Proof Is In The Peripherals


The Proof Is In The Peripherals: May 23-29

Here's this week's look beyond the standard numbers to see which players are at their fantasy peak, have yet to begin their ascent, or are simply Powersaucing along at their expected rate.

Send Him To The Island  Despite the fact that there's a somewhat more important figure in world history that shares the name, I can't hear the name "Locke" without thinking of the iconic Lost character played by Terry O'Quinn.  Without spoiling any plot details (though the show ended three years ago people, get watching!), I'll just say that Lost's Locke appears to be a strong character on the exterior but he's hiding some serious demons within, and his facade slips more and more as the series progresses.  It might not be a bad metaphor for the season of Pirates southpaw Jeff Locke, who has put NL hitters on lockdown (puns!) over nine starts this season.  Lost's Locke, being a man of faith, would probably put no stock in these advanced statistics, but if you're a Jack Shepherd-esque man of science, the advanced metrics might make you think twice about adding the Bucs lefty to your fantasy roster.

Locke has a 2.73 ERA and is only allowing 6.7 H/9, but that's about where the good-looking stats end.  Locke's strikeout and walk rates are nothing special (5.47 K/9 and 3.76 BB/9) and his peripheral metrics indicate that his ERA should be much higher; his FIP/xFIP/SIERA slash line is an across-the-board mediocre 4.48/4.45/4.75.  The left-hander has an 82.5% strand rate and a .224 BABIP, so it's just a matter of time before his Loc...uh, his luck runs out.  I myself streamed Locke for two starts last week and got good results, but I quit while I was ahead and dropped him as soon as that second outing was in the books.  If you still have Locke, see if you can sell high while he's still seen as a wise boar-hunter rather than a button-pushing nut in an underground chamber.

Better In The Next Life, Brotha?  I swear, I didn't intend to go with a Lost theme for this week's column but after noting a guy named Locke, I'm now going to focus on a guy named Desmond.  Pretty freaky, brotha.  Anyway, for a team as stat-savvy as the Rays, you wonder how long they're going to keep putting up with Desmond Jennings in the leadoff spot.  Jennings profiles as your ideal leadoff man --- his minor league numbers promised a player who could get on base, steal bases and even provide double-digit homer power.  While Jennings has delivered with his limited pop and stole 31 bases in 2012, he still hasn't shown much overall progress as a hitter.  After batting just .246/.314/.388 in his first full season, Jennings has actually taken a slight step back this year, with just a .241/.301/.392 line going into Tuesday's action.  Also troubling is the fact that Jennings has only six steals in nine attempts, so the "well, he'll still give me help in the stolen base category" argument doesn't carry much weight.

Jennings is still among the league leaders in runs, as even a .300 OBP player will score pretty often if he's atop the Rays' suddenly-potent lineup.  That on-base percentage and a 22.8% strikeout rate, however, doth not a leadoff hitter make, and Joe Maddon is the kind of manager who won't hesitate to juggle his lineup if he isn't getting results from a player.  Jennings might yet become that kind of well-rounded average/power/run-scoring/speed threat that fantasy owners covet, but I don't think the breakout will happen in 2013.

Don't Mess With DeJesus  David DeJesus took five homers, 24 runs and a .294/.364/.507 line into Tuesday's action and the 33-year-old is on pace for what would easily be his best Major League season.  While I don't think DeJesus will keep up his .872 OPS, I do think he'll continue to be a productive fantasy option, though this is old news to owners in daily-lineup leagues.  DeJesus has always hit well against right-handed pitching (.821 career OPS against righties) and is a great guy to have on your fantasy roster if you're in a league that allows you to sit him whenever he's against a southpaw (career .667 OPS against left-handers).  

Since the Cubs are sticking to a strict platoon with DeJesus, he'll be put in every opportunity to succeed and not have to worry about those confidence-sapping at-bats against lefties.  If you rode DeJesus' hot streak and are now looking to sell, what's the hurry?  One caveat against DeJesus is that he's pretty likely to be traded this summer since the Cubs are going nowhere and are apt to move veterans as part of their rebuilding process.  His production could see a dip in a less hitter-friendly park than Wrigley Field or if he needed time to adjust to his new surroundings, but unless you yourself start playing DeJesus every day, I don't expect a trade would greatly diminish his fantasy value.

