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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: July 11-17

Remember the character of Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and how she'd always use the phrase "five by five" when saying that someone was all right or okay with her?  Does this mean that Faith was secretly a big fantasy baseball fan who stuck to the 5x5 leagues?  I shouldn't have brought this up, since now I'm going to presume that every stranger I'm playing against in a public league is actually Eliza Dushku, which may induce me to make stupid trades in a vain attempt at getting a phone number.

Anyway, just as you shouldn't use fantasy baseball as a way of hitting on actresses, you also shouldn't use the 5x5 stats as your sole guide to determining a player's value.  Here's your weekly look at the advanced metrics to see which players you should put your....faith...into.  *rimshot*

Say Yes To Ricky No: Things are looking up for Ricky Nolasco these days.  He was recently released from purgatory traded from the Marlins to the Dodgers, where he gets to pitch in a pennant race (sort of) and near his SoCal hometown.  It also helps that Nolasco is on pace for his best overall season since his breakout 2008 campaign, in large part because for once, Nolasco's peripherals are pretty normal.  Sabermetricians still speak in hushed tones of Nolasco's bizarre 2009 season (a 5.06 ERA but a 3.35 FIP) and for his career, the right-hander has a .308 BABIP and 68.7% strand rate, both higher than average.  This season, however, Nolasco's BABIP is a solid .299 and his strand rate is actually a bit better than average (72.5%).  The only somewhat worrisome stat is that Nolasco isn't allowing as many grounders as he did in the previous two years, though since he's pitching at Dodger Stadium, his increased fly ball tendencies aren't likely to cause many problems.

Nolasco has a 7.2 K/9, 3.6 K/BB ratio and a 3.85 ERA (3.51 FIP, 3.70 xFIP, 3.80 SIERA) in 112 1/3 innings this season, yet he's only owned in 36% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.  It's possible owners stayed away from Nolasco in their drafts due to his years of good-but-not-great performances and the fact that the Marlins in general were going to be a disaster, but there's no reason to not snatch him up now. 

Alexei Sale: Alexei Ramirez's career is taking a weird arc, as he began his career as a solid power-hitting shortstop but now seems to be morphing into a no-hit stolen base threat.  Ramirez has 19 steals already this season, putting him easily on pace to break his career high of 20, so I can't say that the White Sox shortstop has been a total fantasy bust.  Ramirez has hit .277/.305/.345 with one homer and 33 runs scored, plus a stunningly low .068 ISO that indicates the Stark family on Game Of Thrones are the only ones with less power than Ramirez right now.

Not that steals aren't a valuable category and it's not like shortstop is brimming with big bats anyway, but I always hate having a "steals-only" guy on the roster who swipes a few bags and usually has a decent average but just kills you in every other category.  If you have one or two other speed threats in your fantasy lineup, I'd recommend moving Ramirez for a better shortstop since his bat just isn't coming back.  He even has a .314 BABIP on the season, so if this is the lucky Alexei, I shudder to think how he'll be hitting if his luck turns.

Shell Hhigh Ohn Jhonny: There's a chance that Jhonny Peralta won't be on anyone's roster for a large chunk of the remaining season, but suspension rumors aside, Peralta is a classic sell-high candidate if you have him on your team right now.  And if there's an owner in your league that isn't following the Biogenesis story then hey, caveat emptor!

Peralta was recently named to his second All-Star team as a result of the .304/.360/.445 batting line he carried into Tuesday's play, and when combined with seven homers, 42 RBI and 38 runs scored, Peralta has been one of the best fantasy shortstops of 2013.  It's a marked improvement over his disappointing .689 OPS in 2012, though I'd argue that Peralta's hot hitting isn't likely to last into the second half.  Forget about the PED accusations --- it's all about Peralta's league-leading .385 BABIP.  This ridiculous number obscures the fact that Peralta's peripherals are largely the same as usual, except for a 26.6% line drive rate that is far above his 20.7% career average.  Peralta is bound to regress so do your best to move him for a shortstop that has fewer statistical red flags.

Big Time Timmy Jim: I think most fantasy owners would be pretty pleased with having a pitcher with a 9.39 K/9, 2.35 K/BB rate and a 3.48 ERA in their rotations, eh?  Well, that's what you would have if you owned the much-maligned Tim Lincecum, and also owned him in a just universe.  Lincecum's 3.48 number refers to his FIP, and his 3.31 xFIP and 3.61 SIERA likewise indicate that the Freak is having some freakishly bad luck this year, as his real-world ERA sits at 4.61.  A handsome and talented MLB Trade Rumors writer pointed out in February that Lincecum faced a bit of extra pressure this season as he not only was trying to regain his old consistency, but also had to do so in a contract year.  Lincecum has more or less done his job, but the high BABIP (.327) and low strand rate (66.2%) have kept his ERA from matching his advanced metrics.  In non-luck based numbers, Lincecum also has a career-high 27.2% line drive rate, so with more hard-hit balls in play, it's perhaps unsurprising that more are landing for hits.

All this said, Lincecum's fortunes are due to change during the second half, and owners who rolled the dice on Lincecum following his rough 2012 could still get the maximum return on their risk if the righty delivers a couple of vintage Freak months.  After all, he's "Big Time Timmy Jim," a nickname I had literally never heard until I surfed onto Lincecum's Baseball-Reference page.  What an unwieldy nickname.  And his middle name isn't even James, so it makes even less sense.  Whomever's in charge of handing out nicknames in San Francisco really dropped the ball on that one.  Kruk and Kuip need to get on this.

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