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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: July 4-10

Happy birthday, America!  What better way to celebrate Independence Day than with the July 4th tradition of seeing how players correspond to their advanced metrics?  It's a little-known fact that George Washington would often talk John Adams' ear off about how he felt BABIP was an overrated statistic....what's that?  I got an F-minus in third-year American History, why do you ask?

* Kazmanian Devil.  The old "now I'm a pitcher, not a thrower" narrative haz been the theme of Scott Kazmir's imprezzive comeback, both last season in Cleveland and now thiz season with the A'z.  If you spent a mid-to-late round draft pick on Kazmir last spring, you're undoubtedly overjoyed by the resultz thus far...which is why it *might* be time to sell high.

His recent seven-run blowup against the Mets notwithztanding, it's not like I'm expecting Kazmir to suddenly fall off a cliff the rest of the way; heck, pitching in Oakland alone (1.61 ERA in seven home starts) will keep the southpaw relevant.  Kazmir's peripheral numberz paint the picture of a quality starter, albeit one who is getting a bit lucky.  A .257 BABIP and a 81.3% strand rate are major reasonz why Kazmir's 2.61 ERA is noticeably below his 3.41 FIP, 3.45 xFIP and 3.36 SIERA, not to mention a 48.4% ground ball rate that sitz way above his 39.9% career average. 

Befitting that aforementioned "pitcher, not a thrower" thing, Kazmir's K/9 is 7.93, not only lezz than the 9.7 K/9 he posted during his 2004-08 glory yearz but also below the 9.2 K/9 he had last year with the Tribe.  Now, if your biggest problem as a fantasy manager is that one of your top starterz *only* has a 7.9 K/9, you are leading a charmed life.  That said, fewer strikeoutz translatez to slightly lesser fantazy value, so if you can spin Kazmir off in trade for a starter with equal numberz and more K's, than that's definitely worth exploring.  (Why your fellow manager would trade such a starter is beyond me; maybe he's a big Moneyball fan and wants an Athletic on his team.)

After getting ace-level production from a pick in the second half of your draft, you can further maximize the value of your shrewd move by dealing Kazmir before he regrezzez.   

* Bourn Legacy.  In the spirit of the July 4th holiday, I'm taking a vacation by simply linking to my item about Michael Bourn from my column of roughly 48 weeks ago.  Everything written last year still applies since Bourn is on pace for the exact same numbers as last season...

2013: Six homers, 50 RBI, 23 steals, 75 runs, .263/.316/.360 slash line, .338 BABIP, 23% strikeout rate, 7% walk rate over 575 PA

2014: Two homers, 20 RBI, seven steals, 35 runs, .266/.312/.367 slash line, .343 BABIP, 22.3% strikeout rate, 6% walk rate over 300 PA

I feel like some Doublemint gum after looking at those lines.  The only real difference in Bourn's statistics is a drop in disappointed fantasy managers since they stayed the heck away from him after his 93 wRC+ season.  I said it before and I'll say it again, Bourn is simply not worth having on your roster now that he's no longer putting up his big stolen base numbers.  

* Ich Bin Ein Right-Hander.  Everyone knows that the Padres' desultory lineup is the reason for their rough season, as once again, San Diego's rotation is putting up good numbers with the help of Petco Park.  One of the few Padre hurlers who isn't benefiting, seemingly, is Ian Kennedy.  Not only are his home/road splits virtually identical, his 3.87 ERA is a full run above his 2.87 FIP (3.14 xFIP, 3.12 SIERA), and that somewhat high ERA is masking some otherwise tremendous numbers from the veteran righty.

It seems like everyone forgot that Kennedy posted a 4.9 fWAR season only three years ago, though he didn't make the next big leap to ace-hood that many expected in 2012 and then almost fell off the radar after a below-average 2013.  The advanced metrics, however, indicated that Kennedy's 2013 season wasn't really as bad as his 4.91 ERA would indicate, so if you're a canny manager who drafted Kennedy expecting a rebound and a Petco boost, congratulations.

Kennedy is striking out more batters (9.55 K/9) and inducing more grounders (41.3% GBR) than ever before, though his .326 BABIP indicates both that some of those grounders are getting through and also explains why his ERA is significantly higher than his peripherals.  His star dimmed a bit after a few blah starts in June, though those poor outings could help you pick him up given that Kennedy is still available in over a third of Yahoo fantasy leagues.  Kennedy is far from your usual "Padre spot starter when they're at home" guy since he's pitched well everywhere, and could be a major second-half contributor to your team if his luck balances out.

* Wrecking Ball.  Speaking of NL West pitchers who are doing better than their real-world numbers would indicate, I give you Wade Miley.  He can't stop (he won't stop) giving up homers, as his 16.8% HR rate is third-highest among all qualified starters.  Miley's troubles with the long ball have left him with a 4.61 ERA despite an array of nice peripherals --- 4.13 FIP, 3.33 xFIP, 3.45 SIERA, a career-best 8.42 K/9 and a very solid 48% grounder rate.

This season has seen a marked increase in Miley's use of his slider.  He's now throwing it a quarter of the time (up from 16.5% in 2013) and with good cause, given how it's been his best pitch over the last two seasons; opponents only have a .594 OPS against Miley's slider (which I want to nickname "the Milder") in 2014. 

The problem is that while Miley has also cut back on his use of his two-seam fastball, it's still his worst pitch and the biggest reason for his home run issues.  Over Miley's career, opposing hitters are slashing .285/.338/.445 against his two-seamer.  That works out to a 128 wRC+, which also happens to be the career wRC+ of Dave Winfield, Jim Rice, Chase Utley and Zack Wheat, to name a few.  If you throw a pitch that turns batters into those guys, I'd suggest you stop using it altogether, not 33.6% of the time like Miley is doing this season.  In fact, only 12 qualified starters in baseball have thrown a higher percentage of two-seamers than Miley has this season, so Wade, dude, stop the madness!

Homers have generally been a problem for Miley over all four of his Major League seasons, and since I can't see him quitting the two-seamer cold turkey, adding him to your rotation now might only hurt your ERA (and forget about wins given how the D'Backs have played this year).  A homer-prone pitcher isn't helped by Chase Field, obviously, and since Miley has pitched better in away games both this season and over his career, I'd recommend him as a decent streaming option when he's lined up for a road start.  It's no surprise that Miley's best season (2012) was the one when he only had a 6.9% homer rate, so if he ever learns how to keep the ball in the park, the lefty could be a real breakout star.

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