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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: June 13-19

Here's this week's dive inside the peripheral numbers to seek out the hidden gems, identify the fool's gold, identify which diamonds are diamonds and which lumps of coal are indeed lumps of coal.  #GeologyMetaphors

* Wade To GoWade Davis' transition back to starting pitching hasn't exactly gone smoothly, as the right-hander has been rocked to the tune of a 5.66 ERA through 12 starts.  This said, I'm recommending Davis as a very stealthy fifth starter option for the remainder of the season since man, his bad luck has to eventually turn around, right?  Davis' .391 BABIP is the highest among all qualified starters and only five hurlers have a higher HR/FB rate than Davis' 17.2% mark.  That homer rate is almost twice Davis' career 9.8% HB/FB average, by the way, and it's even more perplexing given that the righty has just a 28.6% fly ball rate overall.  Davis has a 40.6% fly ball rate for his career, so he should be celebrating his newfound ability to keep the ball down were it not for the fact that a stunning number of those flies are turning into big flies.

Davis' advanced ERA metrics still aren't very pretty (4.76 FIP, 3.99 xFIP, 4.20 SIERA) but those numbers and his real ERA should all drop as his calamitous home run rate comes back to earth.  Even if you're in a deep league, Davis is probably available and might not be a bad pickup if you have a rotation spot to fill due to injury or lack of performance from one of your current starters.

* There's A Will, But Maybe Not A WayJosh Willingham has been an underrated fantasy weapon for the last couple of seasons but he's been a bit of a letdown to his owners in 2013.  Willingham had 10 homers and a .215/.361/.421 line heading into Tuesday's play and he's seen his ownership in Yahoo fantasy leagues slip to 69% as some managers have clearly given up hope that his batting average and general power numbers will rise.

A .262 BABIP is part of the problem but the bigger issue is that Willingham is simply not hitting the ball with as much authority as in recent years.  Willingham's line drive rate is down to 12.9%, well below his 18.8% career average, and his overall lack of pop has translated to more (cans of) corn --- Willingham's 22.6% infield fly ball percentage is well above his 12.8% career average.  He's still able to draw walks as regularly as ever, but now that Willingham is 34 years old, you simply have to wonder if he's finally hit his decline phase and that power won't come back.  I could see his average get back around the .250 range as his BABIP normalizes but to me, Willingham doesn't seem worthy of a starting position in a fantasy outfield at this point.  I'd bench him if you have a better option, or try to deal him before his power outage starts to extend to his seemingly okay home run totals.

* The No Homers Club.  This week's player whose performance can be expected to continue in a positive way throughout the season is Reds righty Homer Bailey.  While most weeks I use the advanced stats to indicate a guy's steadiness, I'm predicting Bailey will stay the course due to a couple of conflicting metrics that will eventually even themselves out. 

Let me explain.  Bailey has a 3.47 ERA that could be said to be unluckily high given his 2.56 FIP, 3.05 xFIP and 3.18 SIERA.  He has an even 83 strikeouts in 83 innings, and while his 9.0 K/9 would be a career-best, it's not a massive jump given his 7.5 K/9 average over the last three seasons.  His BABIP (.301) and strand rate (69.7%) are both perfectly average, so Bailey should be due for even more success as the season goes along, correct?

Maybe not.  Bailey has a 49.8% ground ball rate, well above his career average of 43.6%.  He's also posting a career-best 0.43 HR/9, which is surprising given that his name is actually Homer for pete's sakes Bailey carried a career mark of 1.1 HR/9 into this season and plays his home games at the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark.  The righty's luck in keeping the ball on the ground isn't all due to luck, as Bailey has made the two-seam fastball a much bigger part of his arsenal this season, but you have to wonder if the one pitch will be enough to override a few years' worth of habits.  Bailey's home run rate is bound to tick up, which will in turn elevate his FIP/xFIP/SIERA numbers and leave him with....probably somewhere around a 3.47 ERA.  So this is a very roundabout way of saying that you can expect more of the same for Mr. Bailey.

* Corb Your Enthusiasm.  Well, you knew it had to happen sometime, but Patrick Corbin has finally made an appearance in this column.  His 9-0 start with a 1.98 ERA would've made him the talk of the town back in 1995 but with today's newfangled advanced metrics, we can see that Corbin isn't quite as his record indicates.

First, the good news.  Corbin is, in fact, a pretty good pitcher.  His strikeout and walk numbers are roughly the same through his 34 career Major League games (7.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9) as they were over his 80 career minor league games (8.4 K/9, 2.3 BB/9), so it seems like you can count on Corbin to deliver a decent amount of punchouts without doing much to hurt his own cause.  If you drafted Corbin, you obviously didn't take him as your staff ace, so the fact that he's delivering his good numbers out of your fifth rotation spot is tremendous.

That said, Corbin will likely start pitching like a fifth starter sooner rather than later.  His 3.10 FIP, 3.82 xFIP and 3.83 SIERA indicate that his ERA is going to eventually take a jump, likely once his super-high strand rate (84.1%) and low BABIP (.258) normalize themselves.  Corbin has been pretty decent at keeping the ball in the park over his pro career but I think we can all agree that a 23-year-old who pitches at Chase Field is probably not going to keep up a 5.1% HR/FB rate for an entire season, eh?  You're not going to hurt yourself in the long run by keeping Corbin on your roster, but you might explore a trade and let one of your rival fantasy owners deal with Corbin's inevitable regression period.

Editor's Note: Mark's prediction that Corbin would start pitching like a fifth starter was made before his most recent performance. This editor's fantasy team is paying for that.




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