Baseball’s version of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, it seems that we never know which Max we will get on any given night, good Mad Max or bad Mad Max, but that isn’t actually true. He’s the league leader in K/9 and one of only two pitchers in the American League whose K/9 is in the double digits. Scherzer posts a boastful 11.29 K/9 and a measly 3.04 BB/9 and can seemingly have a 15 strikeout night at the drop of a hat. So where does Scherzer get this reputation of being a volatile and highly inconsistent pitcher?
It all stems from 24 poorly pitched innings. In the opening months of the 2012 baseball season. Scherzer posted a 7.77 era while allowing opposing players to hit for a .346 AVG, .438 OBP and .510 SLG. A truly terrible month to say the least, but that’s all it was, one month. In May Scherzer’s ERA dropped down to 4.04 in 35.2 innings, in June it dropped to 3.86 in 30.1 innings, in July to 3.62 in 32.1 innings, August to 2.25 in 32 innings, and in his only start in the month of September Scherzer pitched 8 scoreless innings.
His overall ERA stands at an underwhelming 3.93, but if you take his first month to be an outlier (which I do) then with a bit of fancy math and magic (mostly math) his extrapolated ERA ends up being 3.46 (I know, I know, that’s a lot of fancy rejiggering of his numbers.) We can also look at what some of his numbers are as is. His xFIP is 3.25, that’s better than Verlander’s, Chris Sale’s, and King Felix’s, the three leaders in the AL CY Young race. Also 204 strikeouts, well that’s just impressive. (Plus rejiggering is a fun word to say out loud.)
Scherzer may not be the best pitcher in baseball but he certainly is the most domineering one. And for those shouting Strasburg’s or Verlander’s name at me I should point out that Verlander doesn’t strikeout opposing hitters at the rate that Scherzer does and Strasburg doesn’t face the level of hitter in the National League that Scherzer does in the American League. And Scherzer leads the league in my favorite stat, “SHEEEET!” moments. What are “SHEEEET” moments? They are the times when a pitcher strikeouts a hitter in such an embarrassing, soul crushing manner that the look on the hitters face that follows is reminiscent of a child wanting his mommy. And at that moment you can’t help but say out loud some variation of “SHEEEET!”
Fast forward to about 22 seconds and enjoy.
Scherzer is growing into his full potential in the midst of a playoff push, and it is fun as hell to watch. While I don’t think he deserves to be a challenger for the CY Young award this year, he does deserve an honorable mention and will be on the top of my list of CY Young contenders next year.
There is no conundrum any more. No perplexing situation, no head scratching moments, where we all gather around the TV with our collective heads buried in our hands wondering when he will figure it out and why he hasn’t figured it out yet, because he has. We’ve seen him figure it out, we’re watching it take place live in front of our eyes as he drops his ERA from a 7.77 to 2.25. We’re watching it as he blows his fastball past so-called power hitters then makes them whiff on his changeup. We’re watching it as his slider defies the laws of physics at times.
Mad Max, Max Scherzer, Blue Eyes, call him whatever you want to call him but sooner rather than later, we’ll all be calling him a CY Young award winner.