Max Scherzer is a flame thrower for the Tigers who has had a difficult time early in his career flashing start to start consistency. That somewhat uneven effort has caused many to not look closely enough at his dynamic right wing. In what follows I’ll hope to be able to make the point that given his draft day cost that he is a hurler you should be targeting for inclusion on your fantasy squad (he’s barely being taken inside the top-20 at the starting pitching position).
Scherzer started out his big league career with the D’backs and over two seasons he was 9-15 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. He was a huge K arm though with an average of 9.54 punchouts per nine innings leading to a solid 2.86 K/BB ratio.
Max posted a career best set of ratios in 2010 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Oddly, his strikeout ratio dipped to 8.46 per nine though his walk rate continued to dwindle (3.22 per nine after seasons of 3.38 and 3.33).
This is when things started to take off for Scherzer. He won 31 games, more about that below, and he struck out an average of 9.53 batters per nine innings while dropping his walk rate to 2.73 per nine allowing his K/BB ratio to improve to an impressive level of 3.49 (that mark is 16th in baseball among hurlers who tossed 325 innings.).
THE 2012 RUN
In April last year Scherzer went 1-3 with a 7.77 ERA and 2.05 WHIP as batters hit an unconscionable .356 off him. Obviously the regression monster showed his face the rest of the season, and over the final five months of the year he was very, very good. Not just that, he was actually excellent.
Over his final 27 starts of 2012 Scherzer went 15-4, posted a 3.14 ERA, had a 1.16 WHIP, a 11.2 K/9 mark an a 4.34 K/BB ratio. Let’s compare that to the work of Justin Verlander last season.
Verlander: 17-8 (.680 WIN%), 9.0 K/9, 3.98 K/BB, 2.64 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
Scherzer: 15-4 (.789 Win%), 11.2 K/9, 4.34 K/BB, 3.14 ERA, 1.16 WHIP
Amazing how similar the two were in overall value if you remove April from Scherzer’s line, isn’t it?
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Scherzer isn’t just a dominating K arm, he’s a historically impressive one. Last season Scherzer struck out 231 batters in 187.2 innings. Since he failed to throw even 190 innings the K total hasn’t been viewed by many in the manner it should be cause he didn’t push 250 Ks. So here’s some context to help out.
(1) Only one man in baseball had more punchouts, and that was his teammate Justin Verlander who had 239 in 238.1 innings, or, 50.2 more innings pitched than Mad Max (I told myself I wasn’t going to use that term in this piece but I just couldn’t help myself). Fifty more innings than Scherzer folks. Think about that for a brief moment before moving on to #2.
(2) Scherzer’s K/9 mark was 11.08, the best in baseball. No one else even struck out 10.50 per nine (Yu Darvish was second at 10.40).
(3) Scherzer’s K/9 mark of 11.08 was historically impressive. Among all pitchers who have ever thrown 162 innings in a season, the number of innings needed to qualify for the ERA title, that 11.08 number has only been bettered 18 times – ever (the single season record is 13.41 by Randy Johnson in 2001 when he struck out 372 batters in 249.2 innings).
(4) Scherzer has thrown 804.2 innings in his career and has posted a 9.27 strikeout per nine mark. Among pitchers who have thrown 800 innings in their career that K/9 mark sits at 11th all-time. Eleventh.
The fact is that Scherzer is as dominating a strikeout arm as you are going to find among starting pitchers.
You all know my thoughts on wins, I don’t pay them much mind since so much goes into them beyond what the pitcher can control, but facts are facts, and the last two years Scherzer has been a big winner. The last two years Scherzer has won 31 games. That total of 31 wins is the 9th best mark in baseball (tied with James Shields, Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels). Max is also one of just 10 hurlers who have won 15 games in each of the past two years.
Scherzer is as dominating an arm as there in baseball among starting hurlers. Yes there are some concerns about his ability to bring it start after start, but as I noted above he was pretty much nails after a rough April last year. If he can lock things in for six months, and stay healthy (the team is bringing him along slowly this spring), there’s a very real chance that he could post numbers that can rival those of his more celebrated rotation mate at a greatly reduced cost. Without question the risk is higher with Scherzer than Verlander, but given the draft day cost Scherzer profiles as the arm I would rather target in 2013.
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By Ray Flowers