Washington Nationals Max Scherzer no-hitter reminds us who he is
Roughly 24 hours after Jake Arrieta put the capper on his likely Cy Young campaign with another brilliant outing, and not long before Zack Greinke added to his Cy Young resume, and less than 24 hours before Clayton Kershaw finished re-establishing his claim as Baseball’s Greatest Pitcher — Cy Young Award be damned — Max Scherzer raised his hand, in a game that meant practically nothing for his team, and said, "Hey, guys? I’m, uh, still here."
And indeed he is.
Which was true even before Saturday night, when he pitched a no-hitter against the Mets — his second no-hitter this season! — with 17 strikeouts and a 104 Game Score that’s a) the highest since Kerry Wood’s 105 in 1998 and b) the second-highest ever in a nine-inning game.
Now, I gotta throw in a couple of caveats, so feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you don’t like your baseball analysis sullied by uncomfortable truths. But Game Scores lack context, and the context is that there are more strikeouts now than ever, and Scherzer wasn’t pitching against the Mets’ best lineup. The good news? Everything I’m going to write next would have been almost exactly as true before Scherzer baffled the Mets.
See, he’s having a great season. Nobody’s really noticed because the Nationals have been so disappointing, and because Scherzer’s still just 14-12 on the season, and because his ERA’s still more than a full run higher than Greinke’s and Arrieta’s.
Granted, Greinke and Arrieta and Kershaw have all deserved the attention they’ve received; it’s hard to argue they haven’t been the three best pitchers in the National League this season. But aside from signing a $210 million contract last January and no-hitting the Pirates in June, how many times has Scherzer’s name come up this year? Less often than Madison Bumgarner’s and Jacob deGrom’s and Gerrit Cole’s and Jon Lester’s and Johnny Cueto’s and definitely Matt Harvey’s, I’ll wager.
But there Scherzer was all season, pitching as wonderfully as usual.
In fact, while it’s hardly obvious that Scherzer’s actually pitched better this season than in 2013, when he was the American League’s Cy Young Award winner, what’s indisputable is that his 8.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best of his career by a lot, and better than Arrieta’s and Kershaw’s and Greinke’s and everyone else’s in the National League.
Does that single statistic mean that Scherzer is, wins and losses and ERA and Cy Young balloting aside, just as good as those other guys?
No, it doesn’t. Scherzer’s given up 27 home runs this season. In his seven full seasons, he’s given up 22 homers per season. There’s nothing wrong with giving up 22 homers per season. Except in the same seven seasons, Kershaw’s given up only a dozen homers per season. Which is, not to put too fine a point on it, the most important difference between Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer.
What those home runs don’t mean is that you should ignore Max Scherzer. Because the minute you do, he’ll pitch one of the best games you’ve ever seen.