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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
Free-agent pitcher Brandon Beachy delays contract decision
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:31 pm ET) Free-agent pitcher Brandon Beachy has decided to delay his decision on which team he'll pitch for in 2015, his agent told FOXSports.com.

The former Braves pitcher is recovery from Tommy John surgery and wants to wait until closer to spring training before making his decision. Beachy did not pitch in 2014 because of the injury.


Nationals' Jayson Werth pleads guilty, sentenced to 5 days in jail
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:24 pm ET) Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth will serve five days in jail after pleading guilty to reckless driving, reports The Washington Post.

Werth was pulled over in July by Virginia State Police after driving 105 mph in a 55 mph zone and Werth did not necessarily disagree with the assessment.

"It's possible I exceeded 90 miles per hour," Werth said in court.

Werth was initially convicted of reckless driving Dec. 5, but appealed the verdict. He was originally sentenced to 10 days in jail, but it was reduced to five after Werth's guilty plea.

The prosecutor said Werth will turn himself in Friday and begin serving his sentence, according to NBC4's Northern Virginia Bureau. 


White Sox DFA Dayan Viciedo to see if any trade interest remains
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:07 am ET) White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said putting outfielder Dayan Viciedo on waivers could be the final step to trading him, which is something the team has explored all offseason. Viciedo was designated for assignment Wednesday, which means Chicago has 10 days to trade, release or outright him to the minors.

"It got to the point where Dayan didn’t very likely fit on this club in a meaningful way for 2015,"  Hahn said, per CSNChicago.com. "The thought with designating him was flesh out any interest over the next 10 days or so and find him a better home going into the next season."

Viciedo, who will turn 26 years old on March 10, has hit more than 20 homers in two of the last three seasons. But he has yet to reach his full potential, batting just .254 with a .424 slugging percentage in five MLB seasons. 

The White Sox seem OK if they deal Viciedo and he finally reaches his full potential with another team.

"He's still young and he still has a world of talent and a great deal of power that we’ve all seen on display over a number of years," Hahn said. "It's not going to surprise any of us in the least if he goes on to have a very successful career elsewhere."


Reds' Price 'realistically' targets Mesoraco to catch 145 games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:54 am ET) Reds manager Bryan Price indicated catcher Devin Mesoraco could see a lot more time behind the plate in 2015, per the Dayton Daily News. He appeared in 114 games in 2014, starting 109 at catcher.

“I’ve been asked that question a lot about Mesoraco playing first base,” Price said. “How much would he play? Only if (Joey) Votto was injured. Realistically, I see him as a Yadier Moilina-type guy, who is going to catch 145 games a year, more so than I see him catching 110 a year and playing 20 or 30 at first base.

“It stood out more last year because I linked up Johnny Cueto with (Brayan) Pena catching. I anticipate Mesoraco catching a lot more games this year, especially if he stays healthy. We won’t pair Pena with Cueto as much. Devin did a real nice job with Johnny the times he caught him.”


Report: Blue Jays making a push to sign Ronald Belisario
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:32 am ET) The Blue Jays are making a push to sign reliever Ronald Belisario, according to FoxSports.com.

The 32-year-old Belisario posted a 5.56 ERA over 66 1/3 innings with the White Sox last season. While his performance looks spotty on the surface, Belisario managed to cut his walk rate by three percent last season. He had awful luck with men on base, which may have contributed to his struggles. Belisario actually posted a 3.54 FIP, so there's a chance at a possible rebound. 

The Blue Jays have been linked to a number of free-agent relievers, including Rafael Soriano, Francisco Rodriguez and Burke Badenhop. 


Report: Blue Jays looking at multiple free-agent relievers
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) The Blue Jays are looking at multiple free-agent relievers, according to FoxSports.com.

The team has been in contact with Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano and Burke Badenhop. Both Rodriguez and Soriano have closer experience, while Badenhop has only saved four games over his career. Badenhop, however, did post the lowest ERA of the bunch last year, coming in at 2.29. 

Rodriguez, 33, posted a 3.04 ERA over 68 innings last year. He saved 44 games with Milwaukee.

The 35-year-old Soriano posted a 3.19 ERA over 62 innings last season. He lost his closer role late in the season after going into a bit of a slump.


Marlins designate Arquimedes Caminero for assignment
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) The Marlins have designated pitcher Arquimedes Caminero for assignment on Wednesday, according to MLB.com.

The 27-year-old Caminero spent most of the year in Triple-A. He posted a 4.86 ERA over 63 innings. Caminero was briefly promoted to the majors, posting a 10.80 ERA over 6 2/3 innings with Miami.


Giants release Marco Scutaro
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) The Giants have released second baseman Marco Scutaro, according to MLB.com.

Scutaro was designated for assignment by the club Jan. 21. Scutaro underwent back surgery in December, and was expected to miss 4-6 months due to the surgery. The 39-year-old was limited to five games last season due to back issues. He hit .297/.357/.369 over 488 at-bats back in 2013.


Mets, Mejia avoid arbitration
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) The Mets have avoided arbitration with pitcher Jenrry Mejia, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Mejia agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.595 million. The 25-year-old Mejia emerged as the team's closer last season. He posted a 3.65 ERA over 93 2/3 innings. 


Matt Moore targeting June return
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Rays pitcher Matt Moore is targeting a June return, according to MLB.com.

Moore underwent Tommy John surgery last season, but was able to throw off a mound for the first time on Tuesday. Moore said he's hoping he can return to a major-league mound in June. "I hope June, [to pitch] in a Major League game, he said. "I think that's about right -- 14 months [after the surgery]. So we should know a lot more in the next month as I start to get on the hill and things have a chance to respond."

Moore started just two games last season before undergoing surgery.


 
 
 
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