Bringin' the Noise: Mad about Max

Brad Evans
Yahoo! Sports

He doesn't currently reside in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where energy resources are in short supply. His name isn't the subject of Tina Turner pop songs about heroes. And he isn't the target of a murderous group of renegade motorcycle enthusiasts who look like Raider Nation castoffs.

But in the sun-drenched Sonoran Desert a real-life "Mad Max," Tucson Sidewinders starter Max Scherzer, is blossoming.

In his very brief professional career, the 6-foot-2, 213-pound former Missouri standout has had an unorthodox journey. Since many scouts questioned his durability and command, he was groomed for future closing duties in the Arizona Fall League last year. However, the Diamondbacks changed direction this spring, opting to keep him in the rotation full-time.

So far, so damn good.

Overshadowed by hyped pitching prospects Clayton Kershaw and David Price, the 23-year-old Scherzer, who creepily has two different colored eyes, has been freakishly spectacular. Through four starts, pitching in the historically hitter-heavy Pacific Coast League, the bazooka-armed righty has conceded just two runs in 23 innings and has posted an inconceivable 14.87 K/9. Even when opponents have applied bat to ball the contact generated has been remarkably weak, indicative of his 1.87 GB/FB ratio.

Scherzer's prize fighter disposition and stockpile of nuclear weapons has made him downright untouchable at times. His most effective pitch, a 94-99 mph, two-seam sinking fastball, perplexes hitters, especially when mixed with offspeed junk. The former '06 first-round pick also has a filthy slider and cutting four-seamer, which routinely jams right-handed hitters (.117 RH BAA). More importantly, Scherzer's control has been almost flawless (1.17 BB/9).

Sure, for every Felix Hernandez there's a Dan Meyer, for every Cole Hamels a Chad Billingsley and for every Tim Lincecum a Homer Bailey, but Scherzer's unflinching composure and otherworldly stuff will take fantasy owners "Beyond Thunderdome" sometime this year.

So, when will "sometime" be?

With No. 5 starter Edgar Gonzalez already struggling (4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP in 14.0 IP) and Randy Johnson crustier than John McCain, you should expect the Sidewinders ace to slither up I-10 to Phoenix no later than July 1. When that happens, be ready to spend a top waiver priority for him in all Y! leagues.

In numbers speak Scherzer will be this year's Yovani Gallardo.

And that prediction isn't science fiction.

Here are this week’s flames, lames and stars of video games:

