Ryan Sullivan: Max Scherzer is a diamond in a rough season

The 2018 season for the Nationals can best be summarized thus far with the words frustrating and disappointing. There have been lengthy injuries to players like Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman, and mediocre on-field performances from others. Just this week, Washington traded a player due to reported clubhouse issues and designated another for assignment for bizarrely slamming his glove in anger during a 25-4 victory. A team that was supposed to coast to the National League East title, the Nationals currently possess a 55-53 record and sit five games behind Philadelphia in the division. This is turning into a bigger disaster than Malibu.

Lost among this fog of disappointment is the remarkable season Max Scherzer is currently having. On the mound, Scherzer boasts a 15-5 record in his 23 starts and 154 2/3 innings pitched, with a 2.33 ERA and 210 strikeouts against only 102 hits. He has struck out 10 or more batters in 12 of his 23 starts this season. He has increased his strikeout ratio to a career high while simultaneously keeping his walk, home run and men left on-base ratios below his career norms. He started the All-Star Game last month in his home stadium for the National League and is one of the favorites to win the NL Cy Young Award for a third consecutive year. The recently-turned 34-year-old (Happy birthday, Max!) has been utterly dominant and is in the midst of the best season of his career.

Perhaps just as impressive have been his exploits this year as a hitter, as Scherzer is currently hitting .292/.333/.312 with a double, a stolen base and five runs batted in over his 48 at-bats. Furthermore, Scherzer has only eight strikeouts all year, showing he is far from an automatic out and a batter the opposition must respect. In fact, his current .646 OPS is nearly tied with Wilmer Difo (.648) and higher than all three of the team’s catchers (Spencer Kieboom .537, Pedro Severino .510 and Matt Wieters .610) this season. His highlight moment offensively came in June, when Scherzer was summoned as a pinch hitter in the 14th inning, promptly got a single and scored the game-winning run on a Difo triple.

2018 has been discouraging so far for the Nationals and, unless they go on a surge to finish the season, will be remembered as a disappointing year in NatsTown. If the club hopes to usurp the Phillies to win the division, Scherzer will have to have more games like last night, when he went six innings and allowed only two runs, plus sparked a six-run rally with a key hit in the second inning. Bad luck and injuries have put the Nationals in a difficult position, but hopefully there are enough Scherzdays left in this season to capture another National League East title. If not, we should still appreciate and celebrate watching Scherzer have one of the best seasons in recent memory.

Ryan Sullivan blogs about the Nationals at The Nats GM and runs The Nats GM Show podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @NatsGMdotcom. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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.

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