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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: June 6-12

At the risk of ruining all my credibility as a fantasy guru, I actually fell to LAST PLACE in one of my leagues this week.  Ugh.  It's pretty ironic that I fell into last just one day after the most recent episode of Game Of Thrones given that my team's name was "King In The North."  Apparently it's just been a bad week overall for Kings of the North.

While I try to think of another GoT-related fantasy team name (Brian Bannister Always Pays His Debts?  A Song Of Rice And Fiers?), here are this week's underrated and overrated advanced metric players...

* Wood Cutting.  Everything's coming up Milhouse for Travis Wood this season.  Not only does he have a 2.75 ERA, he also has two homers, including a grand slam against the White Sox on May 30.  You might say that Wood's really good and that the Cubs have found themselves a quality young arm, and while that might be true in future seasons, he's not quite there yet.  This Wood has a few termites.  His peripheral ERA measurements aren't good (3.62 FIP, 4.48 xFIP, 4.49 SIERA), he has one of the league's lowest BABIPs at .218 and he's only averging 6.25 K/9 against 3.00 BB/9.

Wood's strong start has boosted his fantasy stock to the point that he's owned in 71% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.  If you've got the southpaw on your team, start shopping him over the place and sell high while your can.  See if you can trick one of your fellow owners into thinking that Travis Wood is actually Kerry Wood and that we've time-traveled back to 1998.  Play a Ma$e album while you're negotiating, that'll do the trick. 

* Still El Hombre.  The good news is, Albert Pujols owners, your guy might be rope-a-doping us into another second half surge.  Sure, his 12.5% strikeout rate is on pace to be his highest since his rookie season and sure, he's swinging and missing at most pitches outside the strike zone than ever before and...wait, this is supposed to be the pro-Pujols item, right?  Overall, there's no escaping the fact that Pujols' contact rates are down from his career averages...but let's remember, those career averages are all pretty awesome.  He might not be vintage Albert anymore, but he should still be hitting better than .244/.313/421 with just nine measly home runs.  I lay the blame at his .245 BABIP and the Pacific air in Anaheim that's keeping his fly balls in the park.  This won't help ease the pain of those who picked Pujols in the second or third round this year, but if you just alter your perspective and think of Pujols as a second-tier first baseman from now on, his numbers will seem a lot better.  I'm predicting he'll still end up with around 30 dingers and a solid (if not Pujolsian) OPS.

* Mark Of Consistency.  It seemed inevitable that Nick Markakis would eventually end up as one of my weekly "he'll keep doing well" guys since Markakis is one of the more pleasantly stay-the-course players in the game.  He's never broken through into superstardom like the Orioles thought he would, but really, can you argue with a guy that keeps churning out .800 OPS seasons like clockwork?  "Markakis" is, in fact, the Greek word for "metronome."  (Editor's note: pure lies)  Markakis is hitting .305/.355/.445 with seven homers, 33 RBI and 34 runs though 259 PA and yeah, this is all basically in line with what he's done his entire career.  Even the advanced stats scream "nothing to see here" -- he owns a .307 BABIP and while his 7.7% K% is below his career average, Markakis' strikeout rates have been dropping every year since 2008. 

Markakis is almost underrated from a fantasy perspective since he's not a guy who does any one thing spectacularly well, yet his ability to do everything pretty well makes him a great asset; if Markakis is your second or third OF, you're in terrific shape.  If you have a tantalizing but unproven prospect or streaky player in your fantasy outfield, offer them to Markakis' owner in your league to see if he doesn't appreciate what he has.

* 4 8 15 16 23 42.  The LOST numbers aren't only a good intro to discussing Ian Desmond, but also to point out that Desmond has been pretty "lost" at the plate this year.  Ha ha, wordplay!  Like many in the Nationals lineup, Desmond has been an underachiever this year, following up his breakout 2012 campaign with a nasty .265/.298/.460 line.  This is where I point out that Desmond's HR/FB rate did jump up to 18.2% out of nowhere last season and that his current 11.1% rate exactly matches his career average, so perhaps we all got a little carried away in thinking that 2012 represented Desmond's new reality.

His walk (4.9%) and strikeout (23.5%) rates are a bit lower and higher, respectively, than usual....but only a bit lower.  Desmond is still something of an unpolished hitter and he has no easy out to remove himself from long slumps like this.  With a .318 BABIP, you can't even chalk his hitting up to bad luck.  It may just be that Desmond isn't quite yet the star we thought he was, and if you drafted him in your sixth-seventh round to lock up your shortstop position, you should probably start poking around for backup options.  Frankly, I blame the whole thing on the Teddy Roosevelt mascot.  It's pretty suspicious that basically everything has gone wrong for the Nats ever since Teddy won a race, eh? 

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