Cy Young winner Max Scherzer is having a career year with the Washington Nationals so far in 2018. With every pitch, potential MVP whispers begin to spread.
The Washington Nationals shocked baseball when they came out of nowhere to sign Max Scherzer to a 7-year, $210 million-dollar contract in January of 2015. Nobody envisioned that the monstrous deal would become a bargain for the Nationals. Until now.
At age 33 and coming off two consecutive NL Cy Young Awards, Scherzer is having the best start to a season in his distinguished career. Mike Rizzo and the Nationals negotiated that 7-year mega-deal based on his success with the Detroit Tigers, which included an AL Cy Young Award.
But signing with the Nationals, he’s somehow improved in each of his first four seasons.
Early in his career, he was a power pitcher that relied heavily on his fastball. There were several seasons where he threw that fastball over 70% of the time.
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Since joining the Nationals, Scherzer has become a true strikeout artist. He changes speeds, mixes pitch types, and masterfully paints the corners of the strike zone.
In 12 starts, “Mad Max” is an early favorite for the National League Most Valuable Player, a rarity for pitchers.
He leads the majors with 9 wins and 120 strikeouts with a 1.92 ERA. Opposing hitters are batting just .171 off him. As if that wasn’t enough to be in the MVP race, Scherzer is also batting .310 with as many RBIs as he has strikeouts at the plate.
Since arriving in D.C., Scherzer’s tendency to throw the fastball has decreased as he’s mixed in other pitches. In 2015, he threw fastballs almost 60% of the time. That number is down to 50% in 2018.
Scherzer mixes that fastball with four other plus pitches, including a nasty slider and above average changeup. He developed a cutter with the Nationals in 2015 that he is throwing more than ever in 2018.
His contact rate is the lowest in baseball, and it’s a pretty esteemed top five. For some perspective, the MLB average for pitchers is about 77 percent.
Also, in his first three seasons with the Nats, Scherzer’s swing strike rate was about 15 percent. In 2018, it’s jumped up to a career high 17.5 percent, almost 7 percent higher than the MLB average.
If he continues to dominate opposing batters and leads the Nationals to the playoffs, he will win the NL MVP. Each of his starts has become must watch TV, not just for Nationals fans, but for everyone around baseball. Every start he makes has the possibility to become something special.
It’s hard not to love someone like Scherzer, who puts in 110% every time he puts on that Nationals jersey. You can’t help but smile every time he stalks around the mound like a crazy person after getting a strike out. The Nationals and their fans are very lucky to have such a competitor on the team and in the clubhouse.
In his four seasons with the Nationals, Max Scherzer has become an artist. Every game he starts is a new portrait, with the strike zone his canvas. Every pitch is a stroke of his brush as he paints the area above home plate. We can’t wait to see what he has in store for his next masterpiece.