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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: September 5-11

With the fantasy baseball season nearing a close, here are some last-minute add/drop/bench/keep playing recommendations based on advanced metrics.  Your shot at a league title could very well hinge on these very tips.  We're through the looking glass here, people.

* Long Live The King.  It seems like a waste of bandwidth to even bother writing "keep starting Felix Hernandez" since, well, duh, it's Felix Hernandez.  Panicky owners who are approaching fantasy playoffs, however, might consider dropping their ace as a pre-emptive measure given that King Felix has pitched more like King Joffrey over the last month.  After all, we live in a world where even Justin Verlander is susceptible to being dropped

Hernandez is an ugly 1-5 with a 6.42 ERA over his last six starts, but whereas Verlander has had a few warning signs for a couple of months now, I can safely chalk Felix's bad form up to simply poor luck.  The big ERA is fueled by a .350 BABIP and 54.6% strand rate, as Hernandez's advanced stats (3.25 FIP, 3.19 xFIP, 3.47 SIERA) show that the Mariners stud has pitched just slightly worse than usual in his last six outings.  King Felix could snap back into form at any time, and you just KNOW that if you drop him in your league, he'll immediately fire off four consecutive no-hitters.  Don't be That Guy who outsmarts himself and costs himself a league title by dropping an A-lister after one cold spell.

* Double Dutch.  If you want to worry about an AL West starter, try Derek Holland.  The Rangers southpaw lasted just 4 2/3 innings against the A's in his last start, an outing that could mark the beginning of a rough patch.  Holland has a 2.63 ERA over his last six starts but a .227 BABIP, 87.2% strand rate, 4.52 FIP, 4.33 xFIP and 4.48 SIERA indicate that he's been getting away with some dodgy pitching.  Control has been the biggest problem over that six-start stretch -- Holland's BB/9 has ballooned to 4.54, well above his season average of 2.97.

I'm not saying you should cut Holland, but maybe just strategically sit him against certain opponents.  His next start against the Angels could be an example, as he has been rocked by the Halos throughout his career.  Holland has delivered just a step behind ace-level numbers all year long but he doesn't have the track record of someone like Hernandez when it comes to just dismissing slumps as slumps and not potentially worrying trends.

* Ruf Ryders' Anthem.  There haven't been many bright sides for Phillies fans this season, but if you love the Phils and love fantasy bargains, at least you might've gotten on the Darin Ruf bandwagon early.  The right-handed hitting Ruf has hit .254/.347/.509 with 12 homers over 199 PA for Philadelphia, with a weird reverse-splits trend of hitting righties hard (.934 OPS) and withering against lefties (.600 OPS, albeit in only 51 PA). 

Despite this nice power display, Ruf is owned in just 20 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues.  I'd recommend him as a cheap pickup for your September stretch drive despite a few worrying trends.  Ruf has been almost all power over the last month, with a whopping .302 ISO (sixth-highest in the majors over the last 30 days) and only a .219/.290/.521 line.  That said, his BABIP over that same stretch was only .231, so there's certainly room for growth.  Pick up Ruf, give him a few strategic starts in your outfield or at first base against certain pitchers, and enjoy some hot and tasty homers fresh off the waiver wire.  Ahhh, is there anything sweeter than waiver wire power?



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