Fantasy Flames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Cliff Lee SP 8 91.2
'08 Stats: 22.2 IP, 3 W, 0.40 ERA, 0.44 WHIP, 20:2 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Sell (all mixed leagues), Moderate Sell (AL-only)
Lowdown: Collectively, the Tribe may be struggling, but Lee is scorching. Currently the No. 1 ranked starter in Y! leagues, the 29-year-old southpaw has temporarily recaptured his 2005 form. In three sparkling starts, he's yielded just one earned run in 22.2 IP, dramatically sliced his BB/9 ('08: 0.79, '07: 3.33) and boosted his K/9 from 6.10 last season to 7.94. Lee's improved "on the plate" command of his fastball, according to Eric Wedge, has allowed him to mix in breaking balls with deadly effectiveness, skyrocketing his confidence. The former 18-game winner has forced hitters to make weak contact, clearly seen in his 7.5 LD% and 47.2 GB%. Although his outliers are rigid, Lee remains a strong sell-high candidate. His current .154 BABIP and historical track-record of inconsistencies suggest his ERA will travel northward very soon. Lee, recently traded straight up for Kevin Youkilis and Matt Kemp in solo Plus league deals, may not attract tier two or better talent, but with another sensational outing or two owner perceptions will most certainly change. If that happens, pimp him like its 2005 all over again.
Fearless Forecast: 190 IP, 4.11 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 152 K, 13 W
Homer Bailey SP 534 2.1
'08 Stats (AAA): 26.1 IP, 3 W, 1.03 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 16:4 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (shallow, 12-team mixed), Strong Buy (NL-only)
Lowdown: Bailey may believe that sushi "tastes like hell", but right now his Triple-A numbers are more delectable than a California roll slathered in soy sauce. Still a very green 21-years-old, the Reds top prospect has reversed course after an abysmal 2007. Last year with the senior club, Bailey posted identical K/9 (5.56) and BB/9 rates along with a deplorable 5.56 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in 45.1 IP. Although obscured by the efforts of Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez, Bailey has quickly matured in Louisville. In 26.1 IP, he's surrendered only three earned and trimmed his BB/9 to 1.37. Given his electric arsenal – mid-90s fastball, knee-bending yakker, high-80s cutter – he has terrific odds of rebuilding owner confidence if his pinpoint command carries over. Number fives Matt Belisle and Josh Fogg have pitched disastrously and with Cincinnati free-falling in the NL Central new GM Walt Jockety's first move might be a Bailey promotion. Stash him pronto.
Fearless Forecast: 125 IP, 3.97 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 93 K, 7 W
Luke Scott OF 324 5.5
'08 Stats: .319 BA, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 6 R, 1 SB, 16:9 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (shallow, 12-tm mixed), Strong Buy (AL-only)
Lowdown: Come July, don't be surprised if owners in Grand Canyon-deep leagues begin shouting "Great Scott!" uncontrollably. Acquired by the Orioles in the Miguel Tejada deal back in early December, Scott has mashed soft AL pitching thus far. Batting primarily in the fifth and sixth spots in the Orioles lineup, the 29-year-old outfielder has cracked nine doubles and tallied seven multi-hit games in 20 contests. Impatient owners have expressed angst over his lack of power, but eventually the doubles will turn into mammoth home runs. Last season, Scott cleared outfield walls once every 20.5 at-bats. Given his lightning quick hands (20.8 LD%), polished plate discipline (11.5 BB%) and surge in contact rates, he could be the statistical twin of 77.2 percent owned Josh Willingham. Mixed league owners searching for a quality utility player should track him down.
Fearless Forecast: 470 at-bats, .279 BA, 23 HR, 71 RBI, 64 R, 5 SB
Clint Barmes 2B 221 2.1
'08 Stats: .360 BA, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R, 1 SB, 6:2 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (mixed leagues), Strong Buy (NL-only)