Don't Toss The Hos  As a rule, I generally avoid picking up top prospects unless they're just truly special (i.e. Mike Trout) or if one of my starters goes on the DL the same day that a touted youngster happens to get called up to the bigs.  It was for this reason that I stayed away from Eric Hosmer in every single one of my fantasy leagues, and watched bemusedly as the Royals first baseman was taken ahead of several more proven first sackers.  Other managers saw a heralded prospect; I just saw a 23-year-old who had a .663 OPS and didn't give any indication that he was ready for a breakout.  My concerns have thus far been well-founded --- Hosmer is hitting .271/.342/.347 with one measly homer in 161 PA. 

So with this all being said, I'm now about to recommend that you keep Hosmer.  Whaaa?  I wouldn't start him at 1B by any means, but he's worth keeping on the bench in case he starts putting things together.  Hosmer's main issue is that lack of power, as he's hitting nearly three times as many grounders as fly balls and his 19.5% flyball rate is well below his 28.6% career average.  Granted, the "career average" is only from two prior seasons of information but still, you'd think Hosmer will eventually start getting the ball in the air.  His line drive rate is actually up (23%) from his first two seasons and his contact rates are only a couple of percentage points below his career averages, so there is evidence that Hosmer can get going as long as he cuts out the worm-burners.



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: May 16-22

Given the month, it only makes sense to pay tribute to Curtis Mayfield with this week's category titles.  I didn't use "Talking About My Baby" since I dunno, as much as we root for our fantasy players, referring to them as my babies feels a little weird.  Maybe it'll happen if Vince Vaughn's character from Swingers ever takes over this column, though then the focus will switch from fantasy baseball to NHL 94 player analysis.

Anyway, I'm babbling.  Let's get to this week's notes...

Keep On Keepin' On: Norichika Aoki.  Basically the only flaw I can point to in Aoki right now is his mediocre steal rate (four CS in 10 attempts this season) but unless you're in a league that penalizes getting thrown out, Aoki is a force right now.  He's hitting .299/.377/.445 with 21 runs scored and even four homers, a performance that stands out all the more considering that Aoki really was pretty ice-cold in April after a big opening week. 

I'm tempted to consider that Aoki is too streaky to be counted on for consistent fantasy performance, but even at his worst he's still getting on base and scoring a ton of runs atop Milwaukee's lineup.  Last season's 30 steal performance might be too much to ask for again (Aoki stole 45 bases combined in his last three years in Japan) but as a run-scoring, high-average, high-OBP third outfielder, Aoki is your man.  If he does pick up his theft rate, it's all gravy.

Hard Times: Jay Bruce.  I've never been a big Bruce fan in fantasy ball* simply because he's not a reliable everyday outfielder given his poor career splits away from Great American Ballpark (.710 OPS) and against left-handers (.748 OPS).  These splits were still apparent last season when Bruce his a career-best 34 homers and 99 RBI, numbers that no doubt led him to be drafted a few rounds higher than he should've this past spring.

* = huge Bruce fan in music, however.  His concert with the E Street Band in Toronto last August was maybe the best concert I've ever seen in my life.  Three-and-a-half hours of music!  29 songs!  A 40-minute encore!  No, I'm not getting off-topic, Springsteen and baseball go together hand in hand!  He sings about a speedball in "Glory Days" which is totally a real pitch.  Sure.  Whatever. 

Bruce owners are paying for their mistake now.  The Reds right fielder has just three homers to go with a .258/.306/.403 line entering Tuesday's action, plus a league-worst 52 strikeouts.  He's simply having trouble getting the bat on the ball right now, as evidenced by the fact that he's swinging at more pitches than ever (52.5%, up from his career 48.7%) and connecting on a career-low 78.8% of pitches in the strike zone, well below his 84.3% career average.  Moving Bruce now would definitely qualify as a sell-low situation but there's evidence Bruce could sink even lower; his BABIP is a whopping .365.  When the balls are falling your way over six weeks and you're STILL not hitting, that's a bad sign.

