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By the Numbers: Don't trust the outliers

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We're far enough along into the 2013 season that many Fantasy owners feel comfortable in trusting the stats that their players have compiiled up to this point. Maybe back in March or early April, we didn't expect Chris Davis to be one of the top hitters in all of Fantasy or for Hisashi Iwakuma to be leading all pitchers in both Rotisserie and Head-to-Head value, but we've had time to get used to the idea.

Even if Davis and Iwakuma cool off somewhat over the rest of the season, and it would be surprising if they didn't, they have done enough over this season and last to earn the trust of owners in all formats. Then there are other players who have suddenly become fixtures in a large percentage of leagues, yet they're in danger of becoming less relevant in the weeks and months to come. Jean Segura and Travis Wood headline a group of players who have won the trust of owners with their play through the season's first 10 weeks, but despite their strong stats to date, each may not be as trustworthy as they appear to be.

Over the course of a season, ERAs, WHIPs, batting averages and run and RBI totals can all fluctuate greatly, but the underlying skill indicators are usually a good predictor of where a player will wind up by season's end. The eight players featured here have parlayed fast starts into a secure place in their owners' starting lineups, but they are outliers among the top producers, given that they are succeeding at a high level despite some supporting stats that don't normally bode well.

Going by season-to-date stats, each of these hitters is worth starting in the vast majority of leagues, but their outlier status makes them sell-high candidates. At the very least, it's reasonable to expect their production to tail off over the rest of the season.

Jean Segura, SS, Brewers: Ground ball rates in excess of 55 percent rarely translate into seasons with 20-plus homers, but Segura is on pace to pull off that feat. Could the 23-year-old hit above .300 with 50 steals? Sure, and that alone makes Segura one of the six best shortstops in Fantasy. However, Segura's nine home runs have helped to make him one of the six top hitters in all of Rotisserie, regardless of position. According to ESPN's Home Run Tracker, seven of those dingers had "just enough" distance to clear the fence. Hitters can typically expect about a third of their homers to be "cheapies," so it looks like Segura's home run power is a mirage. Segura doesn't have a history of big power numbers or moderate ground ball rates, so it's still too early to buy into the Brewers' shortstop as a true speed/power threat and Fantasy elite.

Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels: Kendrick appears to be on his way to a career high in RBI, and a .321 batting average is a major reason why. Nearly across the board, Kendrick's secondary stats, such as his strikeout, walk and ground ball rates and Isolated Power, are close to his typical levels, but there is a legitimate reason for Kendrick's high batting average. He's turning 27 percent of his hit balls into line drives, but while Kendrick has mustered high liner rates before, over his career he has settled in close to the major league norm of approximately 20 percent. While there is an underlying stat that supports Kendrick's fast start, it just happens to be one of the stats that is most vulnerable to random change. If not for that fortunate bounce, Kendrick would not and should not be starting in 93 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com.

Jhonny Peralta, SS, Tigers: Because Peralta has been so inconsistent over his career, it would be easy to buy into what he's doing this season by assuming that he was due for one of his good years. In Peralta's better seasons, he has hit for power, clubbing at least 20 homers. He's not on that kind of pace this year, and with a nine percentage point dip in his flyball rate, Peralta's not looking poised for a 20-homer season. It's Peralta's .333 batting average that has catapulted him into the upper echelons of the shortstop rankings, but with a 24 percent strikeout rate, he's a poor bet to sustain his value. Normally an average hitter on balls in play, Peralta has enhanced his value with an unsustainable .416 BABIP. A mark even 50 points lower would make Peralta's season an outlier among his career numbers.

