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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: Aug. 29-Sept. 4

What's that?   You want to know how I'm doing in my fantasy leagues?  Oh, thanks for asking, you're too kind!  In my five leagues, I'm currently sitting 4th and 10th in my head-to-head leagues (position is kind of moot just as long as you're in the playoffs) and in my roto leagues I'm in 3rd, 5th and....ugh, 11th.  That's the league I'm in with all my old buddies from my hometown, so I'm going to hear a lot of trash talk over the winter and/or offers to take over the writing of this column.

The biggest reason I'm not leading all five leagues is because I follow my advice from these columns mostly just bad luck, I figure.  My fantasy BABIP is probably no bigger than .220 for the season, plus my strand rate is through the roof.  Yes, that's the ticket.  All just bad luck.  Anyway, for those of you who still have a shot in most/all/any of your leagues, here's a peek into the peripherals....

Bend It Like Gordon  With "Gordon" being such a British-sounding name, you'd think the British soccer legend would be named "Gordon Beckham" and the American baseballer would be "David Beckham" rather than the other way around, wouldn't it?  (And if it was just "Gord Beckham," he'd be Canadian.)  That's just one bit of misfortune that has befallen the White Sox second baseman in life.  Another is the .255 BABIP he's carried around for the last month that is primarily responsible for his .245/.336/.368 line over his last 29 games.  I do like Beckham as a sleeper for your last fantasy month and since he's available in a measly 11% of Yahoo leagues, you'll likely to able to add him for nothing.

Beckham has shown glimpses of his vaunted potential, and while he hasn't truly broken out, he's at least been on the radar.  Beckham has enjoyed a couple of hot streaks (including a .303/.337/.447 line over in 20 July games) and he's doing a better job of putting bat to ball, increasing his contact rate to a personal high of 86.4% and cutting his strikeout rate to a career-low 12.4% this season.  This increased contact has been apparent even in the last month of struggle, as Beckham has actually had a higher walk rate (9.8%) to strikeout rate (9.0%).  If this better contact manifests itself into some more balls finding empty spaces in September, Beckham will be a nice little boost to your 2B/MI situation.

We Called The Dog 'Indiana'  I'm not going to argue with my Roto Authority colleague Alex Steers McCrum when he suggests that you should pick up Junior Lake.  Given Lake's numbers and his multi-positional value at third base and outfield, he certainly has enough momentum for you to take a flier on him.  What I wouldn't do, however, is expect Lake Superior when you're more likely to get Lake E(e)rie.

/pauses for laughter

/none comes

Ahem, uh, okay.  Since Lake made his Major League debut on July 19, he has hit an impressive .312/.345/.459 in 166 PA, with four homers and 16 runs.  While this roughly mirrors what he was doing in Triple-A Iowa, however, it should be noted that Lake isn't exactly an elite prospect --- he was rated as only the No. 15 prospect in the Cubs' system by Baseball America's preseason guide.  Not to say that the guy can't pick up his game, but this isn't a case of a touted phenom bursting onto the scene.  Turning to the advanced metrics, Lake has only a 68.1% contact rate, an ugly 0.18 BB/K ratio and a whopping .391 BABIP that is letting him get away with his lack of consistency at the plate.  As I said earlier, it's fair game to pick Lake up since hey, stranger things have happened than a guy retaining BABIP luck over a couple of months.  That said, if you own Lake now and your league's trade deadline hasn't passed yet, you should definitely try to sell high.  If you can work "T-t-t-t TODAY, Junior!" in your trade pitch, all the better.

Half-Eagle, Half-Lion, All-Homer  It has to be frustrating being an A.J. Griffin owner given the right-hander's propensity for shooting himself in the foot.  Over the last 30 days Griffin has allowed precious few hits (.210 BABIP), stranded an above-average number of his runners (79.7%) and yet he has just a 4.33 ERA to show for it.  In fact, despite those nice peripherals, Griffin actually should be doing worse given his 6.37 FIP and 5.25 xFIP.  

The problem is Griffin's tendency to allow home runs.  He's allowed a league-leading 32 longballs this season, nine of them in the last month alone for a 2.29 HR/9 since July 29.  These are high numbers for anyone, especially a guy who pitches his home games in the Coliseum.  Griffin has had good peripheral luck all season (.243 BABIP, 77.5% strand rate) which has been the only thing keeping him from having a worse home run rate than Charlie Brown.

Since throwing a complete game shutout against the Reds on June 26, Griffin has a 4.55 ERA over his last 11 starts.  It's a tough call to just outright release a guy whose overall numbers (3.94 ERA, 2.79 K/BB ratio, 134 strikeouts in 169 IP) are pretty good but if you're heading into a playoff situation in your fantasy league, you don't want to have That Guy on your staff who gets shelled in his one start in a week and single-handedly blows up your ERA category for the matchup.  Griffin is another guy who I'd quietly be shopping in the final days before your trade deadline.

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