Future Shock: Matt Moore.  The Rays southpaw had a textbook quality start on Tuesday, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks over six innings, striking out eight Red Sox batters in the process.  You could say that three runs was a lot of damage given how impressive the rest of Moore's line was, perhaps making this the first time that Moore hasn't been kissed by Lady Luck during a start. 

Moore entered his start with a 2.14 ERA in real life but a lot of shaky peripherals --- a 4.46 FIP, 4.23 xFIP, 4.23 SIERA, 4.9 BB/9 and a BABIP of just .196.  Let's also not overlook his 96.1% strand rate, which is comically high even for a strikeout pitcher like Moore.  Roto Authority's Alex Steers McCrum noted Moore as a sell-high candidate even a few weeks ago, so there's still time to move him for some nice value before he finally comes back to earth.  It's not like Moore even pitched that badly against Boston but perhaps it's the beginning of his regression period.  Better that Moore regresses on someone else's roster, not yours.

Move On Up: Edwin Jackson.  It's pretty apparent by now that the universe hates the Cubs, so it's par for the course that their big $52MM offseason signing is 1-5 with a 6.02 ERA through his first eight starts in the blue pinstripes.  Jackson is one of those guys who I've always felt was properly rated by fantasy owners --- sure, there's a general sense he should have pitched better over the years, yet most fantasy owners have viewed Jackson as a back-of-the-rotation guy even when he's at top form. 

Therefore, if you've somehow stuck with Jackson as your fifth man despite his brutal numbers, you're probably making a mistake given how you can always find a decent fifth starter (even a short-term streamer) on the waiver wire....yet your mistake won't harm you since Jackson should be able to turn this around.  Jackson's ugly ERA has been inflated by bad luck in the form of a .333 BABIP and a 54.7% strand rate, as his FIP/xFIP/SIERA line is a much more reasonable 3.50/3.70/3.90.  Maybe Matt Moore is stealing all of Jackson's good fortune.

It's a fair assumption that Jackson will soon be back doing his usual Edwin Jackson things, so if you've shown this much patience with a replaceable fifth starter, you might as well hang onto him and reap some benefits.  Of course, this all becomes moot if the Cubs relegate Jackson to the bullpen, since really, you get so few opportunities in life to have a $52MM long reliever.  #GoatCurse



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: May 9-15

I'm sure leagues like this already exist but man, wouldn't it be trippy to play in a league that only counted advanced metrics?  Forget about homers, runs, wins or ERA....this theoretircal League Of Fortune would only be scored on BABIP, SIERA, FIP, etc.  No longer would you complain only how your fantasy team "should" be doing, but rather, you could say things like, "man, my fantasy team should Should be doing better!" and be both correct and sounding like an idiot at the same time.  If only, if only. 

Anyway, speaking of being correct and sounding like an idiot, here is your weekly dose of statistical analysis delivered in my usual buffoonish manner.

Thine Eyes Deceive You: Starling Marte.  The young Pirates star was leading the league in hits entering Tuesday's play but was also near the top of the charts in another, more telling category --- Marte's .398 BABIP is a sign that some regression is on its way.  For all Marte's gifts, he was never a big on-base guy even in the minors so once his grounders stop finding holes and his fly balls stop leaving the yard at a 20.8% rate, Marte is due for some hard times.  The good thing is, though, Marte's prospect pedigree and his good stolen base numbers should make him a very solid piece of trade bait; just don't go overboard and try to move Marte for an established superstar outfielder. 