Lowdown: Whenever someone consumes venison jerky in Barmes' presence, his collarbone tingles. While Rockies infielders Troy Tulowitzki, Jeff Baker and Jayson Nix have been encased in ice, Barmes has sizzled. In his past ten contests, Todd Helton's hunting buddy has collected 17 hits and six multi-hit performances in 47 at-bats. Flexing between the two and seventh spots in Clint Hurdle's order, he's been a serviceable source of runs. If you recall, Barmes splashed onto the fantasy scene back in April '05 when he slapped a .410 BA, four homers and 14 RBIs in 83 at-bats. Since then injuries and ineptitude have made him a borderline major league player. Despite his shaky history, he's a must add for owners seeking MI production in 12-team-plus mixed leagues. Given his insane line-drive rates (27.3 LD%) and ridiculous 52.3 FB%, he could accumulate superb BA and run totals through June 1. But keep in mind he's one elongated dry spell from a timeshare with Nix and/or Baker. Disgruntled Howie Kendrick, Orlando Hudson and Jimmy Rollins owners need to temporarily employ the soon-to-be-dual-eligible (2B/SS) Barmes. Meanwhile, those in NL-only leagues should consider selling high sometime before July 1.
Fearless Forecast: 425 at-bats, .274 BA, 13 HR, 61 RBI, 71 R, 6 SB
Eric Hinske 1B, OF 79 1.6
'08 Stats: .327 BA, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 12 R, 0 SB
Market Value: Moderate Buy (mixed leagues), Moderate Sell (AL-only)
Lowdown: Although my esteemed colleague Andy Behrens houses rather apathetic feelings toward Hinske, he's unquestionably worth a roster spot in deep mixed leagues – at least for now. Sprinting out of the gates, the Rays utility outfielder has smacked a hit in 13 of his first 18 games. Shockingly, his reinvigorated lumber has him one bleacher blast behind teammate Carlos Pena, Manny Ramirez, Joe Crede and Casey Kotchman for the AL lead in homers. The 30-year-old hook has always been an adequate source of 15-20 homer pop in deeper formats, but his sharp rise in FB% ('07: 43.9, '08: 50.0) and precipitous decline in GB% (45.5, 34.8) shows he's getting tremendous lift on the baseball. Scouts have maintained that mental lapses have adversely affected Hinke's mechanics over prolonged stretches during his career. With that in mind, based on his lowly 15.2 LD% and very fortunate .317 BABIP, his ability to sustain a .300 average over the season, or the next few weeks, is highly unlikely. Inevitably he'll get cold-cocked with a heavy dose of reality. Mixed leaguers in search of a suitable utility player should ride the hot hand. But for those in AL-only formats, it's time to turn a profit.
Fearless Forecast: 430 at-bats, .268 BA, 17 HR, 65 RBI, 56 R, 3 SB
Fantasy Lames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Jeremy Bonderman SP 785 85.7
'08 Stats: 22.2 IP, 1 W, 4.37 ERA, 1.76 WHIP, 10:14 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: If the Detroit righty continues to tank, this obsessed Bondy fan might want to turn his attention to his second passion, collecting scantily clad pictures of Hobbits. In his first three adventurous starts, the 25-year-old has established some disturbing trends. Bonderman's K/9 has plummeted from 7.49 last year to 3.97 this season while, conversely, his BB/9 has soared from 2.48 to 5.56. Although nothing has been divulged, Bonderman's absent command again raises questions about his tender elbow. Remember, 34.5 percent of the pitches he threw last season were sliders. When clicking on all cylinders he has the repertoire to be devastating – 91-93 mph two-seamer, 93-95 mph four-seamer, hard-cutting mid-80s slider, developing change – but the concerns about his elbow and control makes him expendable in shallow mixed leagues. Positively speaking, Bonderman has generated more groundball outs ('07: 47.9, '08: 55.0) and sliced points off his fly-ball rate ('07: 28.8 FB%, '08: 34.5) so a rebound is possible, albeit not likely. Widely available starters Scott Baker (14.3 percent owned), Jair Jurrjens (7.3 percent) and Scott Olsen (7.1 percent) are more trustworthy options.
Fearless Forecast: 165 IP, 4.76 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 137 K, 12 W
A.J. Burnett SP 833 93.1
'08 Stats: 22.1 IP, 2 W, 6.85 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, 13:12 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Sell (all leagues)
