A strong second half by Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer has put him at the front of the Cy Young conversation
Last night, in the DC heat, the Washington Nationals got another strong outing from their ace, Max Scherzer. He threw 6.2 shutout innings and struck out eight in another no-decision. While Scherzer won’t likely get to the 20-win total this season, he has had a great second half and has put himself as a contender, if not the frontrunner, for the Cy Young award.
Since the All-Star Break, Scherzer has been excellent for the Washington Nationals Over that 11 start stretch, he is 6-1 with a 2.37 ERA, has 87 strikeouts in 76 innings, and has given up more than three runs only twice in an outing. Plus, he has held opponents to a .185 batting average.
If you look at where Scherzer ranks amongst all National League starters, he leads the league in innings pitched, wins, strikeouts, and WHIP while being in the top five in ERA.
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When you dissect Scherzer’s second half numbers, the strikeouts do stand out. The 87 K’s are the most in the National League and tied for second in all of baseball (Justin Verlander leads with 89). While the strikeouts have gone up for Scherzer, the most impressive stat about his second half is that the home runs allowed have gone down.
After giving up 21 home runs in the first half of the season, the 32-year-old right-hander has given up just five home runs in the second half. Those home runs have occurred in only three games. Scherzer has the lowest home runs allowed of any pitcher in the Washington Nationals rotation who has made ten or fewer starts.
Scherzer’s only Cy Young Award in his career came in 2013 with the Detroit Tigers when he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA. He has already surpassed that strikeout total from 2013 (240). During that season, he had ten games of ten or more strikeouts. This season, he has 12, including a 20-strikeout game against Detroit back in May.
Last night, Scherzer had to battle through the first three innings as the Phillies put together some good at-bats. It didn’t look like the ace would last that long, but Scherzer responded by only throwing eight pitches in the fourth and five in the fifth.
Right now, the NL Cy Young race is wide open since Clayton Kershaw missed most of the season with his back injury. Stephen Strasburg would’ve been a candidate as well if not for his elbow injury. Other pitchers to keep an eye on are Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs and Madison Bumgarner of the Giants, just to name a few.
With that being said, Scherzer has been dominant in the second half. While he hasn’t had a second half like Jake Arrieta did last season when he won the Cy Young (12-1, 0.75 ERA in 14 starts), It is still impressive nonetheless.
At the very least, Scherzer is at the top of the conversation for the award. In the past two seasons, the Washington Nationals ace has finished fifth in the Cy Young voting. If Scherzer can finish this season with a couple more dominant starts, he has a great chance to claim the first Cy Young in Washington Nationals history since the team moved to DC from Montreal.