Of course, from a pity standpoint, I hope Marte keeps it going all year long, since Pirates fans deserve some good luck after the last couple of decades.  One can't escape facts, however, and thus I hate to say that Marte's awesome start to the season seems destined to fizzle out.  You might say that a big season for Marte...(puts on sunglasses) isn't in the stars.  YEAHHHHHH

Move It Along, Nothing To See Here: Mike Moustakas.  In fact, if Bucs fans want to see a worst-case scenario for what the rest of Marte's 2013 campaign could look like, take a gander at the Moose.   The Royals third baseman got off to a great start in 2012, posting a .909 OPS through April, but slowly declined throughout the rest of the season.  He held it together for a respectable .749 OPS over the next two months and then really hit the skids, hitting just .221/.264/.357 over his last 77 games and finishing with a .296 OBP for the season.  The new season hasn't provided a fresh start, as Moustakas has just a .565 OPS in 2013. 

Plate discipline is one of the hardest skills for young hitters to master and don't forget, Moustakas is just 24 years old --- he might need a little more seasoning before you (or the Royals) can count on him as a reliable everyday option.  If you drafted Moustakas hoping he'd figure it out this season, I'd cut bait now and look elsewhere at the hot corner.  I say this despite the fact that Moustakas actually has a career-best (at any level) 9.6% walk rate and his BABIP is only .218 but I question if these are signs of a forthcoming breakout this season or just signs that Moustaskas will eventually be a worthwhile big leaguer down the road.  I mean, as Alex Gordon taught us, Royals prospects have to break our hearts for at least three or four years before finally delivering, right?

Move It Along, Nothing To See Here (Besides Something): Anthony Rizzo.  There was a mass evacuation of the Rizzo bandwagon a couple of weeks ago when the Cubs first baseman was hitting a measly .173/.256/.420 following the Cubs' 4-3 win over the Marlins on April 25.  Rizzo proceeded to post a 1.350 OPS over his next 48 PA, however, so I think we can safely hold off on calling Rizzo a bust and, I dunno, blaming Steve Bartman for it, somehow.  Rizzo should finish the year somewhere in the .850-.900 OPS range, since while his 23.7% home run rate is sure to come down, the fact that he's hitting more fly balls overall (a rather large 42.7%) won't hurt him much in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.  Throw in the homers, throw in a healthy walk rate that will be helped by a healthy dose of free passes (I mean, have you SEEN the rest of the Cubs lineup?) and Rizzo should be good to go for the rest of the season.  My only hesitation is that I'd sit him against a quality left-handed starter, so hopefully you have a decent first base backup on your fantasy roster. 

Look Closer: David Price.  If you're a Price owner who is beginning to panic over your man's 6.25 ERA, breathe easy.  The Cy Young winner's numbers are inflated by two brutal starts against the Indians and Rockies (17 ER over those 11 2/3 IP), a very high .351 BABIP and a 20.5% HR rate that is over twice as large as his career average.  If you go by the advanced metrics, Price's numbers are much less scary -- the Rays southpaw owns a 4.43 FIP, 3.36 xFIP, and a 3.47 SIERA.  Those still aren't quite "elite ace" numbers but Price will very likely be just fine.  There's no need to move him in a panic trade, like, say, dealing Price for Jason Heyward and Jon Niese like one guy in one of my leagues did two weeks ago.  Man, I sure wish I was the lucky manager who snagged Price in that deal...oh wait, I WAS.  *self high-five*



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: May 2-May 8

We're through the first month of the season and thus not quite out of the "hot start" woods just yet.  Here are some players who might be for real and others whose production is as phony as a three-dollar bill.

Winter Is Coming: Wei-Yin Chen.  Many pundits wrote off the Orioles in 2013 given that their success last year was largely attributed to their record-breaking success in one-run games.  No team, it was argued, could possibly be as lucky again.  Well, while the O's haven't kept up their impossible clutchiness in close games (they are 4-5 in one-run games so far this season), Lady Luck is still hanging out with McNulty and the Bunk over in Baltimore.  No team in baseball has a lower team BABIP than the O's, and the rotation's poster boy in this regard is Chen, he of the .226 BABIP.  The Taiwanese southpaw has a sparkling 2.53 ERA over five starts....but he also owns a 3.74 FIP, 5.13 xFIP and a 5.38 SIERA.  He's not striking people out (4.50 K/9) or inducing ground balls (26.3% GBR) so it's just a matter of time before Chen's numbers start reflecting his shaky performance.  Or, the correction will never happen because Buck Showalter is actually a sorcerer. 

