Washington Nationals: It’s Max Scherzer, Then Everyone Else
The soon-to-be 35-year-old Washington Nationals starter is pitching better than ever. How does he stack up against the rest of the MLB?
There is no denying that Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer is one of the best pitchers in baseball. There is a very good case to be made that Scherzer is the best pitcher in the game.
However, what may shock baseball fans, is just how much better Scherzer is than every other pitcher in baseball this season.
Scherzer’s trademark ability on the baseball field is his strikeouts. When he is locked in, Scherzer will stalk his prey by walking around on the infield grass as his teammates throw the ball around the infield.
This season is no different as Scherzer is racking up strikeouts at an absurd rate. Scherzer strikes out 33.8% of the batters he faces, which ranks 3rd in all of baseball (among qualified starters). He pairs that nicely with a 5.1% walk rate, which ranks #12 out of the 79 qualified pitchers.
In past years, Scherzer’s biggest weakness has been the long ball. He has been especially susceptible to lefty power. In 2016, and despite winning the Cy Young award, Scherzer led the league with 31 home runs allowed.
However, this season, he has dropped his power allowed numbers way down. His 0.68 HR/9 and 8.2 home run to fly ball percentage rank in the top ten of both categories.
When we boil all of these numbers down and combine them, there are two stats we can look at to paint a clear picture regarding the best pitchers in baseball: Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
FIP takes the factors only a pitcher can control (walks, home runs, hit batters, and strikeouts) and eliminates the variance of batted balls in play. Looking at this stat, Scherzer ranks #1 by a wide margin.
- Scherzer: 2.19 FIP
- Hyun-Jin Ryu: 2.48
- Walker Buehler/Frankie Montas: 2.86
- Chris Sale: 2.89
WAR is trickling its way into more casual baseball fans’ lexicons. For those still unacquainted, Fangraphs.com provides a great analogy for how to interpret WAR:
"“If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a freely available minor leaguer or a AAAA player from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?"
In this regard, Scherzer is at the top of his class. Scherzer’s 4.2 WAR is better than the next best player by almost one full win. Ryu and Rangers pitcher Lance Lynn are tied for second (3.3), and Montas and Sale are tied for fourth (2.9).
The Nationals gave Scherzer a $210 million contract in the winter of 2014, and four seasons later, he is making the organization look smarter every fifth day.