Lowdown: Based on Burnett's control issues, there's some validity to the Jays commercial featuring the refuse-tossing righty. Similar to Bonderman, Burnett's command has vanished, evident in his appalling 4.84 BB/9. More disconcerting, his K/9 has dropped dramatically from 9.56 in '07 to 5.24 this year. Burnett slammed his throwing hand in a car door during the offseason and shredded the fingernail on his right index finger. Insiders have commented that he's had difficulties throwing his curve for strikes because of the injury. Because he's been unable to beguile batters with his bender opponents have pounded him, evident in his increase in LD% ('07: 15.4, '08: 21.5) and decline in GB% (54.8, 46.8). Seemingly "Always Jacked," the 31-year-old starter has logged 132 DL days since 2006, which means he'll likely be disabled at some point this year. Burnett, who was recently dealt straight up for Kerry Wood, George Sherrill and Josh Willingham in Plus league solo swaps, needs to be pawned off now before the injury imp bites.
Fearless Forecast: 160 IP, 4.04 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 149 K, 10 W
Robinson Cano 2B 870 97.6
'08 Stats: .165 BA, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 5 R, 0 SB, 10:5 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy (all formats)
Lowdown: Despite what his owners will tell you, there's no Cano crisis in the Bronx. April showers have once again rained down on the notoriously slow-starting second baseman. In his four-year career Cano has registered a combined .256 BA in April and May. With the exception of his LD%, which is surprisingly better than last year ('07: 16.9, '08: 18.7), Cano's underlying stats are in line with his career averages. Because he's been one of the most prolific bashers after the All-Star Break in recent years (Post-ASB average line: .334 BA, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 41 R, 2 SB), he's a strong buy low candidate. Cano was traded straight up for Aaron Hill, Jacoby Ellsbury and Billy Butler in Y! Plus league one-for-one transactions since April 20. Batting sixth in the order, one spot higher than last season, anticipate the 25-year-old Yankee-doodle dandy to finish in the top-five of his position for the second-straight year.
Fearless Forecast: 600 at-bats, .309 BA, 17 HR, 92 RBI, 90 R, 3 SB
Delmon Young OF 309 93.6
'08 Stats: .250 BA, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 10 R, 4 SB, 13:3 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy (all leagues)
Lowdown: Keep this up and Minnesota fans will hurl 30-ounces of lumber in Delmon's general direction. Projected to be a well-rounded monster by most pundits in March, Young has pulled his end of the bargain in steals, but not in power. Ron Gardenhire commented on April 23 that his ultra-talented outfielder has "forced things," adding that "he's trying to push the ball the other way a little too much." Exploring the outliers, it appears Gardenhire's diagnosis is spot on. Young's unsettling rise in GB% ('07: 46.3, '08: 62.7) and LD% (21.1, 13.4) and substantial decline in FB% (32.6, 23.9) support the observations. It's important to keep in mind that Young is still only 22 so erratic periods should be expected. But given his incredible natural gifts, the power outage won't last long. Attracting the likes of Johnny Cueto, Mark Reynolds and John Maine in Y! Plus league solo deals this week, Young's value will never be this slashed again.
Fearless Forecast: 590 at-bats, .291 BA, 15 HR, 87 RBI, 76 R, 19 SB
Carlos Delgado 1B 657 87.2
'08 Stats: .208 BA, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 11 R, 0 SB, 16:10 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Sell (shallow, 12-team mixed), Hold (NL-only)
Lowdown: In Spanish, Delgado means "thin" – exactly the type of bat the once prodigious first baseman has wielded. Granted it was only one game, but watching Delgado look foolish against Ted Lilly on April 22 was clear evidence that his breakneck bat has slowed. Based on his advanced age and performance over the second-half last year, it really isn't any surprise that he's had difficulty driving the ball. Although his LD% has greatly improved since last year ('07: 17.7, '08 24.2), his acute fly-ball deterioration (FB% '07: 43.4, '08: 33.9) curtails his value. We all expected Delgado to maintain an undesirable BA, but if he doesn't reach 30 homers again this season, which seems likely, he'll be a colossal failure. Given the depth at first and adequate number of suitable replacements available on a majority of Y! waiver wires (e.g. Nick Johnson, Jorge Cantu and John Bowker), Delgado is droppable in 12-team and shallower mixed leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 525 at-bats, .256 BA, 23 HR, 81 RBI, 69 R, 1 SB

