Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What should the Tigers expect from Max Scherzer?

It's Scherzer's first start for the Tigers, and in the AL, and there are high hopes.  In his 2 years in Arizona, comprising 46 G, 37 starts, 9-15 record and a 3.86 ERA.  He was traded to the Tigers from Arizona as part of the 3-team blockbuster deal between the Tigers, D-Back and Yankees.  This year, though, a lot is expected of him:

Jamie Samuelson wrote in the Detroit Free Press that Scherzer might be the key to the Tigers season:
So my final pick is Scherzer. If he can live up to the hype that accompanied his arrival in the majors in 2008, he can give the Tigers a front three that really can mask some other issues on the team. When the Tigers won in 2006, their top three pitchers were Verlander, Bonderman and Kenny Rogers.
Keith Olbermann mentioned him on his blog, Baseball Nerd:
I'm conflicted about a Cy Young Winner between an easy bet like Felix Hernandez or Lester or Beckett, and some darkhorse candidate coming in from the NL like Max Scherzer.
On Fangraphs, David Golebiewski concluded that the only thing that could hold Scherzer back is injuries:
The most likely reason is that Arizona doubts Scherzer’s long-term health and viability as a starting pitcher. To recap his extensive injury history since 2006: shoulder and biceps tendinitis in ‘06, shoulder inflammation in 2008, shoulder fatigue and tightness in 2009. His health certainly bears watching, especially considering that Scherzer’s innings total increased from 109 in 2008 to 175 in 2009 (major league innings plus one rehab start).
There’s little doubt that Scherzer has the talent to become one of the top 20-30 starters in the majors. Few pitchers combine his ability to miss bats with quality control. The question is: can he hold up physically?
Unless someone unexpectedly steps up like Jeremy Bonderman, Scherzer will probably be expected to at least replace Edwin Jackson, who went 13-9 with an ERA of 3.62.  The Tigers could end up looking pretty smart on this because in Scherzer, they got a 25 year old with a great arm (Detroit News):
Scherzer was eighth in the National League in strikeouts per nine innings (9.19) in 2010 and twice had 10-strikeout games. Even in a league where the absence of a designated hitter brings pitchers to the plate, Scherzer's strikeout numbers were impressive. His overall statistics (9-11 record, 4.12 ERA in 30 starts) were less gaudy, although plausible on a Diamondbacks team that finished the season 72-90.
Scherzer has a four-seam fastball that runs in the 93-94-mph range and has reached 99. He has a serviceable slider, as well as a change-up that he considers his second-best pitch. Noteworthy is his lack of a sinking, two-seam fastball, which is standard for most starters.

"But his four-seamer moves," said Rick Knapp, the Tigers pitching coach. "It's not like it's flat. Even as a four-seamer, his fastball has life."
Even in a year where he didn't post a great ERA(4.12) or record (9-11), his strikeout and strikeout-to-walk totals were good in 2009:
April-May: 57 SO, 22 BB, 54.1 IP
June: 26 SO, 13 BB, 29 IP
July-August: 67 SO, 16 BB, 56 IP
September: 24 SO, 12 BB, 31 IP

If he keeps that up, he'll improve his record and ERA this season with the Tigers, even if moving to the AL isn't usually such a great thing for a pitcher.  If he has a great season, which he is capable of, it could be a major factor in the AL Central race this year.


Update: Scherzer is pitching very well through 6 innings: 0 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 3 SO.

Update: He was taken out after 6 innings, and the reliever gave up a run, so Scherzer won't be getting a decision, but he was impressive and Tiger Nation will breathe a sigh of relief.

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