If we were to rank the best pitchers in baseball, something like seven of the top 10 would come from the National League. For whatever reason the NL starters are just better as a whole than those in the American League. Every year I look at the Cy Young gambling odds and try to come up with the best value bets. Last year I nailed my Scherzer pick. This year I thought the best odds were Noah Syndergaard, who was look good until getting injured (shame on me for choosing a Mets starter). It's still only June but so far it looks like choosing Scherzer to repeat was the best bet.
Earlier this week Scherzer had one of his typically dominant outings, taking a no-hitter into the eighth. So I'm at work while the game is going on and I'm (of course) checking my phone for updates, and I thought to myself "it feels like it happens pretty often that I'm getting notifications about Scherzer having a no-hitter". Sure enough, it does happen a lot. Since signing with Washington in 2015 the 32-year-old has taken a no-no into the 6th inning in 11 out of his 82 starts, which is 13.4% for you numbers folks out there.
So, how does he do it? The first thing you notice when watching Scherzer pitch is his mid-90s fastball, which always seems to have something extra on it thanks to his explosive windup. Then there's the movement on his pitches. Scherzer combines a changeup that has great vertical drop (that he throws down and away to lefties) with a slider that bites hard and away from righties. Even his fastball has a little bit of run on it. Add in the intangibles and the fact that Scherzer is a legitimate psychopath on the mound who has two different colored eyes and you end up with one of the best (maybe the best?) pitcher in baseball right now.
Well, judging by Baseball-Reference's WAR leaders, Scherzer has been the best pitcher in baseball as we approach the end of June. He leads all starters with 3.8 WAR according to Baseball-Reference. For comparison Clayton Kershaw has 2.7 right now. Additionally, Scherzer is posting career bests in ERA (2.09), WHIP (0.81), K/9 (12.1), and opponent batting average (.167). Through 15 starts he is 8-5 with 145 strikeouts in just 107 2/3 innings. Oh, and he has two complete games. There's still plentyyyyyy of baseball to be played this year, but on June 23, 2017 Scherzer is the clear favorite to capture his third Cy Young award over the past five seasons.
So you read that last sentence and think "holy shit, this guy might win three Cy Young in five years. How good are the rest of his stats?" For his career Scherzer has pitched roughly 1,800 innings, struck out over 2,000 (good), put up a 3.31 ERA (good), accumulated 41.2 WAR (really good), made four all star teams (good), thrown two no-hitters (really good), and thrown a 20-strikeout game (REALLY good). Now that begs the question...is Max Scherzer a Hall of Famer? Theoretically he could reach consideration both through traditional methods (~200 wins, 3000 K's) and advanced metrics (60+ WAR). He was kind of a late bloomer, so a lot will depend on how long his peak lasts, and if he winds up getting that defining post-season moment or series. Right now his career 3.74 playoff ERA is good, not great. Regardless, the HOF is in play for Scherzer, which is something I didn't realize until writing this blog.