Don't know what FB% means? Check out our sabermetric glossary.
Y!RNK - Overall player ranking in Yahoo! leagues
Y!% - Percentage owned in Yahoo! leagues
*All stats listed are for games played through Apr. 23

Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Joe Borowski? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?

"Strikeouts are the Double-Ds of fantasy. Sure, we would all like to get our hands on some, but if the peripherals are unattractive – high BB/9, HR/9, stripper background – they should be avoided." Brad, YOU are my man crush.Tim, Tampa FL

Noise: If strikeouts truly are analogous with Marisa Miller, Max Scherzer wears a manzier.

My Y! Plus league (#2490) must be the one you are speaking of when talking about the straight up deal between Ortiz and Morneau. While I am honored by your research, I think you are crazy. How can you say he's a strong buy? Furthermore, how can you say Morneau isn't an equal to Ortiz. I know he's a Twin, which demotes him about 20 spots in everyone's overall rankings, but he's a former MVP – who had a quality follow-up year in '07. Ortiz is ancient old, and is no Barry Bonds. Bookmark this email: In reference to the recent data by AccuScore, I will promise you that Ortiz will not make your fearless forecast.Derek, White Bear Lake, MN

Noise: Let's clarify something first, Ortiz has always had the wheels of a two-ton Walrus and is now way comparable to Bonds. Yes, at 32, he's on the backside of his prime, but he will finish with better overall numbers this year than Justin Morneau. Take a look at their averages since '06:

David Ortiz: 554 at-bats, .308 BA, 45 HR, 115 RBI, 116 R (54 HR in '06)
Justin Morneau: 591 at-bats, .296 BA, 33 HR, 121 RBI, 91 R (.321 BA in '06)

We both would agree that Ortiz will not reach 40 homers this season, but he'll undoubtedly hit 20-30 points higher and score 20 or more runs than Morneau. Boston is averaging nearly five runs per nine, Minnesota less than four. Also, Morneau's GB% has risen steadily in four consecutive seasons and if his current 17.5 LD% remains under 20.0, his .321 BA in '06 is looking more and more anomalous.

Big Papi has rebounded from his horrific slump, collecting 13 hits and 15 RBIs since April 14. The AccuScore data is interesting, but I'm convinced he'll reach the statistical benchmarks I projected in last week's Noise (.302 BA, 38 HR, 121 RBI, 108 R, SB).

Would you guys at Yahoo please quit using the term "12 to 6 hammer?" I have seen it close to a dozen times this year, and it is still April. It's really getting old. It seems that in addition to man-crushing, you guys are now term-crushing. Come up with something else. The hammer has worn out its welcome.Josh, Monterrey, Mexico

Noise: Josh, since most fantasy writers are tools, its only fitting we overuse adjectives that best describe who we are.

In the future, we'll be more diverse in our curveball descriptions. Heck, maybe we'll even do Spanish translations. "Martillo doce a seises" is a spicy take on Rich Hill's filthy deuce.

Oh, and if you're wondering what tool I most identify myself with, it's the screwdriver. Appropriate because every time I drive home a point someone gets …

Brad, I hate you! You write an article about Brian Bannister and what happens in his next start? Oh yeah, he gets killed by the A's as soon as I saw that the first thought through my head was oh well time to trade Banny. Please do the world a favor and stick to writing about the Cubs everyone is happier when they are losing and for the love of god quit writing about my Royals! And if I see one more Billy Butler Ass-O-meter I'm gonna, I'm gonna, well I'm gonna be very upsetShawn, Kansas City, MO

Noise: Sorry to crease the corner on your '84 Topps Traded Bret Saberhagen rookie card, but the Billy Butler Ass-O-Meter will continue to be a permanent "Closing Time" fixture on Wednesdays. There's something so disgustingly awesome about the way he plods around the bases that he deserves to be exalted whenever possible.

For the record, I've already written about half the Cubs team, with Ronny Cedeno the exception. No wonder he's knocked in 10 runs in his past five games.

Greg Maddux a marginal name? You're an idiot. He's the greatest pitcher of the last 20 years without question (and without cheating) and you're telling people to trade him for Brian Bannister? You said Bannister was capable of 13-17 wins, 3.30-3.70 ERA, 1.10-1.20 WHIP and 135-145 Ks. So at best, he can have a Maddux-esque season. Maddux might not have everything he once did, but he's a hell of a lot more of a sure thing than anyone on the Royals.Eric, Phoenix, AZ

Noise: Eric, the only sure thing about Maddux at this point in his career are prostate exams.

In no way shape or form was I trashing Maddux's historic Hall of Fame career, the guy is a living legend. My point was that given his ancient age (42) he's an unexciting fantasy pitcher who toes the line of marginality. Sure, Maddux is a master of deception who will occasionally perform brilliantly (e.g. Apr. 23 versus SF), but his upside is very limited. What you see is what you get. Remember, he hasn't finished with an ERA under 4.00 since 2003.

Both pitchers will be statistically similar, but I'm confident Bannister will finish with an ERA some 0.30-0.60 points better.