noted Moore as a sell-high candidate even a few weeks ago, so there's still time to move him for some nice value before he finally comes back to earth.  It's not like Moore even pitched that badly against Boston but perhaps it's the beginning of his regression period.  Better that Moore regresses on someone else's roster, not yours.

Move On Up: Edwin Jackson.  It's pretty apparent by now that the universe hates the Cubs, so it's par for the course that their big $52MM offseason signing is 1-5 with a 6.02 ERA through his first eight starts in the blue pinstripes.  Jackson is one of those guys who I've always felt was properly rated by fantasy owners --- sure, there's a general sense he should have pitched better over the years, yet most fantasy owners have viewed Jackson as a back-of-the-rotation guy even when he's at top form. 

Therefore, if you've somehow stuck with Jackson as your fifth man despite his brutal numbers, you're probably making a mistake given how you can always find a decent fifth starter (even a short-term streamer) on the waiver wire....yet your mistake won't harm you since Jackson should be able to turn this around.  Jackson's ugly ERA has been inflated by bad luck in the form of a .333 BABIP and a 54.7% strand rate, as his FIP/xFIP/SIERA line is a much more reasonable 3.50/3.70/3.90.  Maybe Matt Moore is stealing all of Jackson's good fortune.

It's a fair assumption that Jackson will soon be back doing his usual Edwin Jackson things, so if you've shown this much patience with a replaceable fifth starter, you might as well hang onto him and reap some benefits.  Of course, this all becomes moot if the Cubs relegate Jackson to the bullpen, since really, you get so few opportunities in life to have a $52MM long reliever.  #GoatCurse



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