We Do Not Sow: Melky Cabrera.  There are a lot of underachievers on the Toronto roster right now but the scary thing for the Jays right now is that the Melk Man isn't really one of them.  Cabrera was hitting .250/.301/.298 going into Tuesday's play and while it's easy to point to his PED suspension as the reason for his lack of power, what we really could be seeing is just a course correction.  Cabrera's BABIP is only slightly below average (.292) and his other numbers generally reflect his career norms.  His stats, in fact, are just a few home runs shy of his stat lines from 2005-2010.  It may be his big two years with the Royals and Giants in 2011-12 that were the real outliers --- Cabrera's BABIP in 2011 was .332 and an enormous .379 in 2012.  You're really selling low on Melky if you're trying to move him right now but let's face it, pre-2011 Melky was not a legit fantasy starter.  You might not want to give Cabrera more than a couple more weeks to see if he can turn it around.

Hear Me Roar: Matt Carpenter.  My love of multi-position players is well-known so naturally, I was all over 1B/2B/3B/OF-eligible Carpenter from day one.  I drafted him in four of my five leagues --- he's a super-sub off the bench in three leagues and in the other he became a starter at second base once he gained eligibility at the position.  The best part about the Carpenter experience is that he can be a legitimate fantasy starter himself, not just a capable fill-in when your regular starters have a day off.  Carpenter is hitting .272/.343/.457 in 104 PA, his BABIP is a very reasonable .306 and his career minor league numbers (.299/.408/.450) suggest that he'll be able to keep producing at the Major League level.  So in short, the Cardinals' farm system is so strong that not only can it generate top prospects on a seemingly annual basis, but now they're able of producing top prospects with the same names as other Cardinals stars who are on the DL.  Way to save on jerseys, St. Louis!  

Growing Strong: Ike Davis.  We still like Ike.  His .180 BABIP is most of the reason for his slow start given that his walk rate (12.6%) and line drive rates (20.4%) are actually both higher than his career averages.  Beyond the peripherals, I'd also say part of the problem could be in the Mets' deployment of Davis, as over a quarter of his PA have come against left-handed pitching this season and Davis' career splits indicate that he is brutal against southpaws.  The Mets obviously are hoping Davis develops into an everyday option for them at first base but your fantasy team doesn't need to operate under this logic.  If you're an Ike owner, keep putting him in your lineup whenever he's facing a righty starter and you'll eventually reap the rewards.



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: April 24-May 1

Time for our weekly look at which players are having some good luck, some bad luck and those whose fortunes are mimicking Jerry Seinfeld's even-steven act.

They're Just Too Good To Be True: Welington Castillo.  Every fantasy owner dreams of drafting a stopgap second catcher in the 20th round or later and then watching in joy as that roster filler delivers a breakout season.  Castillo isn't exactly a total diamond in the rough --- he had some strong minor league numbers and hit .265/.337/.418 in 190 PA in 2012, but obviously, nobody quite expected his current production.  Though 57 PA in this young season, Castillo is hitting .352/.375/.463 and I probably just need to stop right there and point out that small gap between Castillo's average and OBP.  He has taken exactly zero walks and as his .111 ISO suggests, he isn't showing much pop. 

If you're a Castillo owner in a single-catcher roster format, don't get any nutty ideas about trading your (presumably better) starter since you'll be left holding the bag when Castillo comes back to earth.  Keep hiim as your backup or, even better, see if you can swap him to a less-informed manager who doesn't read this column is dazzled by a high batting average.  If you have two starting catchers in your format, I'd also advise seeing if you can sell high and move Castillo for a more proven backstop.

Full disclosure: I may be biased against Castillo simply because of his first name.  I grew up in London, Ontario, where Wellington Road is one of our major streets.  As such, Castillo's lack of a second "L" really sticks in my craw....yeah, this is some REALLY insightful fantasy analysis. 

