By In Baseball

When Scherzer’s Good …

From NBC SportsWorld:

In just the last year, Max Scherzer has thrown four of the greatest games ever pitched:

1. A 16-K one-hitter.

2. A no-hitter that would have been a perfect game except for a hit-batsman (the 27th batter, no less).

3. A 17-strikeout no-hitter that would have been a perfect game except for an error by shortstop Yunel Escobar.

4. Wednesday’s 20-strikeout game.

Insane. And yet, somehow, Max Scherzer is not the best pitcher in baseball. He’s not the second-best pitcher. He might be the third-best, but there are five or six others who could make the argument. How is this possible? Well, when Scherzer’s good …

Inspiring and Ordinary

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18 Responses to When Scherzer’s Good …

  1. Jack Bartram says:

    The most amazing thing to me: Scherzer struck out 20 while throwing a total of 23 pitches that were balls. Nearly 80% strikes. Joe, these are major league hitters, and if you leave that many in the zone, someone will get lucky. But if you have the stuff Scherzer has and throw it consistently, if you throw that many strikes you are going to have a lot of success.

  2. BobDD says:

    Ah, if we only had exhaustive records of Satchel’s prime! Was he so good that our cynicism demands we call it myth? Wouldn’t it be nice to really know? Alas, we are left with a guy who might have been the best pitcher ever – or the 12th best. But I think that when we saw Pedro at his best, and the guys you mentioned, we might just be seeing the latest versions of Leroy Robert Paige, the original pitching mythbuilder.

    • MikeN says:

      In many many years when the speed of light has been surpassed, we can go to a distant galaxy any light years away where the signal has not yet arrived.

  3. jflegault says:

    Does Joe wanted to write Chris Sale instead of Jose Quintana?

  4. Richard says:

    With regards to “Fewest number of pitches possible in a 9 inning game”; if I’m reading Rule 8.04 right, it’s *technically* possible to have a full, 9 inning game without a single pitch being thrown. The pitcher goofs off on the mound, the umpire calls “Ball” as a penalty, proceed until the batter draws a walk, pick the guy off first base for the out. Repeat. Not a single pitch is ever thrown towards the plate. Sure, it’ll never happen, but it is TECHNICALLY possible – I think….

    • NevadaMark says:

      Ripley’s Believe It or Not used the rules to show how a pitcher can throw a nine inning with only 9 pitches.

      • Richard says:

        I remember that!

        Batter hits the first pitch for a triple. He immediately tries to steal home. Getting the ball to the plate is now a “throw” to get him out, and not a pitch. The batter interferes with the throw and is called out; the runner goes back to third. Repeat as needed.

        I don’t recall that Ripley cited the official rule that covered the situation; and it may have changed since then.

  5. Stephon says:

    Here are the league leaders in strikeout/walk ratios for the last five years:

    2015 – Scherzer 8.12
    2014 – Hughes 11.63
    2013 – Cliff Lee 8.97
    2012 – Lee 7.39
    2011 – Roy Halladay 6.29

    This year, Clayton Kershaw’s ratio? 19.25. Kershaw’s aggregate statistics for the whole season when spread over a complete game would be one batter worse (one strikeout turned into one walk) than the all time record games!

    Who is second this year? None other than Big Fat Bartolo Colon. BFBC has a ratio of 9.0, which would be the second highest season-ending number in the last five years.

    Mad Max is currently rated 20th with a ratio of 4.4, which seems pretty mediocre for a guy with a 20/0 game just added. Before this week, he was at 3.067 or right between Matt Moore and Scott Kazmir for 38th in MLB.

    Pretty amazed about Kershaw and BFBC for very different reasons. And Max’s stats correlate with Joe’s great or mediocre theme, with an emphasis on the mediocre so far this year.

    • Jack Bartram says:

      Max is a bit more streaky than this article lets on, as well. Yes, he can be a little erratic from start to start, but face it; last year by mid-season, Max was the best pitcher in baseball and it wasn’t particularly close. He was doing to pitching what his teammate Harper was doing to hitting. But Max fell way off in the second half, with the exception of his season ending no-no, which was dominant BUT did come against a Met team with nothing to play for resting regulars for the post-season. He was average from around July 1 on. And this season, he was average other than Ks until the other night. I know the Nats and the fans are hoping this wakes up Beast Max, because Beast Max is the best pitcher in baseball, and one of the best I have ever seen pitch. Beast Max is as unhittable as any pitcher has ever been.

