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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: September 12-18

There is precious little time left in the fantasy season so let's get right into looking at a few well-known names who you should be sticking with down the stretch, plus one who you should be thinking about turning into a spot starter...

* Vottomatic For The People  Well folks, your pal Mark suffered a tough beat in one of his head-to-head leagues.  I finished a gross 12th in the standings, thus putting me well outside of the eight-team postseason bracket.  Since it's a 16-team league with 14 everyday starting lineup positions, my strategy has been to always count on a few key superstars to carry a team that (sadly) usually ends up needing a lot of waiver wire reinforcements over the course of a season.  Over these critical last few weeks, my cornerstone stars let me down, including none other than my first-round pick, Joey Votto.

Now, while Votto didn't produce enough to keep me in the race, this isn't to say that you should be benching him.  Far from it.  Over his last 133 PA entering Tuesday's action, Votto has posted a .216/.391/.412 slash line with five homers, 12 RBI and 13 runs scored.  So yeah, it's not exactly a *bad* month aside from the batting average, which can be explained by Votto's .246 BABIP over the last 30 days.  If anything, Votto is just a victim of his own high standards.  As I noted last week about Felix Hernandez, benching a superstar since they're "cold" is going to backfire on you more often than not.  A star's slump may seem dire if you're relying on them to carry your entire fantasy lineup, but odds are they're still more productive than most.  For example, if you benched Votto in disgust after he went 0-for-10 over two games against the Cardinals on Sept. 4-5, you missed him rack up six hits in his next four games.

* A.J. All Day  These are heady times for the Pirates and their fans, and basically the only downside for the Buccos right now is that ace A.J. Burnett has been a bit shaky lately.  If you're a Burnett owner who has reaped the benefits of the righty's impressive year, don't be worried that your man's initials are going from "A Jewel" to "All Junk."  Burnett has a 5.02 ERA over his last five starts and yet his peripherals are roughly the same as they've been all year long.  In fact, the advanced metrics (2.45 FIP, 3.01 xFIP) suggest the bounces simply haven't been going Burnett's way as of late.  Don't be worried about the 36-year-old Burnett running out of gas late in the season, as this is a guy who has averaged 202 IP over the last five years.  Burnett is still a must-start fantasy option down the stretch and it also gives you a bit of a vicarious thrill in rooting along with the feel-good Pirates, doesn't it?....uh, unless you're a Cardinals or Reds fan.

* C.J. No Way  I swear, I didn't plan this as an "all-initial" gimmick, it just happened!  C.J. Wilson is 3-0 with a 3.13 ERA over his last five starts but don't be fooled, the CeeJ has been dodging more bullets than Neo.  He's allowed almost as many walks (14) as strikeouts (18) over those last 31 2/3 innings, and he owns a 4.97 FIP and 4.94 xFIP over that stretch.  Wilson has been bailed out by an 84.9% strand rate, which is pretty unlikely to continue for much longer.  Wilson is the kind of pitcher who's ideally a fourth or fifth fantasy starter in the best of times, so if I was a Wilson owner, I'd be ignoring the recent results and being very careful with his starts the rest of the way.  If he's facing the Astros, sure.  If he's facing the Rangers, hold the phone. 

* Santana The Man-na  The ballots are in, and Carlos Santana is the BABIP-Buster of the Week.  This isn't a "bench-or-play?" situation since only a grade-A clown would bench a top-tier fantasy catcher like Santana down the stretch drive, but I just wanted to give a tip of the cap to the Cleveland backstop for putting up a huge fantasy month despite a .224 BABIP over his last 109 PA.  That number isn't doing Santana's average any favors, but overall, he's hitting .244/.394/.488 with six homers, 15 RBI and 15 runs over that stretch. 

Santana is thus far taking full advantage of the fact that the Tribe's September schedule is mighty weak, so there's a good chance that he'll keep this up and win himself a number of fantasy playoff MVP trophies.  In fact, I have Santana myself in one of my leagues, and it's no coincidence that I'm in a battle for first place that may go right down to the final day of the season.  He's such a big part of my team that even writing about his hot streak is probably a huge jinx....uh oh, wait....

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