Don't Take Your Eyes Off Of Them: These are the players whose peripherals match their production, for better or for worse.  Yes, I realize this concept doesn't exactly match the category title but that's the price I pay for trying to shoehorn a Frankie Valli song into a fantasy baseball column. 

Anyway, my "for better" guy this week is Dexter Fowler.  Much has been made about Fowler's red-hot start to the 2013 season and while I don't think he'll continue his current power pace and end up with 50+ homers, there are some intriguing indications that Fowler actually hasn't yet hit his overall stride.  Fowler's production has been almost entirely based around his home runs --- he's hitting .250, his OBP is .348, his BABIP is a shockingly low .211 and his line-drive percentange stands at 20%, down from 27.2% in 2012.  Now, it's worth noting that Fowler posted career-highs in all these categories last year, including a whopping .390 BABIP, so it's quite possible that he's just balancing out a bit.  That said, if Fowler gets the BABIP up to around the usual .300 mark, he'll be an even better hitting force.  

There are two ways to read this, of course.  The negative spin would be that Fowler is actually underperforming, and we're just not seeing it since we're all dazzled by the homers.  I'm not sure this is necessarily the case given the BABIP and the fact that Fowler plays at Coors Field, where logical statistical analysis goes to die.  If you're saying Fowler will be a fantasy liability once his power dips, my counter would be that his power probably won't dip that much given his 81 home games in the thin air.  At worst, Fowler is a must-start every time the Rockies play at home.  At best, he's on pace for a season that will cement him as a fantasy regular, so don't go trading Fowler quite yet thinking he's just an early-season wonder.  

On the flip side of Fowler is Victor Martinez, whose awful start to the season is borne out by the numbers.  V-Mart has only a .190 BABIP and his walk and strikeout rates are roughly around his career norms, but in terms of power, Martinez makes Welington Castillo look like Johnny Bench.  Martinez has just one extra-base hit in 77 PA and his ISO is just .015.  There's a time for "it's early" and "he's having bad luck" and there's also a time for realizing that this is a 34-year-old who is trying to return from a torn ACL that cost him an entire season.  Despite Martinez's strong track record, I would be wary about giving him much more time to prove himself.  If he isn't looking like the old V-Mart after a few more weeks, it's time to bench or even cut him outright.

Hold Them (On Your Roster) So Much: Vance Worley.  The Twins right-hander drew some sleeper buzz during this spring's fantasy drafts as a 25-year-old live arm who was going from hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park to pitcher-friendly Target Field.  Thus far, however, the Vance Vance Revolution has yet to take place.  Worley owners no doubt took a big gulp upon seeing his 7.11 ERA through four starts (rim shot) and dropped him en masse, which is why he is owned in just 3% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.  If you're in an auction league and still have Worley around since he's harder to drop, take heart, since he isn't likely to continue being a drain your pitching numbers for much longer. 

While Worley has the 7.11 ERA, his advanced metrics are much better --- he owns a 3.28 FIP, 4.14 xFIP, and a 4.31 SIERA.  These admittedly aren't great numbers themselves, especially since Worley won't provide big strikeout totals given his career 7.6 K/9.  That said, one metric that is swinging his way is his 0.47 HR/9, which would be a career-best for Worley and likely a direct benefit from the move to Minnesota.  Worley owns the single biggest BABIP (.403) of any pitcher in baseball, so once those balls stop dropping in for hits, Worley's ability to keep the ball in the park would translate to much better results.  The light bulb might've flicked on already given that Worley pitched very well against the White Sox in his most recent start. 



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: April 17-23

"Things might not look good on the surface, but they could be on the upswing if you look closer."  That isn't just the opening line of my online dating profile, but also the mantra of The Proof Is In The Peripherals, which takes a weekly look at the players who are playing better than their 5x5 stats may show, or the players whose numbers look good now but are really just smoke and mirrors.  This week we'll take a look at...