Daniel Nava, OF, Red Sox: For the most part, the RBI leaderboard is littered with sluggers whose Isolated Power is on the north side of .200. Of the current top 20, only Freddie Freeman, Adrian Gonzalez and Allen Craig have an Iso lower than Nava's .169, and unlike with Nava, there is reason to expect that each of those three will experience a power rebound over the course of the season. A .280 hitter over three seasons at Triple-A Pawtucket, Nava is probably playing over his head in general with a .300 batting average, and his .333 average with runners in scoring position is further boosting his RBI total. Nava is starting in more than four-fifths of our leagues, but unless he continues to be an outlier among RBI leaders, he won't be worth starting in many of his shallower leagues going forward.

The four starting pitchers listed below have stood out as outliers, too, providing owners with high value even though they possess strikeout and walk rates more befitting of a deep-league option. To be more specific, if a pitcher has a K/9 ratio of 6.5 or lower and a BB/9 ratio of 2.5 or higher, he doesn't have a good chance at finishing with a low ERA or WHIP. Between 2010 and 2012, there were 50 seasons from qualifying starting pitchers that failed to clear both of these benchmarks, and only five of them managed to post an ERA below 3.50 and a WHIP under 1.25. So while it's possible to have above-average Fantasy stats with mediocre peripherals, it's not very common.

Here's how each of these pitchers has managed to help owners despite mediocre strikeout and walk rates, and how each could be a disappointment as the season forges on.

Travis Wood, SP, Cubs: In his fourth season, Wood has all the outward signs of a breakout, as he boasts a 2.65 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and a 5-4 record through 12 starts. The lefty's 6.5 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 ratios are close to his career norms, but he's getting better results by keeping the ball in the park. Though Wood is no less flyball prone than before, he's allowed only five home runs over 78 innings. Part of Wood's formula for success is his flyball tendencies, which he has translated into a 13 percent popup rate and a .225 BABIP. Even if those marks don't worsen much, it seems unlikely that Wood will continue to avoid the long ball (especially in Wrigley as the weather heats up), so owners should expect his ERA and WHIP to climb.

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Kyle Kendrick, SP/RP, Phillies: Two seasons ago, Kendrick showed that it's possible to have a low ERA (3.22) and WHIP (1.22) with mediocre supporting stats, but he did it over just 114 2/3 innings. He has nearly identical marks so far this year (3.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP), and he's improved since then, becoming a better strikeout and ground ball pitcher. Still, Kendrick is well below the major league average for strikeout rate, and he appears to have benefited from good luck on balls in play that were hit in the air (.080 flyball BABIP, .679 line drive BABIP). That latter trend has helped Kendrick to limit hitters to a .380 slugging percentage that could rise over his future starts. Kendrick isn't a bad pitcher for mixed league owners; he's not just owned-in-88-percent-of-leagues good.

Jeff Locke, SP, Pirates: With 23 strikeouts over his last 22 2/3 innings, Locke has just nudged himself over the 6.5 K/9 threshold, but in his minor league career, he was never a standout as a strikeout pitcher. Meanwhile, Locke has been extremely wild, throwing 58 percent of his pitches for strikes and posting a 4.2 BB/9. A 1.21 WHIP is difficult to manage with so many free passes, but by holding opponents to a .155 batting average on ground balls, Locke has done just that. The Pirates' staff ranks second in the majors with a .211 opponents' ground ball batting average, so even though Locke might be aided by his infield, he is still likely to have a lot more hits and runs coming his way.

Paul Maholm, SP, Braves: If you're going to succeed with middling strikeout and walk rates, you have to make up for them in some other way. Maholm more so than any of the preceding three pitchers does that, as he has compiled low home run rates on a consistent basis. Even so, Maholm has needed a little help in recent years to keep his ERA and WHIP low. Two seasons ago, he posted an unusually-low home run-to-flyball ratio (6.8 percent). Last year it was a low line drive rate, and this season, he's relied on a .167 ground ball batting average. Maholm keeps finding new ways to remain relevant in a large portion of mixed leagues, but sooner or later, some of his many owners will realize that he can be dropped for a higher-ceiling player.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
White Sox OF Avisail Garcia battling right knee inflammation
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:12 pm ET) White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia is out of the lineup again on Monday while battling right knee inflammation, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.