      Another question: Perfect games have been done dozens of times, and no hitters hundreds. Striking out 20 has been done 5 times. And of course not all perfect games or all 20K games are created equal. I think Kerry Woods 20K game is the best of them, even though Scherzer threw less pitches and more strikes for his 20K game. But Scherzer gave up 6 hits, 2 home runs and runs. Woods gave up a hit and a hbp. And Randy Johnson’s 20Ks didn’t even come with a win. He was pulled after 9 in a tie game. Remarkably, in the five 9 inning 20K games, there have been a total of 0 walks. And all perfect games are not alike: Addie Joss in 1908 threw 74 pitches and struck out 3. David Cone in ’99 threw 88 pitches and struck out 10, which is fairly remarkable. Matt Cain threw 125 pitches and struck out 14. Had Scherzer’s first no-hitter not been spoiled by Tabata’s failure to try AT ALL to avoid the pitch, it would have been a fairly average perfect game. Had Escobar not committed his error in Scherzer’s second no-no, it would have been the best game ever pitched.

      The question is, taking into account the differences between various 20K and perfect games, which feat is more impressive? We know 20Ks is rarer. But which is more impressive?

      • Marc Schneider says:

        You can get lucky and throw a perfect game (and you can be unlucky to lose it); you can’t be lucky to strike out 20. If you look at the pitchers that have struck out 20, they were all very good to great pitchers at the time. If you look at perfect games, well, you have Don Larsen throw probably the fluke game of all time (and was saved by Mickey Mantle) and others who were decent but not great pitchers. On the other hand, except in rare instances, a no-hitter also involves a shut out which means the team wins. Scherzer gave up two runs and could easily have lost the game if someone in the 9th had gotten hold of one. In fact, Steve Carlton struck out 19 and lost on two two-run home runs.

        I totally agree with you about Scherzer. At his best, he is as good as anyone in the game, plus, as a matter of aesthetics, I enjoy watching him get the ball and throw without spending a half hour deciding what to throw. But he has developed a propensity to give up home runs. He gave up two home runs to the BRAVES, for goodness sakes. Frankly, his struggles in the second half of last season were a significant (albeit not the only) reason why the Nats fell out of the race.

      • professorbohn says:

        I’d say the 20 K game. I mean, there’s zero margin for error in a perfect game, but paradoxically, a perfect game helps you in one sense, because it essentially requires you to not throw a lot of pitches. With the modern day emphasis on pitch counts, you need to be dominant, and not waste pitches. You could be at 19ks through 8 innings and 120 pitches, and then throw 20 more and not move the likelyhood of getting 20K one way or the other

  6. Ian says:

    I don’t pay a ton of attention to the NL but I do remember thinking last year after his second no-no that he must have locked up the Cy Young and then I went to B-R and saw his season stats were, while amazing, not as amazing as I thought they would have been.

  7. MikeN says:

    Anyone see 538s article on greatest pitching performances? They credit Pedro for a game against a great Indians team. The article tries to pretend that all these stats are important, talking about Pedro setting the records as if someone was following it.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      To me, Pedro may be one of the most underrated pitchers of all time. When you consider his utter dominance during a period of high offense, it’s just amazing. And he did it against very good teams. And you can’t really claim Pedro was juicing, at least not based on his physical appearance.

      • MikeN says:

        He was juicing. All those rizada naranja manzanate injections.

      • Jesse K. says:

        Inasmuch as a first-ballot Hall of Famer can be underrated, I am in full agreement here. If, like me, you value peak over longevity, Pedro has a great argument as the greatest pitcher ever. His seven-year peak included *five* of the top 40 (actually, top 36) ERA+ seasons of all time. Others making multiple appearances on the list are Walter Johnson (four times), Clemens (3), Maddux (2), Mathewson (2) and Greinke (2).

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