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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: July 25-31

This isn't really an "advanced metric" fantasy tip but I'm just sayin', if you've got any of the Biogenesis suspects on your fantasy roster, you might want to trade them ASAP.  Also, "The Biogenesis Suspects" sounds like an awesome Ray Bradbury novel.  Let's check out this week's fantasy yeas and nays...

* Swishing Well.  Nick Swisher's triumphant return to his home state of Ohio hasn't exactly gone as planned.  Swisher is hitting.242/.345/.397 with 10 homers and 32 RBI through 362 PA, and while injuries have no doubt played a role in these poor numbers, Swisher is still on pace for the second-worst full-season OPS of his career.  (His worst came in his lone season with the White Sox in 2008, so maybe Swisher just hates the AL Central?)

You can't blame bad luck, as Swisher's .290 BABIP is only a bit below average.  You can't blame his walk and strikeout rates, which are close to his career averages.  You can't blame his contact rates, as a few are up and a few are down, but overall he's been pretty much the same across the board.  The problem just seems to be a lack of power, as Swisher's .157 ISO is easily his the lowest of his career.  I wouldn't have predicted such a drop given that Swisher's power was hardly a creation of Yankee Stadium (his home/road splits as a Yankee were pretty even), but it might just be that Swisher is falling off that cliff like so many 32-year-old ballplayers before him.  I drafted Swisher in one of my leagues with the intent of playing him every day as a third outfielder, but I abandoned that plan long ago.  Staple Swisher to your bench (barring a hot streak) and start wondering if Swisher's days as a model of fantasy consistency are through.

* Kuroda ErosionHiroki Kuroda has always been a guy who has enjoyed very solid Major League results despite only okay peripheral stats thanks to below-average strand rates (73.7%) and BABIPs (.278) over his career.  This year, however, he's really pushing it.  Kuroda has both the third-lowest strand rate (81.9%) and ninth-lowest BABIP (.251) of any qualified starter in the league, so his 2.65 ERA isn't quite as impressive when seen through the lens of the advanced metrics --- 3.56 FIP, 3.73 xFIP, 3.88 SIERA.  

For a 38-year-old who pitches in Yankee Stadium, of course, even these numbers are still pretty good.  Kuroda has been an underrated fantasy starter for essentially his entire career in North America and while he won't regress much over the final two months, I'd guess he'll still regress a bit.  If you can package Kuroda and another player together in a trade for a more proven ace, I'd make that move. 

* But You Doesn't Hasta Call Me Johnson!  "How have I gone this long in my fantasy column-writing career without referencing Ray J. Johnson?" is a question nobody should ever ask of themselves.  Anyway, Josh Johnson's fantasy value took another big hit after his poor start against the Dodgers on Monday, and the Blue Jays righty is now owned in just 58% of Yahoo leagues.  So naturally, just when Johnson is at rock bottom, I'm going to suggest you pick him up since there's evidence that he isn't actually as bad as he's seemed for much of the 2013 season.

Johnson has a 63% strand rate and a .338 BABIP, which is partially why his ERA is an ugly 5.66 in real life but his advanced metrics (4.26 FIP, 3.60 xFIP, 3.71 SIERA) are all pretty good.  The issue is that he just cannot stop giving up home runs.  Johnson's HR/FB rate is 15.7%, almost twice his career average, and since he's giving up less than his career average of fly balls, you can't blame it all on the move from Marlins Park to Rogers Centre and the AL East.  I'd take a flyer on Johnson if you're trying to fill an injury in your rotation or if you've been streaming your fifth starter spot, since surely things have to improve for him sooner or later, eh?  Also, "Surely Things Have To Improve, Eh?" is also the motto for the 2013 Blue Jays team.

* Austin City LimitsAustin Jackson is just 26 years old and in his fourth season, so it's still a little early for anyone to outright claim they 'know' what kind of player Jackson will ultimately become.  That said, I think I'm safe in proclaming that Jackson's BABIP-fueled monster of a 2012 season will probably end up being the best power year of his pro career.  The .300/.377/.479 line that Jackson put up last year topped any of his on-base and slugging numbers from the minors, so my fantasy dashboard just started flashing the OUTLIER light.

The wild thing is, Jackson's .371 BABIP from 2012 wasn't even the highest of his Major League career.  The Tigers outfielder has been kissed by the BABIP gods, as he has a whopping .366 BABIP for his career and a .341 mark this season.  Time will tell if Jackson's luck will eventually turn for but now, he's an absolute run-scoring monster atop that Detroit lineup.  Runs are an underrated fantasy statistic and really no different than the others -- if you have a guy who's a beast in one category, you can overlook any deficiencies in the rest.  Jackson is nothing special when it comes to homers, steals or even average, and a hamstring injury has really put a crimp in his base-stealing ability this year.  Still, don't be down on Jackson's performance if you drafted him expecting a repeat of 2012.  Any power you get from him will be a bonus, so just sit back and bask in the....well, I was about to say 'runny goodness,' but that just sounds kind of gross.  Run-scoring goodness?  Yeah, might as well be grammatically-correct.  #EnglishMajor



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