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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: September 19-25

It occurs to me that in the Harry Potter universe, where Quidditch reigns supreme as the most popular sport of the wizarding world, that there must be fantasy Quidditch leagues.  And, by extension, there must be fantasy Quidditch websites that pour deep into the advanced metrics to let you know who the top Chasers and Seekers REALLY are.  And, by extended extension, there must be a wizarding me who is writing his weekly column as we speak, and wondering if there's some Muggle out there who bothers to write about that curious non-magical sport of baseball.

Whatever.  Let's leave behind the world of fantasy and get into the world of....uh, fantasy to examine the LAST FULL WEEK OF THE FANTASY SEASON!!!!  AUUUUUUUGH! 

Garza The Garzarian  Like his Ghostbusters sorta-namesake, Matt Garza goes by many names.  "Garza The Traveler" fits because he has already pitched for four clubs in his career and been rumored to be dealt to a dozen others.  "Garza The Destructor" may fit if you're a Rangers fan and you're blaming Garza as one of the key reasons why your team is having another September collapse.  Garza has a 4.94 ERA in 11 starts with Texas, not at all what the Rangers were expecting when they acquired the righty from the Cubs before the trade deadline.  Fantasy owners also weren't thrilled to see their guy go from the NL Central to the American League, let alone one of the most hitter-friendly stadiums in baseball.

If you've stuck with Garza this long, do you dare let him start if you're in a key fantasy playoff situation?  I'd bite the bullet and say yes.  Garza has an even 6.00 ERA over his last six starts, but his advanced metrics (3.74 FIP, 3.28 xFIP, 3.47 SIERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.00 BB/9) are quite good, and in fact, even better than his career averages.  It's just that Garza hasn't struck any oil in Texas; he has a .350 BABIP over those last six outings, not to mention a 57.8% strand rate, the second-lowest of any qualified starting pitcher over the last 30 days.  His next two starts are against the Royals on the road and against the Angels at home, so not exactly easy matchups, but Garza by all rights should be delivering a much more stable ERA than his real-life numbers would indicate.  Give him at least one more start before writing him off as a giant marshmallow.

Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly K-E-L-L-Y, Why?  Because his peripherals aren't good, that's why.  Cardinals righty Joe Kelly has been a solid contributor in wins (eight in his last 10 starts) and ERA (2.74) since becoming a full-time starting pitcher, including throwing five shutout innings against the Rockies at Coors Field last night.  That's pretty impressive, but there's a lot to be wary about when it comes to Mr. Kelly.  Heading into the Rockies start, Kelly had a 4.46 FIP, 4.26 xFIP and 4.42 SIERA over his last five starts --- that's much more concerning than his 2.48 ERA over the same span.  Kelly doesn't strike many batters out (a 5.28 K/9 and 3.41 BB/9), and even in that Rockies victory, he recorded exactly zero punchouts and two walks over his five innings. 

Kelly has enjoyed an 88.5% strand rate over the last month, even more comically high than his 84.4% seasonal total.  You could argue that Kelly has been lucky all year, so why quit now, but his next start will come against the red-hot Nationals, so that might be reason enough to turn to another spot starter if you need some rotation help in your league's final days.

Cuckoo For Coco  The preseason fantasy expectations for Coco Crisp were simple.  He was the guy who'd be your third outfielder and base-stealing specialist, not a guy who'd be relied on to provide any real pop outside of a maybe a decent batting average and a decent amount of runs.  As it happened, Crisp has only swiped 19 bags this year after averaging 40 steals over the previous three seasons....but he's making up for it with one of his very best hitting seasons.  All at age 33, too.

Crisp took a .257/.328/.432 batting line into Tuesday's action, has already set a new career high in homers (19), and is well on pace to shatter his previous career high for runs; Crisp scored 86 times in 2005 and already has 83 runs this season.  He's really turned on the power as of late, as his nine homers over the last 30 days is the third-highest total in baseball over that stretch.  Crisp has hit .287/.327/.614 over that period and that's with a .250 BABIP, so you can't even say he's lucking out and hitting them where they ain't.  Well, okay, technically he is, since "over the fence" counts as "where they ain't."  And I'm not talking about fielders, I'm talking about Oakland fans!  #Zinger

I'm prone to write off Crisp's power surge as a bit of good fortune, but his low BABIP hints at even more production if he starts getting the bounces.  This seems hard to believe, but Crisp is still available in 20% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.  If you're in one of those leagues, act now to add one of the league's hottest bats to your roster.




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