Scherzer: Not the same numbers, but a better pitcher this year

There are scenarios for the Tigers in which last night’s outing could go down as Max Scherzer’s last start at Comerica Park as a Tiger. If Scherzer ends up opening for the Tigers in a Division Series, he’d pitch Game 1 and a potential Game 5, both on the road. If the Tigers didn’t advance, he’d then go into free agency. There’s another scenario in which the Tigers need Scherzer to save them from collapse in the Wild Card game.

“These starts matter,” Scherzer said after he turned a night of command struggles and a high pitch count into six innings of two-run ball. “Where I’m at now and executing pitches, it matters, and now I need to fine-tune more, because every pitch in the playoffs is crucial. It’s so huge, and so obviously we’re in [the playoffs] in some capacity, so whatever game I do get into, I just know you have to be at your best. You have to bring your A-game. There is no other way to script it, because the moment you give these guys an inch, they hit it a mile. It only counts even more in the playoffs.”

Either way, the regular-season portion of his Follow-Up Season is over. And after he ended it with his 18th win of this year, and his 39th win over the last two seasons, he was good with what he posted.

He said in the spring that he could pitch better than last year and not have the same results. He wasn’t far off statistically. From a pure pitching standpoint, he feels like he’s better.

“I really do, because I feel like I’m executing pitches at a higher level than I was, say, last year,” Scherzer said. “Last year I was very consistent, and that’s something that’s so hard to strive for. In my eyes I wasn’t quite as consistent this year as I was last year. I had a few more ups and downs this year. But overall, I still did a heckuva job this year. In some ways I pitched from a numbers perspective pretty much the same. But from a pitching standpoint, I’m able to execute pitches at a higher level. I have a much more consistent curveball, and that allows me to really pitch with four pitches.

“As I keep going, that’s what you strive for, is to always find ways to keep getting better and execute pitches in new ways, because you know the rest of the league’s keying on you to try to figure you out and try to figure out ways to get hits off you. You have to come up with ways to keep getting better, and that’s what I’m proud of. Even after an unbelievable year last year, I still found a way to get better this year.”

He’s said it before many times, and he said it again Thursday, that you either get better or worse, and it’s impossible to stay the same pitcher.

“For me,” Scherzer said, “I can look back on 2014 — at least in the regular season now — and say, ‘OK, maybe I didn’t have quite the numbers as I was able to put up last year, but some things I did do better at this year. But overall, I feel like I’m a better pitcher than I was in 2013.”

Here’s a comparison of the main stats:

Year W L W-L% ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WP ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2013 ★ 21 3 .875 2.90 32 0 0 214.1 152 73 69 18 56 240 4 6 144 2.74 0.970 6.4 0.8 2.4 10.1 4.29
2014 ★ 18 5 .783 3.19 33 1 1 220.1 196 80 78 18 63 252 6 10 125 2.84 1.175 8.0 0.7 2.6 10.3 4.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/26/2014.

Take away the inconsistencies from one start to the next, and the season numbers look similar. There’s an uptick in strikeouts, but also in walks, resulting in a lower strikeout-to-walk ratio (a huge stat for Scherzer, who has a profound appreciation for what Phil Hughes did with his record ratio).

And here’s a look at some of the ratios:

Year PA HR% SO% BB% XBH% X/H% GB/FB GO/AO IP% LD% HR/FB IF/FB DPopp DPs DP%
2013 836 2.2% 28.7% 6.7% 7.1% 39% 0.60 0.67 62% 19% 6.4% 15% 119 10 8%
2014 904 2.0% 27.9% 7.0% 7.6% 35% 0.60 0.76 62% 22% 5.8% 13% 174 15 9%
7 Yrs 5138 2.6% 25.7% 7.6% 7.7% 35% 0.65 0.83 63% 20% 7.7% 14% 907 79 9%
MLB Averages 2.5% 18.9% 8.3% 7.6% 33% 0.81 1.09 69% 20% 7.5% 13% 11%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/26/2014.

The percentage of plate appearances ending in a strikeout actually went down, even though the strikeouts per nine innings went up. Likewise, though the percentage of plate appearances ending in an extra-base hit went up, extra-base hits comprised a smaller percentage of his hit total.

The most interesting thing for me in the bunch, though, might be the uptick in his ground-ball rate. He’s still a flyball pitcher, but he has able to get more grounders when he needed them, resulting in five more double plays than he had last season. Given his work on becoming more of a four-pitch pitcher, it would not be a surprise if this trend continues, no matter what team he ends up pitching for next year.

