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Roster review: Max Scherzer

Oct 22, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

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Age on Opening Day 2016: 31

How acquired: Free agent, Jan. 2015

MLB service time: 7 years, 79 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $17,142,857 million

Contract status: Signed for $15 million in 2016, $15 million in 2017, $15 million in 2018, $35 million in 2019, $35 million in 2020, $35 million in 2021. (Salaries from 2019-21 will be deferred, with Scherzer paid $15 million per year from 2022-28, but he will receive $15 million signing bonuses each year from 2019-22.)

2015 stats: 33 GS, 228.2 IP, 176 H, 74 R, 71 ER, 27 HR, 34 BB, 276 K, 0.918 WHIP, 14-12, 2.79 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 7.1 WAR

Quotable: “I do think I was a better pitcher in 2015 than I was in ’14. I feel like I’m able to do more things with the baseball, sequence guys different. I just feel like all my pitches are better. But I still have room for improvement. I gave up a bunch of home runs there in the second half, and that’s something I’ve got to improve upon in 2016. So I definitely have some things to work on myself. And that’s what’s exciting about baseball. You’re always getting better. You’re always finding new ways to do stuff. And that’s what’s exciting for next year.” — Max Scherzer

2015 analysis: The Nationals stunned everyone by signing Scherzer to a record $210 million deal in late January, adding a Cy Young Award winner to what already looked like a complete and dominant rotation. And that only added a tremendous amount of pressure on the right-hander to live up to that contract and prove his addition to this rotation actually was necessary.

Well, Scherzer lived up to it in his first year in Washington. He became only the sixth pitcher in history to throw two no-hitters in the same season. And when you throw in his 1-hit, 16-strikeout shutout of the Brewers, he’s the first pitcher in history to earn a “Game Score” of at least 97 in three separate, 9-inning starts. He established a new club record with 276 strikeouts, and he joined Pedro Martinez (2000) and Curt Schilling (2002) as the only pitchers ever to strike out that many batters in a season while issuing 34 or fewer walks.

That said, Scherzer also endured through a significant late-summer slump. Over a stretch of nine starts, he posted a 5.54 ERA, serving up 14 homers in only 52 innings. It’s a testament to his near-perfection the rest of the season that his final numbers remained so impressive in spite of that down period.

2016 outlook: It’s safe to say Scherzer has firmly established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Over the last four seasons, he ranks ninth in the majors in ERA (3.12), fifth in WHIP (1.076), seventh in innings (851), first in wins (69) and second in strikeouts (999).

How long can he sustain that? There lies the $210 million question. It’s perfect fair to expect Scherzer to put together another elite season with an ERA in the high-2.00s or low-3.00s, more than 200 strikeouts and more than 200 innings. But he’s 31 years old now, and so there will always be concerns about how his body and his arm hold up as he ages.

This much we do know: Scherzer is a perfectionist, as evidenced by the above quote (which came minutes after his second no-hitter). He is as studious a pitcher as there is in the game today, always analyzing his performance and thinking of ways he can improve. If there’s anybody out there right now who has the ability to adjust as he matures, Scherzer is high on the list.

  1. Whack-A-Mule - Oct 22, 2015 at 8:40 AM

    Jacob DeGrom
    Noah Syndergaard
    Matt Harvey
    Steven Matz
    Zack Wheeler

    The Mets starting rotation in 2016 will be better than 2015,
    given the return of Wheeler and the maturation of Matz.

    All are under team control through 2020.
    We will be examining the Mets tail-lights for the next 5 seasons.
    Oh, dear.

    • Joe Seamhead - Oct 22, 2015 at 8:55 AM

      We shall see.That’s what many were saying about the Nats coming into this past season. Injuries tend to be the great equalizer.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 22, 2015 at 9:24 AM

        Come on everybody we were all disappointed last season. Well I was in a way because I expected what happen to happen.When the media starts saying this is the team to beat this is the team going to the world series its usually not. We need to move on and be positive!! I’m use to this I have to do this every season in football I’m a New Orleans Saints fan.

      • adcwonk - Oct 22, 2015 at 10:12 AM

        That’s what many were saying about the Nats coming into this past season.

        Well, put. I was going to answer similarly — in the following fashion:

        “Best starting five in all of baseball — now, gee, where have I heard that before? 😉 “

      • Section 222 - Oct 22, 2015 at 5:27 PM

        Of course, “we shall see.” There’s no certainty to anything related to starting pitching. What happened to us in 2015 made that painfully clear. But anyone who thinks that as of this moment our starting rotation can be counted on to be better than the Mets’ is either foolish or smoking something.

        We have two pitchers Scherzer and Stras who are the equal or, being charitable, maybe a tick better than DeGrom and Harvey. After that, the Mets’ 3, 4, and 5 of Syndegaard, Matz, and Wheeler are superior, or far superior (even with Wheeler on a post TJ innings limit) to Ross, Gio, and Roark/mystery guest.

