In 2009, Max Scherzer made major strides to becoming a formidable starting pitcher for both fantasy owners and the Arizona Diamondbacks for years to come. He showed that he has electric stuff that opposing batters have a tough time getting their sticks on.
Take his opponents’ contact percentage on strikes (81.3 percent), which ranked second to only Cole Hamels among qualified starting pitchers. Also, his overall contact percentage (76.9 percent) ranked 13th among all qualified starting pitchers. Those swing-and-miss numbers are what have led to his great strikeout numbers. Oh, those strikeouts!
There is a lot to like, but one thing that has stayed a concern throughout Scherzer’s career is his control, which also affected his ability to pitch past the sixth inning and accumulate wins.
His 3.33 BB/9 and 1.34 WHIP are nothing to write home about and he has only won nine games in his first 37 starts because he has only averaged five and two-third innings per start in his career. In 2009, he averaged 102 pitches in less than six innings per game, but fantasy owners bit the bullet because of his great strikeout totals. Ah yes, those marvelous strikeouts!
In fact, it’s true that Scherzer is an elite strikeout pitcher, but that is all he is good for. In two seasons he started 37 games, pitched 226 and one-third innings, and struck out 240 batters, which comes out to 9.54 strikeouts per nine innings.
When I heard that Scherzer was on his way out of Arizona and into the American League my first thought was, “Oh no, not the strikeouts!”
One big difference Scherzer is going to face is that he will no longer have the luxury of facing the opponent’s pitcher every eight batters. I don’t care what you say: there is no ninth hitter in the AL that is an easier out than a pitcher. Let’s look at the damage Scherzer did against pitchers last season:
It’s no shock that Scherzer had a lot of success pitching to his own kind (he struck out 43 percent of them!), but now that he will have to face an actual hitter, he will have to work a little harder, which is the last thing he needs.
Scherzer already struggles to make it out of the sixth inning on a consistent basis because he is not a very efficient pitcher. Take away those 54 easy outs and you might have a different story in 2010. It’s a very real concern that his strikeouts per nine could dip under nine for the first time in his career.
Even if the strikeouts stay the same, Bryan wrote earlier this week about how those strikeouts aren’t as valuable as people perceive them to be. The truth is that we can’t expect Scherzer to fix his control issues overnight and his durability is always a concern—he has had shoulder problems since 2006—and with his increase in innings (109 and one-third to 170 and one-third) there is possibility of a DL stint or two in 2010.
As you can tell I am taking a rather cautious approach towards Scherzer in 2010, and I advise you to do the same. Yes, his ability to make hitters swing and miss is appealing, but there is always an adjustment period with pitchers switching leagues, especially when moving to the AL.
His durability and control issues will continue to bother him; he should be drafted around the 15th round, and according to Couchmanagers.com he is currently being drafted 185th overall, which is a little low, but in the area where I would consider taking a risk on Scherzer.
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