Don't Believe It: Ross Detwiler.  It's still early enough in the season that you're bound to see some very hilarious advanced metrics, and exhibit A is @NationalDet (sadly, clever Twitter handles aren't a countable stat in most fantasy leagues).  Detwiler has a cool 0.69 ERA through his first two starts but his FIP is 4.26, his xFIP is 4.87 and his SIERA is 4.68.  Detwiler's career ERA significantly outperforms his career peripherals so this is no surprise, merely the most glaring example yet.  With only a career 5.5 K/9 (including a 4.2 K/9 this year), Detwiler provides little for you in the strikeout category, and if you're taking a semi-flier on the fifth spot in your fantasy rotation, you should be aiming for more than a groundball specialist.

The Nationals have so many elite young stars that, in the spirit of "the cook is a Navy SEAL?!" from Under Siege, Detwiler is kind of an afterthought despite being the sixth overall pick of the 2007 draft and he has a 3.63 ERA through 349 2/3 career innings.  A 27-year-old southpaw with this kind of pedigree would carry a much higher profile on most teams but in Washington, he's just a back-of-the-rotation guy.  As such, Detwiler carried a bit of under-the-radar fantasy buzz this year as someone who might be primed for a breakout and (just like his bigger-name rotation mates) would benefit from pitching at Nationals Park and having that loaded lineup give him plenty of run support.  I'm not saying Detwiler won't evolve into a better pitcher down the road or even later in the year, but don't over-react at that tiny ERA and jump at him on your waiver wire just yet.  Maybe let another owner take him now and then, after Detwiler comes back to earth in a couple of starts and the other owner releases him in disgust, pick up Ross The Boss on the rebound as his performances get back to normal.

Believe It: Jarrod Parker.  Permit me to pat myself on the back a la Barry Horowitz here for a moment.  Last October, I threw up a warning sign about Parker's 2013 prospects given that he had a big jump in innings from 2011 to 2012, including pitching into October when the A's made the playoffs.  Thus far, I have been proven right Right RIGHT, as Parker has a 10.80 ERA through three starts and hasn't pitched more than 3 1/3 innings in either of his last two outings. 

Parker's FIP/xFIP/SIERA numbers are "only" 7.14/7.30/6.49 but the big concern is his K/BB rate.  Parker owned an 8.5 K/9 and 2.61 K/BB in his minor league career but those strikeouts didn't really carry over to his first full Major League season in 2012 as he only posted a 6.9 K/9.  If he's having trouble finding the strike zone and is losing his control to boot, then there isn't much to like here, especially since Parker also pitched badly during Spring Training.  I'm guessing Parker is at most a fourth starter on your fantasy staff (if he's any higher, you have my apologies) so you're not losing much by outright dropping him and trying another long-term starter on the waiver wire or just streaming pitchers for a while.

Don't Stop Believing: Jason Heyward.  Now, I'll be honest, I dealt Heyward in one of my leagues this past week, though that was part of a trade package that involved me getting David Price.  So I still more or less got fair value for Heyward --- I certainly didn't give up on him, which you might be tempted to do given his utterly atrocious start.  Heyward was hitting just .103/.286/.205 heading into Tuesday's game against the Royals, and while Heyward went yard in that game, he was hitless in his other three plate appearances. 

Now, there's plenty of good news and bad news about Heyward.  The good news is that his strikeout rate is 14.6% (which is actually well down from his 21.3% career average), his walk rate is a bit higher than usual and his line drive rate is only slighter below his career norms.  He's hitting a lot of balls in the air and they're simply not getting out of the park or dropping, given that his BABIP is a rock-bottom .097.  So don't worry too much about Heyward everything is more or less in line with his career averages and he's bound to even things out with the BABIP gods sooner or later.  The bad news?  Well, this is only bad news if you're not a Braves fan, but man, Atlanta is still this good despite Heyward, B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla all hitting like garbage?  Yikes.



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: Jeremy Hellickson

Welcome to the inaugural edition of "The Proof Is In The Peripherals," where we take a weekly look at the advanced metrics to determine which players are playing over their heads or...uh, under their feet (there really needs to be a saying for that) and how it affects their fantasy value.

