Washington Nationals 2016 Player Preview: Max Scherzer
The Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer had a stellar season in his first year donning the Curly W. What does the Nats’ ace have in store for 2016?
When Max Scherzer won the American League Cy Young Award in 2013 with the Detroit Tigers, he finished the year with a 2.90 ERA, 0.970 WHIP, 240 strikeouts, and 56 walks having thrown 214.1 innings. Last season, in his first year in the nation’s capital, he posted a 2.79 ERA, 0.918 WHIP, 276 strikeouts, and 34 walks in 228.2 innings pitched. Oh, and he became the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1973 to throw two no-hitters in a season.
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But wait, it doesn’t stop there. His 7.1 bWAR was the highest total of his career and the fifth highest mark among pitchers in all of baseball. Only six baserunners swiped a bag with him on the mound, and opposing hitters were held to a .208/.242/.358 slash line. His second no-hitter of the season resulted in a Game Score of 104, the second highest rating ever achieved in a nine inning major league game.
So while Mad Max may not have brought in the hardware last season (he did earn his third straight All-Star selection), his performance on the mound was nothing short of an absolute domination of opposing lineups. Consider the first year of that $210 million contract well worth the money.
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Now, heading into 2016, the Nats’ ace is looking to get even better. Scherzer struggled with the long ball last season, particularly in the second half, allowing an MLB-leading 17 homers after the All-Star Break. He only recorded 14 wins, but that was mostly due to a lack of run support. The Washington lineup battled injuries and was only able to provide 3.15 runs per start, leaving Scherzer and the struggling bullpen behind him without much room to work with.
At 31-years old, Max is still at the tail-end of his prime. He is certainly in the conversation of becoming the first pitcher to win a Cy Young Award in both the American and the National Leagues since Roy Halladay did it in 2010 (Phillies) and 2003 (Blue Jays). With a full season of National League play under his belt, there is no reason not to expect Scherzer to be everything he was in 2015 and more this season.
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With manager Dusty Baker already hinting that Scherzer will be his starter on Opening Day, everyone in the Nats organization appears to be on board with riding the Scherzer bandwagon for as long as they can. Only one question remains, can anyone keep up with the Nats’ ace?