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September 17, 2012

Fantasy Beat

Scherzer's Resurgent Second-Half

by Jason Collette

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Nearly two months ago to the day, I wrote an article about Max Scherzer’s rather unique season. At that point, he was striking out 11.0 per nine innings and had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.6. Despite that, his 4.84 ERA and mere eight wins were driving fantasy owners crazy.

Since that time, Scherzer has been a fantasy marvel, winning eight of 11 decisions with a 2.30 ERA while continuing his historic pace. In 74 1/3 innings, he has permitted just 57 hits while striking out 95. His rate stats during the run are as follows:

H/9 = 6.9
HR/9 = 0.8
BB/9 = 2.4
K/9 = 11.5
WHIP = 1.04
ERA = 2.30
K/BB = 4.8
BABIP = .298
FIP = 2.68

Scherzer’s overall run of success still places him among very elite company when looking back at the history of dominant seasons. Only four pitchers have ever completed a season with a K/9 of at least 11.0 and a walk rate below 3.0 while qualifying for the ERA title, as the table below illustrates:

YEAR

NAME

IP

W

ERA

SO

BB

SO/9

BB/9

HR/9

2001

Randy Johnson

249.7

21

2.49

372

71

13.4

2.6

0.68

1999

Randy Johnson

271.7

17

2.48

364

70

12.1

2.3

0.99

2000

Randy Johnson

248.7

19

2.64

347

76

12.6

2.8

0.83

2002

Randy Johnson

260.0

24

2.32

334

71

11.6

2.5

0.90

1997

Curt Schilling

254.3

17

2.97

319

58

11.3

2.1

0.88

1999

Pedro Martinez

213.3

23

2.07

313

37

13.2

1.6

0.38

1997

Pedro Martinez

241.3

17

1.90

305

67

11.4

2.5

0.60

1995

Randy Johnson

214.3

18

2.48

294

65

12.3

2.7

0.50

2000

Pedro Martinez

217.0

18

1.74

284

32

11.8

1.3

0.71

2012

Max Scherzer

176.7

16

3.77

220

55

11.2

2.8

1.17

Scherzer’s run of success has somewhat flown under the radar while the bigger names garner the Cy Young attention. Scherzer’s season is unique but not exactly award-worthy; the high ERA will be impossible for mainstream voters to overlook. That said, Scherzer’s second-half numbers stack up with the best in baseball on both a surface and peripheral level while satisfying fantasy owners as well:

PLAYER

ERA

FIP

HITS/9

HR/9

BB/9

K/9

Max Scherzer

2.30

2.68

6.0

0.8

2.4

11.5

David Price

2.13

2.95

6.6

0.7

2.3

9.0

Justin Verlander

3.19

3.03

8.3

0.7

2.7

9.6

Felix Hernandez

2.63

2.84

7.0

0.5

1.5

7.2

Jered Weaver

3.82

4.52

8.2

1.5

2.2

7.3

Chris Sale

3.61

4.07

8.6

1.5

2.4

9.3

James Shields

3.22

3.42

6.1

1.0

2.0

8.7

Scherzer’s player card shows that he is throwing five percent fewer fastballs this season, has increased his slider usage by the same amount, and is throwing both pitches a tick harder than he has in the past.

In one start a few weeks ago, Scherzer credited Gerald “G-Money” Laird with the sequencing and usage patterns of his pitches, which led to some very vexed Angels’ hitters.  In looking at Scherzer’s player card, we can visualize how his pitch usage has changed this season:

All Years Percentage Pitch Usage

2012 Percentage Pitch Usage

In the past, Scherzer leaned heavily on his fastball and less on his slider in later innings, but that has changed this season as he has looked to his slider more frequently as the game progresses.

If we look at his splits, he has been just as bad as he has ever been against lefties due to his arm angle. The story has changed in a dramatic way against righties, however; Scherzer has been downright dominant against same-handed hitters. In his previous three seasons as a starter, Scherzer’s OPS against versus righties was over .700, but this season it is just .587. Additionally, he has struck out 116 while walking just 13 in 334 plate appearances—both career bests.