Since we're only a week-plus into the 2013 season, virtually any stat I cite can be explained away under the aegis of small sample size.  So, before we get into the proper routine of this column, this week we'll focus on a player who has become a poster boy for advanced metric confusion, Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.

Fantasy pundits have treated Hellickson like a pinless hand grenade throughout most of his first two full seasons in the majors.  To the critics, any poor outing is the harbinger of Hellickson "finally" coming back to earth and pitch in a manner befitting his advanced metrics.  And brother, those metrics aren't too pretty....

2011: 4.44 FIP, 4.72 xFIP, 4.78 SIERA, 35% ground ball rate, 1.63 K/BB, 5.6 K/9

2012: 4.60 FIP, 4.44 xFIP, 4.44 SIERA, 41.8% ground ball rate, 2.10 K/BB rate, 6.3 K/9

These look more like the numbers of a back-of-the-rotation innings eater than they do a #2 starter on an AL East contender and yet here's Hellickson, firmly holding down a key spot in the Tampa Bay rotation.  Beyond the peripherals, of course, Hellickson looks like one of the best young pitchers in the game on paper --- he was the AL's Rookie of the Year in 2011, he has thrown 366 IP over the last two seasons and his real-world ERA is a mere 3.02.

This huge disconnect can be somewhat explained by two stats.  Since the start of the 2010 season, Hellickson leads all Major League pitchers in BABIP (.244) and left-on-base percentage (81.8%).*  You could argue that Hellickson benefits by playing for a Rays team that traditionally has strong defense (every Tampa pitcher with more than five IP in 2012 posted a sub-.300 BABIP), you could argue that he is Major League Baseball's answer to Longshot, or perhaps you could argue that Hellickson's ability to escape danger is a talent in itself.  Maybe Hellickson is this generation's Catfish Hunter, a pitcher who overcame blah peripherals and ended up in the Hall of Fame.

* = Hellickson is actually tied with Chris Sale in LOB%; since Hellickson has thrown 112 2/3 more innings, I consider him the leader.

I'm not by any means saying that Hellickson is destined for Cooperstown.  I'm just throwing Hunter's game out there as an example of a pitcher who just seemed to have a knack for producing despite all evidence to the contrary.  It's for this reason why I'm more optimistic than most about Hellickson's fantasy prospects.  If you're a Hellickson owner, you probably got him very late; he had an average draft position of 226 according to Mock Draft Central, making him a late 18th-early 19th round pick in most drafts.  At that spot, you're taking your fourth or fifth starter and not expecting a world-beating performance.  If you get a guy who eats up innings and posts a 3.02 ERA, you're golden. 

Hellickson's reputation as a peripheral stat-fueled disaster waiting to happen has actually made him a nice bargain, fantasy-wise, as his draft value has dropped to the point where anything he does produce is gravy.  And don't forget, this is still the same pitcher who had six dominant minor league seasons (2.71 ERA, 4.63 K/BB, 9.8 K/9 in 580 1/3 IP), was ranked as the sixth-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America heading into the 2011 season and just celebrated his 26th birthday two days ago.  Put it this way -- if Hellickson had underwent Tommy John surgery halfway through the 2011 season and was healthy going into this season, you'd have him as a prime sleeper candidate.  It's crazy to think that this situation would've done more for Hellickson's fantasy stock than his actual two seasons of quality pitching, but there you have it.

Now, it's worth noting that Hellickson has thus far struggled in his two 2013 starts, posting a 6.35 ERA in 11 1/3 innings.  Could it be that the bloom is finally off the rose?  Or, more accurately, we could say it's just been two starts (one of which was at Rangers Ballpark) so nobody should be jumping to conclusions just yet.  One lucky season can be a fluke but two "lucky" seasons makes one wonder if there's something more going on with a player.  Hellickson has been a walking affront to statistical analysis over two full seasons and by this point, I'm more than willing to roll the dice on him as a back-end starter in a fantasy rotation.





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