Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers has made twelve starts and he has not lost a game. Not only has he not lost a game, he does not look capable of losing a game. He has pitched in the shadow of Verlander for so long that he has always been considered the other guy. He might just be the guy now. He has gotten better every season in the last four and now Scherzer is in an elite class as one of the best pitchers in the game.
Let's look at some three year progressions for Scherzer. These progressions will show the progress he has made over the three year period. The numbers will start with 2011 with 2012 the second number and this year as the third. Here we go:
- Winning percentage: .625, .679, 1.000
- K/BB ratio: 3.11, 3.85, 5.00
- WHIP: 1.349, 1.274, 0.888
- Hits/9: 9.6, 8.6, 5.8
- FIP: 4.14, 3.27, 2.36
- Strikeout percentage: 20.9%, 29.4%, 31.6%
- GameScore Ave: 50.7, 55.6, 64.2
- HR/9: 1.34, 1.10, 0.65
- Batting average against: .269, .248, .182
And it goes on and on. The same kind of three-year improvement can be seen in his tERA, SIERA, Win Probability and more. Scherzer has simply gotten better each year to the point where he is now an ace caliber pitcher and among the best in the game, if not on his own team.
To show you how strong the Tigers are, according to Fangraphs.com, the Tigers have the number 2 starter in baseball (yes, currently Sanchez has better stats than Scherzer), the number 6 (Scherzer) and number 8 (Verlander) starters in baseball. And if you had to go with one of the three in a big game, who would you give the ball to?
Verlander gets the nod by most still because of his history. But it would be a tough choice for me. I think personally that Sanchez will fall behind the other two eventually as he has trouble staying healthy. But Verlander and Scherzer will be neck and neck the rest of the season. Verlander had a rougher start to his season but has been coming on strong. The two have similar numbers with Scherzer coming out on top in most of them due to Verlander's season start.
But the bottom line here is that you cannot go wrong with either selection. As good as Verlander is, Max Scherzer is just as terrific now. You could not say that two years ago or even last year. But Scherzer's progression reminds me of Verlander's.
The only obstacle left for Max Scherzer to break to be in Verlander's league is to go beyond 200 innings this season, something he has not done. Part of that might be Verlander's strength of will to keep the ball late into the game and Leyland not having the same trust level with Scherzer. But that looks to be changing this season because one of those other progressions is innings per start. Scherzer has averaged 5.91 and 5.85 innings per start in the last two seasons, but is averaging 6.9 innings a start this year.
Max Scherzer has been in Verlander's long shadow for most of his career. But if his season continues to go this well, then the sun will be shining equally on both of them.