Garcia returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing two games, but was held out again on Monday and is considered day to day with the injury. Garcia is hitting .322 with 18 RBI in 146 at-bats this season.


Indians P Shaun Marcum allows 7 earned runs in no-decision
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:08 pm ET) Indians pitcher Shaun Marcum struggled with his time on the mound during Monday's 10-8 loss to the Rangers. 

Marcum only lasted 2 2/3 innings and gave up seven earned runs. He did strike out six batters but walked three and gave up four hits. Two of those went for home runs. Both of the homers occurred in the first inning. 

Marcum recorded three consecutive outs in the second but was rocked by the Rangers in the third. He now has an ERA of 6.28. He received a no-decision for his appearance in this game. 

This was Marcum's second start of the season. 

His next start is projected for Saturday against the Mariners. 


Rangers P Shawn Tolleson records another save
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:03 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Shawn Tolleson picked up his fourth save of the season in Monday afternoon's 10-8 victory over the Indians. 

Tolleson pitched a perfect ninth inning that included a strikeout. All four saves for Tolleson have come in his last four opportunities. He now has an ERA of 2.95 for the season. 


Rangers P Phil Klein struggles in team's win
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:58 pm ET) The Rangers were able to overcome a poor performance from starting pitcher Phil Klein to defeat the Indians 10-8 on Monday afternoon. 

Klein was only able to go two innings as he allowed seven runs — six earned — while striking out two batters and walking two. He gave up home runs to Carlos Santana and Roberto Perez. 

Klein was removed from the game before the Rangers recorded an out in the third inning. This was Klein's second start of the season as he now has an ERA of 8.25. He's also made six relief appearances this year. 

Klein's next start is projected for May 30 against the Red Sox. 


Braves scratch Alberto Callaspo from Monday's game
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:57 pm ET) Braves third baseman Alberto Callaspo was a late scratch to Monday’s lineup at the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team announced.

It is not known why Callaspo was removed from the lineup. Infielder Pedro Ciriaco will start at third base and bat seventh instead of Callaspo.

The Braves are the underdogs (+190) at the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday.


Padres SP Josh Johnson hopes to play catch this week
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:51 pm ET) After experiencing soreness after throwing a bullpen session Tuesday, Padres pitcher Josh Johnson hopes to play catch sometime this week, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Johnson is on the 60-day DL as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. He has not pitched this season.


Padres OF WIl Myers to undergo tests on left wrist Tuesday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:36 pm ET) Padres outfielder Wil Myers will undergo more tests Tuesday to gauge how his injured wrist is progressing, reports MLB.com.

"He's encouraged by how he feels, but right now there’s no timetable," manager Bud Black said, per the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Myers has not played since May 10 because of a wrist injury and he is currently on the 15-day disabled list.


Padres SP Brandon Morrow to throw simulated game Thursday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:24 pm ET) Padres manager Bud Black said pitcher Brandon Morrow is on track to throw a simulated game Thursday, reports 1090 Sports Radio.

Morrow is on the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation and he has not pitched since May 3. He tossed a 45-pitch bullpen session Sunday.


Orioles' Ryan Flaherty begins rehab assignment on Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:19 pm ET) Orioles infielder Ryan Flaherty went 0 for 3 at the plate in his first rehab game for Triple-A Norfolk on Monday. Flaherty, who is currently on the 15-day DL with a groin injury, collected two RBI and one walk in four plate appearances.

Flaherty has not played since May 11 when he suffered the injury and is hitting .250 in 36 at-bats this season.


Athletics DH Billy Butler collects two hits in Monday's win
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:10 pm ET) Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler went 2 for 4 at the plate to help the lead the A's to a 4-0 win over the Tigers on Monday.

Butler also drove in a run when he singled off Shane Greene in the sixth inning, which scored Marcus Semien. Butler is now on a four-game hitting streak and is 6 for 16 during the streak.


 
 
 
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