Overall, Scherzer has been one of the better pitchers in baseball this season. He went for $8 in Tout Wars Mixed and $14 in Tout Wars AL, earning $14 and $19, respectively. It may be the first time that Scherzer’s performance has exceeded his potential. Hopefully it is not the last.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

10 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Dodger300
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There you go again.

Scherzer has posted good stats for the last 74.1 innings, as you point out. However, his first 100+ innings ths season count, too. Even a little bit more.

It would have been entirely appropriate to point out Scerzer's progress, and his nice season overall, without having to drop a Cy Young bomb to try and justify the point. Some writers just can't seem to resist the urge to go completely over the top.

I could not help but recall our rather lengthy conversation last year when you trotted out a plethora of names to try and push your favored 2011 Cy Young candidate, "ABV." Anybody But Verlander.

Sep 17, 2012 06:42 AM
rating: -12
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

The point of this article was not to say Scherzer was deserving of the Cy Young award; I do not feel he is. the very sentence after the mention of Cy Young says as much

"Scherzer’s season is unique but not exactly award-worthy; the high ERA will be impossible for mainstream voters to overlook"

The point of the article was to show how he was performing down the stretch while the actual Cy Young candidates garnered all of the attention as Scherzer actually delivered better results making fantasy owners rather happy. The conclusion of this article says as much.

Last year's discussion centered around me just mentioning that Sabathia should be at least involved in the Cy Young discussion where his numbers stood on the date of the article, not that he had a stronger case than Verlander. As I stated last year, "I'm cool with either guy winning it but I'm not cool with it not being up for discussion and that's how I see it playing out right now with those that have the votes."

Discussion is a great thing - and it can be done without continually calling my credibility into question.

Sep 17, 2012 07:13 AM
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

It also seems fair to point out Sabathia ended 2011 with a higher PVORP and FIP than Verlander last season.

This season, I think it is a 2-man race between JV and Price at this point. Me, as the Rays fan, would be voting for Verlander if I had a ballot but am enjoying the fact the discussion has already been quite strong on the national level and people are looking at WAR, quality of opponent (SPR system by Gennaro favors JV while OppOPS here favors Price), etc. Another step away from the traditional metrics and narratives that have driven these votes in the past.

Sep 17, 2012 07:37 AM
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

He's actually been good for his last 152.3 IP (since the beginning of May) with a 3.13 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 193 K, so it's not like all he has is the 74.3 IP sample. It isn't ludicrous to discuss him as a down-ballot candidate, though. Not one bit.

I don't understand the vitriol behind your post (and many others you've directed at Jason). You seem only to have an axe to grind as opposed to any desire for moving the discourse along in a constructive fashion.

So I ask, what is your desired end game w/J?

Sep 17, 2012 07:34 AM
 
Shaun P.
(676)

Jason, I'm not surprised at the run Scherzer has been on since your last piece on him. That's the article where I commented on how happy I was watching him pitch, because for the first time in 5 years, I didn't draft him in fantasy baseball, so of course he's been pitching lights out! ;)

Sep 17, 2012 07:24 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Sucks when things happen that way! I missed Edwin Jackson's breakout season in 2009 because I was tired of drafting his upside and watching him blow up my ratios every season. Oops

Sep 17, 2012 07:27 AM
 
Behemoth

Would you be looking to trade for him in formats where you could keep him for the next few years, or do you think the price would be too high now? How much would you be willing to pay for him at auction next year (say for a 14 team mixed league)?

Sep 17, 2012 14:40 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Anyone is tradeable at the right price. In a mixed league, I'm not ready to go $20 on him but I'd do so in an AL-only format.

Sep 17, 2012 15:54 PM
 
Patrick

After your previous article on Scherzer, I acquired him for the low, low price of Jonathan Broxton. Many of my fellow managers thought I got the short end of the deal at the time, but it's worked out better than I could have ever expected.

Sep 17, 2012 22:20 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Love it!

Nov 21, 2012 10:19 AM
 
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