        I’m not ready, of course, to concede the division to the Mets for the next five years. But we definitely won’t be favored for awhile. That’s probably a good thing.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 22, 2015 at 6:25 PM

        I heard they want to trade Stras not resigning Zim or Fister. So we will have one good pitcher. Im not bad mouthing Gio but you know what i mean. If they can’t afford Zim its not like they can afford Price or Grienke. I think they should try to keep Fister and try him as a starter again. In recent memory Lincecum was sent to the bullpen and became a starter again and he has done pretty good and pitched a couple of no hitters since then. I think it’s worth a shot.

      • unkyd59 - Oct 22, 2015 at 7:09 PM

        Coming around to the view that, I hope they make a serious offer to extend Stras…

    • veejh - Oct 22, 2015 at 10:31 AM

      You really think Murph is gonna repeat what he did this postseason? No way.

  2. chaz11963 - Oct 22, 2015 at 8:40 AM

    Well, love the contract or not, Max is going to be in Nats’ uniform for a long time. All we can do is hope he ages well.

    He certainly had an impressive first year. If not for the second half HRs, he would have been totally awesome. If you look at the splits, he gave up 10 HRs in the first half and 17 in second half, and the monthly HR totals slowly rose each month and were evenly split between RHBs and LHBs. His HR rate was by far the worst of the top 30 SPs last season. It just makes me think that the McC and the coaching staff weren’t doing as much as they could have to help him mitigate the steady upward trend in HRs.

    • npb99 - Oct 22, 2015 at 12:24 PM

      It was strange why it took him so long to work his way out of that second half funk. He basically pitched like he was injured for six weeks, but apparently he wasn’t. Doesn’t say much for the since-fired pitching coaches that they couldn’t help him figure it out sooner.
      That said, Max is one of the few players who doesn’t have any significant question marks around him for next season. One of very few.

  3. Susanfaulkner - Oct 22, 2015 at 8:41 AM

    Absolutely love Max!!!! When he gets fired up its great. Great pitcher to watch.

  4. joemktg - Oct 22, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    My review: Max good.

    And there you have it.

  5. Susanfaulkner - Oct 22, 2015 at 9:44 AM

    Don Mattingley not returning to Dodgers even when they offered him an extension. Anyone’s thoughts on him as a manager for the Nats?

    • jd - Oct 22, 2015 at 9:46 AM

      Why?

      We already had a bad manager.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 22, 2015 at 9:49 AM

        I didn’t hear anything bad about him. Evidently the Dodgers liked him or sign of desperation.

      • jd - Oct 22, 2015 at 10:00 AM

        Susan,

        He had a $300 mil team and the best pitcher in baseball and has won bupkes. We can do better.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 22, 2015 at 10:10 AM

        Your right. We need a Bruce Bochy or a Mike Mathney. Those teams are in it winning for the past like 6 years.

      • adcwonk - Oct 22, 2015 at 10:20 AM

        I guess that’s the question: _was_ he a bad manager, or was it not-good-enough players? (Just because it was a $300M payroll doesn’t mean a whole lot)

        36 y.o. Rollins at SS (.224), Joc Peterson played the whole season in CF (.210) — but they still won 92 games.

        Kershaw lost 5 straight post-season games, before beating the Mets once (in two tries). That’s certain not Mattingly’s fault.

        That said — I have absolutely no clue as to whether he’s a good manager or not. How does he manage the club house? Does he get his players ready to play? Can he manage a bullpen?

        No idea.

        Anyone?

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 22, 2015 at 10:45 AM

        Great questions adcwonk. I only watch the Dodgers when the play the Nats or on the days that Kershaw pitches. Not enough to answer any of those questions. I guess the real question is can we trust Rizzo to hire the right manager?

      • jd - Oct 22, 2015 at 10:35 AM

        wonk,

        I don’t see the Dodgers on a daily basis. I know he’s not highly regarded by ‘experts’. When I did see the Dodgers I found the moves Mattingly makes curious. His personality is very laid back, he is not as tightly wound as MW but he also doesn’t seem to bring out the best in his players. The Puig situation seems very chaotic.

        I just don’t see any reason for us to go there. I think we can do better.

      • trfwans - Oct 22, 2015 at 11:35 AM

        Five straight winning seasons. Three consecutive division titles, first time that’s been done in the long history of the Dodgers. All this despite a change in ownership and a virtually constant ownership-stoked circus atmosphere that was just short of Steinbrennian. Yeah, Mattingly hasn’t done anything as a manager.

  6. Sonny G 10 - Oct 22, 2015 at 11:48 PM

    I just hope Rizzo’s due diligence in searching for a manager is much better than his due diligence on Papelbon.

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