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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: July 18-24

Since the All-Star Break is all about celebrating the first 3.5 months of the baseball season, let's look back on a couple of my starworthy picks of the first half.  For instance, I told you in early May that Matt Carpenter was the real deal, and just last week, I praised Tim Lincecum's underrated season just before he no-hit the Padres.  Yep, I guess you could say it was a pretty darn perfect first half for the ol' Shukster...uh, except for writing off Ian Desmond or thinking Chase Headley's slump was no big deal.  The moral of the story is, I'm a human coin flip.  Actually, if I was a human coin flip, I'd usually come up heads due to my giant cranium.  Seriously, I can't wear adjustable ballcaps even if they're on the last notch on the strap.  It's a curse.  Forget my being a human coin flip, I'm really a human bobblehead doll.

Enough of that nonsense.  Let's look at this week's advanced metric All-Stars and No-Stars!

* Porce Of A Different Color.  If it weren't for the Los Anaheim Angels, Rick Porcello would be looked on a lot more favorably by fantasy managers.  Porcello has a 4.80 ERA in 99 1/3 innings, but if you subtract the 16 runs in five innings (!) that Porcello allowed in two starts against the Halos, Porcello's ERA drops down to much more respectable 3.53 mark.  I'm forced to conclude that Porcello has been targeted by a Christopher Lloyd-esque spirit, a la Angels In The Outfield.  For instance, Porcello has a career-best 57.3% ground ball rate this season but also a 15.7% home run rate, so even though he's allowing fewer fly balls, more of them are inexplicably leaving the park.  It's almost as if those flies are being carried over the fence by a winged figure, HMMMM???

Whether it's vengeful spirits or just bad luck, Porcello hasn't caught many breaks this season given that his 3.52 FIP, 3.07 xFIP and 3.15 SIERA all indicate that he should be seeing much better results on the ERA front.  The Tigers righty has posted new career bests in K/9 (7.2), BB/9 (1.7) and K/BB ratio (4.21) but hasn't had much to show for it thanks to a .317 BABIP and a below-average 65.4% strand rate.   Unless the supernatural phenomena continues, I'd expect Porcello to be a solid fantasy contributor in the second half.  He'll likely be available for a cheap price in a fantasy trade or he could even be on the waiver wire.  Since the Tigers don't play the Angels again, you're set.

* Not On A Roll.  It's been a long and distinguished run for Jimmy Rollins as a major fantasy contributor, but at age 34, I think J-Roll is about done.  Rollins is hitting .258/.317/.345 with 38 runs, 30 RBI and just four homers in 403 PA.  It's been a total power outage for Rollins, as his .088 ISO is the 14th-lowest of any player with a qualified number of plate appearnces.  Even his base-stealing has gone to pot, as Rollins is just 9-for-15 in stolen base attempts and he's registering only a 3.8 in Fangraphs' "speed score" statistic, barely half of his 7.4 career total.

Rollins owners have undoubtedly been looking for upgrades for several weeks now and all I can say is keep searching, since there's nothing to suggest that Rollins can turn things around.  He is what he is, a lower-tier shortstop whose former pluses of speed and homers have both seemingly left him.

* Colby Beware.  "Hey, would you be interested in Colby Rasmus?  He only has a .695 OPS against lefties but his .866 OPS against righties is terrific, and since you shuffle your lineup every day, you'll know when the Blue Jays face a southpaw.  Rasmus is having a sneaky-good year, on pace to recapture the promise he showed in his big 2010 season.  He'd help your outfield and since you already have an excess of (insert stat here), you can spare a (insert position here).  Think about it!"  

There, I just provided your sales pitch for your upcoming trade offer.  You openly admit Rasmus' splits, you butter up your rival manager by implying that he's both already smart enough to know about the splits and how to play Rasmus correctly, and you plant the seed about Rasmus' would-be breakout season from three years ago.  The best part is that this description is truthful, as Rasmus has indeed been a great streaming play against right-handed pitching.  That said, move now to sell high on Rasmus.  Almost all of Rasmus' contact rates are down from last year and below his career averages, so I'd say his .344 BABIP indicates that Rasmus has been lucky to find open spaces when he has been making contact.  Not that seasonal splits are a good forecaster, but for his career Rasmus has a .615 OPS after the All-Star Break, for what it's worth.  I'd cut bait on Rasmus now and let another owner deal with his probable regression.  Would you really let my brilliant sales pitch go to waste?  If there was a Pulitzer Prize for trade offer notes....

* Stop.  Hamels Time.  Cole Hamels isn't really having a bad season, but he's just the victim of high expectations (not unlike his team itself).  Like many of you, I drafted Hamels in one of my leagues with the expectation that he'd be a rotation-carrying ace, but the Phillies southpaw has instead performed more like an okay #2 or good #3 starter.  Is it ideal?  No, but it's not like Hamels is being rocked every time out.  It's fine to have just a "solid" ace if the rest of your fantasy rotation has been smartly constructed and hey, Hamels does have a 2.95 ERA over his last eight starts, so maybe his best is yet to come.

Most of Hamels' 2013 peripherals aren't appreciatively different from his past numbers except when it comes to leaving men on base.  While Hamels' 70.8% strand rate is roughly average, Hamels has never been "roughly average" in this category, as he's enjoyed a 76.5% strand rate over his career.  Simply put, more of Hamels' runners are scoring than usual, and that's the likely culprit behind his 4.05 ERA.  Given that his strand rate isn't low by any means, this might simply be a case of Hamels' good luck running out.  If he regains his strand rate mojo, look out, the vintage Hamels might yet re-emerge.  It'd be ridiculous to try and trade Hamels simply because he isn't pitching like a Cy Young candidate so don't even think about throwing Cole Hamels down the Camel Hole.  Basically, it's that pit from Return Of The Jedi, except instead of a Sarlacc, it's a bunch of wild bloodthirsty camels.  You're right, it doesn't make sense.



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