A problem that has haunted Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer throughout his career peaked in 2016. After allowing a career-high number of home runs, the right-hander is actively working toward a solution.
While many admire Max Scherzer for the obvious talent that earned him the Cy Young Award, he willingly admits his imperfections. With a new season on the horizon, the right-hander looks to fix the holes in his seemingly flawless repertoire, starting with the career-high amount of home runs he allowed last season.
“That’s one of my flaws,” said Scherzer (per The Washington Post). “I’ve got to find a way to keep the ball in the ballpark.”
After signing a seven-year, $215 million contract with the Washington Nationals, Scherzer grew into one of the most pristine pitchers in the major leagues. During his inaugural season in Washington D.C., Scherzer threw a pair of no-hitters on July 20 and October 3, 2015. Although he failed to throw a no-hitter the following season, Scherzer impressively struck out 20 batters against the Detroit Tigers.
Scherzer’s career-high 34 starts translated into his National League-leading 228.1 innings pitched and 20 wins. Furthermore, he led the major leagues with 284 strikeouts and 0.97 WHIP. Consequently, Scherzer finished 2016 with his second Cy Young Award.
Since earning the award with the Tigers in 2013, Scherzer landed in the top-five for the Cy Young Award the following two years. In the end, he beat out World Series champions Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks for the 2016 Cy Young Award. By doing so, Scherzer became the sixth pitcher in baseball history to earn the Cy Young Award in both leagues.
Regardless, Scherzer is not satisfied with his award-winning season and his pursuit of perfection fuels his competitiveness. Beginning in 2009, Scherzer gave up 20-plus home runs in all but two season as a full-time starting pitcher. Despite a sparkling 20-7 record, Scherzer led the National League with 31 home runs allowed in 2016.
The issue that has continually haunted him throughout his career struck hardest during the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. With already two homers given up in Game 1, Scherzer looked to bounce back after seven shutout innings in Game 5. Joc Pederson took Scherzer deep to break up the shutout and spark a Dodgers seventh-inning rally.
Although he avoided the loss: “Honestly, that was one of the toughest of my career,” said Scherzer (per The Washington Post). “…Our team as good an effort as I’ve been a part of and really could’ve completed with anybody. That’s the gut punch in all of this. We put that on the line and didn’t win.”
However, Scherzer plans to use the offseason to address his problems with the long ball. After his fourth All-Star appearance, he accredited pitch location as the source of his home run dilemma. To Federal Baseball, Scherzer claimed that leaving the ball over the middle of the plate led to his career-high in home runs allowed last season. Accompanied by his new catcher, Derek Norris, Scherzer seeks to defend his Cy Young Award in 2017 by working on his pitch placement and bringing down his number of home runs surrendered.