Finally, an analysis on his strike percentages and strikeouts:

Year Pit Pit/PA Str% L/Str S/Str F/Str I/Str AS/Str AS/Pit Con 1st% L/SO S/SO L/SO%
2013 3388 4.05 65.9% 28.3% 20.0% 27.7% 24.0% 71.7% 47.2% 72.1% 64.4% 53 187 22.1%
2014 3638 4.01 66.2% 26.9% 19.7% 29.1% 24.2% 73.1% 48.4% 73.0% 63.2% 45 207 17.9%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/26/2014.

He was ever so slightly more efficient than last year, and he threw an incrementally higher percentage of strikes. However, hitters seemed more aggressive, taking fewer strikes and swinging more, evidenced more in the percentage of pitches fouled off.

17 Comments

“But overall, I still did a heckuva job this year”
In Venezuela, we have a saying: ” He has no grandmother”

feeling like a better pitcher, being a better pitcher…..two different things. I don’t know if he is the later, but I do know he is an older pitcher in 2014 than 2013. He’ll get paid, but not by this org. For his sake alone, I hope he is not a Yankee. He doesn’t deserve to be treated that way – even if he is a little greedy and a little cocky.

So who is going to pay big and how much?

In light of Jason’s article I think this re-post is more appropriate here:
I think DD was going to get rid of Fister anyway. I suppose it is all weaved into the thinking around salary structure but could simply have been thinking it was the best time to get something for a 30 year old pitcher on a stacked rotation.
It was most certainly a bad trade from the gitgo and almost everyone here said so at the time.
And it is the money issue that people don’t like but his money issue is not so unlike any other player in an opportune position. I don’t like it much and the change in baseball caused me to stop following it for about 15 years until guys like Chris Shelton, Nook Logan, Placido Polanco, Curtis Granderson and Craig Monroe captured my fancy once again.
To me a good performance should be appreciated on its own merits.
Max has won his last two ball games, giving up 3 runs in the process, at a time where the club absolutely had to win.
Over the last two years he has 5 times as many wins as he does losses.
Money aside he does not deserve to be called a “bad” pitcher based on performance.
We are lucky to have him for another month.

I guess it’s up to his new team to decide what kind of pitcher he is. Not our issue. He’s under contract for this season so there’s no luck involved. It’s a business, as he’s made abundantly clear.

My thoughts are that he will not be putting up a 6+ WAR next year, more like his old 4-WAR self. That’s of course if his arm doesn’t fall off of him. Either way I think his next team will be overpaying for him, and if that team is in NYY he will be sorry.

Guess I shouldn’t have used the word lucky. Let’s just say I am happy he is pitching this post season for my team.

I am too. My only thing was not having him pitch two ALDS games because he’s liable to need bullpen help more than the others. If they advance from there, a seven game series is entirely different. And yes, I’m taking Sanchez into account.

The guy is truly gifted with a freakish arm and delivery. Also the kind of guy who could go straight down with any significant injury. I still use as my case against long term pitching contracts the career of Yankee Ace Carl Pavano, who gave them about 10 wins for a long term contract and millions of dollars. Our offer was fair; Max wants more; I wish him well.

I am not ready to close the door on Max yet. He will get a Qualifying Offer for sure. I think the Yankees will not be the major player. I see St. Louis in the lead, Chicago Cubs and Detroit. Max is a mid westerner, with mid western sensibilities. He will get a lot of money yes, but Max is a very smart guy. He will not use money as the only factor.
If VMart leaves, and Max is still available, we might try going after him.
No matter what, he has been a pleasure to watch, and I appreciate what he has done for the organization. How about 5 more wins from Max so he can sign the new contract with a big ring on his finger.

If they did re-sign Scherzer, Price would be gone after next year. Kind of a choice, or a gamble if you prefer.
If Victor doesn’t come back, this team is toast. There’s not another hitter in all of baseball who can hit behind Miggy the way Victor does. No matter who you get, it’s a downgrade.

Victor will not repeat his success of this year next year, and certainly not the 2 years after that. Yet he will get paid like he did! Offense isn’t this teams problem: bullpen and defense, is.

4 WAR? 6.5 per Win: 26 MM per year.

6.7 War (for pitchers) last year, 6.1 this year….
.
idiots pay full price per WAR. TB never does I can assure you of that.

The price of a W last year was 6.5 Millions as long as I know- TB has no money

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