Max Scherzer is the best pitcher in baseball right now, and he’s accomplished things that other pitchers would only dream of ever touching. He has two immaculate innings, two no-hitters and a 20-strikeout game. He has three Cy Young Awards, and is the two-time incumbent winner in the National League. He looks to be well on his way to a third straight, and there’s no question about it.
Scherzer is crushing the National League in just about every pitching category, leading a dominant Nationals rotation. He’s second in ERA to only Jacob deGrom, but a 1.95 ERA is nothing to sneeze at and could easily be leading the league, but at least our bullpen hasn’t given up every single one of Max’s starts. But aside from ERA, Scherzer is far and away leading the league in every other category. He has a 10-1 record, and his 10 wins are three more than the next closest pitcher. He has a whopping 133 strikeouts; the next closest National League pitcher, Patrick Corbin, just cracked 100 in his start last night. He has a 0.83 WHIP, .171 batting average against and 87 2/3 innings.
Scherzer is dominating, and doing it all. He’s not letting in any runs, he’s barely giving up any hits, he’s striking out just about every batter he faces, he’s going deep into starts and he’s durable. It’s everything you could want in an ace. And even though he’s won two straight Cy Young awards, he’s getting even better.
If Scherzer keeps up this pace, he will destroy his own numbers from any of his previous three Cy Young seasons. In 2013 with the Tigers, he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA, 240 strikeouts, a 0.97 WHIP, a .198 batting average against and 214 1/3 innings. In 2016, he went 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA, 284 strikeouts, a 0.97 WHIP, a .199 batting average against and 228 1/3 innings. In 2017, he went 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA, 268 strikeouts, a 0.90 WHIP, a .178 batting average against and 200 2/3 innings. If he stays on track, that ERA, WHIP and batting average against will reach new bests. He’ll likely stay steady at somewhere around 220 innings. But it’s his strikeouts and his wins that will become astronomical. He has 10 wins and 133 strikeouts and there are four full months of baseball left to play. At this rate, he should achieve well over 20 wins, and he might break the ceiling at hit 300 strikeouts at the stupid rate he’s striking guys out this year.
That Cy Young is well within his reach. He’s won NL Pitcher of the Month in both April and May this season. If I were to bet, I’d say that Scherzer will start the All-Star game for the NL in his home ballpark in July. It would be a bit of a joke if he didn’t. It’s just one of the many honors Scherzer should be up for. The Cy Young is well documented, but he wants more.
I think that the Silver Slugger is definitely one of the prizes Scherzer has his eye on this season, and he’s put in the work with the lumber to earn it. He’s a legitimate force at the plate. He’s hitting .281, which is better than a good chunk of the Nats roster. He has nine hits, he’s scored three runs, he’s driven in four, he’s hit a double and he’s even stolen a base. He came in to pinch-hit in an extra-inning game and scored the eventual winning run. He’s checking off everything on his bucket list (I expect pinch-running is also on there somewhere) and it’s instrumental to the Nationals winning games. He loves hitting so much, and the energy he brings at the plate is crucial to firing up the team. He has the Slugger in his sights, and I think he’s the frontrunner. Perennial winner Madison Bumgarner has been hurt all season, and reigning winner Jake Arrieta is only hitting .158. Keep raking, Max, I think it might be yours.
But there’s one more award that might end up in Max’s hands by the end of the year: the NL MVP. I’m one of those people that hesitate to give pitchers the MVP award, but there are two things working in Scherzer’s favor. There aren’t many hitters out there catching my eye as MVP-worthy. No one is better than the rest and rising above the pack; that could change as the year continues, but there’s no one noteworthy at the moment. And Scherzer really is doing it all. He is completely shutting teams down. When he’s in, the Nationals win, and that’s all there is to it. The Nationals are 11-2 in his starts. Not even the bullpen can ruin what he does. This isn’t mentioning his pinch-hitting appearance. He’s not in every game, but Scherzer in the game almost guarantees a win. And that’s what you want from an MVP. Maybe he won’t win, but he should definitely be taken into serious consideration.
Liz Barr blogs about the Nationals for The Nats Blog. Follow her on Twitter: @RaiseTheBarr1. Her opinions on the Nationals will appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.