As it stands now, Washington Nationals hurler Max Scherzer is slated to take his next start on Tuesday in the Big Apple. And after tossing 20 strikeouts to join the likes of Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens in the baseball history books, you might expect Scherzer to be a little bit gassed.
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But if history is any indication, the Nats pitcher should be just fine. Each time that a pitcher has struck out 20 batters in a game, he’s come back with a vengeance in the next outing — and arguably performed better than we would have expected regardless of his previous outing.
Don’t believe us? Fine. Maybe you’ll believe the numbers.
Roger Clemens, 1986
Season average: 7.2 IP, 7.2 K, 5.4 H, 2.0 BB, 2.48 ERA
Next start after 20 K: 8 IP, 10 K, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, W
Roger Clemens, 1996
Season average: 7.0 IP, 7.6 K, 6.4 H, 3.1 BB, 3.63 ERA
Next start after 20 K: 7 IP, 8 K, 5 H, 4 BB, 1 ER, No decision
Kerry Wood, 1998
Season average: 6.1 IP, 8.9 K, 4.5 H, 3.3 BB, 3.4 ERA
Next start after 20 K: 7 IP, 13 K, 5 H, 3 BB, 1 ER, W
Randy Johnson, 2001
Season average: 7.0 IP, 10.6 K, 5.2 H, 2.0 BB, 2.48 ERA
Next start after 20 K: 8 IP, 12 K, 4 H, 4 BB, 1 ER, W
The trend is pretty clear. None of these four players received any extra rest after their 20 K outing, three of the four went longer in their next game than they did on average that season, with a 34-year-old Roger Clemens the lone exception. Even then, Clemens was just one out shy of making it to his 1996 benchmark.
Perhaps more surprising is the number of strikeouts each pitcher managed following their historic performance. Without exception, these guys kept dealing, surpassing their average number of Ks — and three of the four games involved double-digit strikeouts once again.
There was a slight loss of command across the board, with Clemens, Wood and Johnson combining for 13 walks when they averaged 10.4 in their respective seasons. Some of that is due to the increased innings load, of course. The rest can likely be chalked up to variance.
Cumulatively, then, Clemens, Wood and Johnson combined to throw 5.6 percent more innings that their season averages in the game after their 20 K performance. They struck out 25 percent more batters than normal while surrendering 80 percent as many hits and less than half as many earned runs. The only downside was a 26 percent increase in walks.
If we take those numbers and project them onto Scherzer’s season average, we have a very rough approximate projection of his next outing: 7.0 innings pitched, 10.3 K, 4.5 H, 1.3 earned runs and 2.4 walks.