LOS ANGELES, June 20, 2013 — Max Scherzer appears finally to be putting all of the pieces together for the Detroit Tigers this year. So far, Scherzer has compiled a 10-0 record to go along with a 3.01 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He has struck out 116 batters in 96 1/3 innings.
Max Scherzer was originally drafted in 2003 out of high school by his hometown St. Louis Cardinals in the 43rd round with the 1,291st pick. He wisely opted to take his talents to the University of Missouri, where he was the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year in 2005. Going to college paid off for the young hurler as he was drafted in 2006 by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 11th overall pick in the draft.
He toiled in the minors for the entire 2007 season before getting the call from the Diamondbacks at the end of April in 2008. His debut came out of the bullpen on April 29 against the Houston Astros. He did nothing to quiet the expectations of a top pitching prospect by retiring all 13 batters he faced, including striking out seven. The 13 batters was a record for a pitcher making his MLB debut in a relief role.
Scherzer would be moved into the rotation for three starts before being moved to the bullpen. In the middle of June he was sent back down to the minors and eventually landed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. He returned to the majors at the end of August and rejoined the starting rotation for four starts in September. Scherzer finished his rookie season with a 3.05 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 66 strikeouts in 56 innings spanning 16 games, but did not record a victory.
The first victory for Max Scherzer came in his first start of the year against St. Louis in 2009. He went on to finish the season with a 9-11 record, 4.12 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 174 strikeouts in 170 innings. After the 2009 season he was part of a three team trade with the Yankees and Detroit. Scherzer would land in Detroit.
Over the next three seasons with the Tigers, Scherzer averaged a 3.89 ERA and 1.28 WHIP with 186.7 strikeouts per season. His win totals steadily increased over that time from 12 to 15 to 16 wins last season. These are quality numbers by anyone’s definition, but they are not ace numbers.
This year, the 28-year old Max Scherzer seems to be more polished, while putting up ace-like numbers. He is striking out 10.8 batters per nine innings this year compared to 11.1 in 2012. Last year he walked 2.9 batters per nine, while this year he has lowered that number to 2.2. The real difference from last year to this year has been the amount of hits he has given up.
Over his first four full years as a starter, Scherzer has given up an average of 8.75 hits per nine innings. This year, however, Scherzer is giving up just six hits per nine innings.
Giving up fewer hits and walks does not equate to more wins by itself. Scherzer is backed by one of the best defenses in the game. Detroit’s defense has only 27 errors on the season, which puts it in a tie for second best in the majors.
There is one more factor that has led Max Scherzer to become the first Detroit pitcher to start the year at 10-0 since 1909. In baseball, everything boils down to one stat in the end: runs. Runs, runs, runs. Max Scherzer is receiving an average of 7.57 runs per game with Detroit, which is second best in baseball.
If Scherzer can keep up his end of the deal, he could very well win the Cy Young Award. That he is arbitration eligible after the 2013 season is a fact that is neither lost on his employer, nor his agent, Scott Boras. Scherzer can become a free agent after the 2014 season.
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