Jeff Jones on Scherzer deal: It’s bittersweet

Jeff Jones finally got around to cleaning out his truck from an offseason of hunting and fishing Monday morning when he got a call about Max Scherzer. He ended up taking a ride down memory lane.

He thought back to 2012, when Scherzer was still a young pitcher with great stretches but struggling for consistency.

“We sat down one day and we looked at a lot of film,” Jones recalled. “I had seen in Spring Training that he’d held his hands back a little too far.”

So in the middle of the season, they went to work on resetting his mechanics, keeping Scherzer’s hands in the middle of his delivery.

“What it does,” Jones said, “is allow yourself to stay on target a little bit longer.”

Scherzer had an 8-5 record and a 4.72 ERA at the All-Star break that year. He went 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA from that point on. Add that into his remarkable two-year run, and he’s 47-11 with a 2.97 ERA over the last 2 1/2 seasons, with 425 hits and 602 strikeouts over 525 innings.

In the process, Scherzer vaulted from a talented, mercurial young starter to one of the top starting pitchers in the league. With a seven-year contract from the Nationals, he’ll now be one of the highest-paid players in the game as well.

With that, Jones has now coached two pitchers who have ended up signing seven-year contracts worth $180 million or more, with Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Once Rick Porcello’s situation is resolved in Boston, Jones could have three pupils with well over $400 million in contracts.

No, Jones does not get a cut.

“That would be nice, wouldn’t it,” Jones said with a laugh.

The catch, of course, is that two of those pitchers are elsewhere. Only Verlander is currently a Tiger.

“It’s always bittersweet,” Jones said. “You’re happy for the guy because he got a great contract, but you’re going to miss him.”

It’s something many coaches are used to handling. Like managers and rosters, coaching staffs change all the time. A pitching coach could go from one staff to another, with or without changing teams. Likewise, a team can change coaches for no reason beyond a struggling staff.

Jones, however, had the chance to work with Verlander, Scherzer and Porcello since he became pitching coach in the middle of the 2011 season. He worked with them as Tigers bullpen coach before that. His ability to work with the strong-willed Verlander was one reason he got the job.

With Scherzer, Jones said, it was a process to build that relationship.

“With Max, it took a little while when I get the pitching coach job,” Jones said, “because he had a different language about pitching techniques, so I had to adjust.”

Once he did, they connected. They worked on his delivery in 2012, and they tinkered with the curveball Scherzer was working on as well. The combination helped Scherzer become more consistent and more dangerous against left-handed hitters.

Jones has had to learn other starters over years — Doug Fister in 2011, Anibal Sanchez a year later, then David Price last summer. However, he had that core group. Now, only Verlander remains, and Jones is learning a group that includes recent acquisitions Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene, getting an idea of what other coaches have had to do for years.
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He has watched video on the new guys, and plans to talk with them later this week during TigerFest and the winter caravan. Like Scherzer, he’s moving on. Still, he appreciates what they had.
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“Geez, he did a great job for us,” Jones said of Scherzer. “You couldn’t ask for more.”

6 Comments

My previous comment about Washington and Scherzer was unclear and may have been misunderstood. I was referring to the size of his contract vs his pitching performance, not his character. I think performance expectations will be too high because of the contract. How could it not be?
A thought: if Max runs up his pitch count by the 4th inning in the NL, they might pinch hit for him. One of his strengths in the AL was his ability to hang in for more innings when he’d started the game off kilter.

Very true, Rich And, then he just might be able to make it through 9 innings and a shut out or no-hitter. Better chance of it in NL vs AL? I don’t have stats to back that up….just my opinion. Are there stats to back that up?
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“Don’t it make your brown eyes blue” is how I feel about Max. A great character guy and a great pitcher. I wish him all the best. The fans will go nuts for his eyes.

These guys, Fister and Scherzer, leave Detroit and end up with my secondary team. I don’t even miss ’em. 🙂
Another thought: Max won’t have Jeff Jones. That will bear watching.

Two or years ago, I think Scherzer without Jeff Jones would have been a huge concern. I think Scherzer is comfortable enough with his mechanics, and how to make corrections when he’s out of whack, that he should be fine. Also, Steve McCatty is a good pitching coach in Washington.

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I think that Scherzer will do great the first couple years. His stuff is too electric, and the NL players are not as familar with him. I do not think he will suddenly become a CG pitcher and yes he might get pulled earlier in a game if he has a bad inning and his spot in the hitting lineup comes up. But if he goes 6 or 7 innings a start, I am sure Washington will be happy.
THe deferred money is a funny thing, seems like a gimmick that someone as smart as Scherzer wouldn’t have fallen for. It inflates the paper value of the contract but dilutes the true value over time.

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