There’s something very special about watching a player put everything together in an unbelievable season like Detroit Tigers starter Max Scherzer did this year.
Throughout his six years in the majors, Scherzer, 29, has shown glimpses of his incredible talent, strong work ethic and keen intellect.
In 2013, he combined all of that for a dominating 21-3 record, 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and — for the sabermetric crowd — a 6.7 WAR.
Twenty-eight of the 30 voters from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America gave Scherzer their first-place vote for the American League Cy Young Award. MLB Network showed Scherzer lifting his arms in victory when the announcement was made.
“I just got back from the grocery store, where I bought about 10 bottles of champagne, so what do you think’s going to happen?” Scherzer said, when asked on a conference call if he planned to celebrate.
Scherzer received a second-place vote from Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and a third-place vote from J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group.
Scherzer had 203 total points, a landslide victory over Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish (93 points) and Seattle Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma (73 points).
Scherzer’s teammate, Anibal Sanchez, placed fourth with 46 points and landed a first-place vote from Berardino. Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox was fifth with 44 points and received Hoornstra’s first-place vote.
First-place votes were worth seven points, second-place votes were worth four, third-place votes three, fourth-place votes two and fifth-place votes one.
Scherzer is the fourth Tigers pitcher to win the Cy Young, joining Justin Verlander (2011), Guillermo “Willie” Hernandez (1984) and Denny McLain (1969 and ’68).
If there’s one statistic that really shows what helped Scherzer raise his game this past season, it’s his improved success against left-handed hitters.
Lefties hit just .222 against Scherzer in 2013 compared to .292 against him in 2012 and .281 in 2011.
He credited a curveball that he added to his arsenal in the latter part of 2012.
“Traditionally, left-handed hitters have really hurt me in the past, getting hits and home runs and all of the damaging things that can happen,” Scherzer said during the season. “I think this curveball has allowed me to change the timing of what they have to do at the plate.
“I feel like now I’m at the best I’ve ever been at. I look to continue to have success.”
The Cy Young Award puts the cherry on top of a season to remember for Scherzer.
He not only made his first All-Star team, he started the game at the New York Mets’ Citi Field, pitching a scoreless inning.
He also helped the Tigers win the Central Division and get past the Oakland Athletics in the first round of the playoffs.
“What I’m going to remember most is the season as a whole,” Scherzer said. “Starting the All-Star Game, something few people get to do. That experience was so cool.
“Winning and spraying champagne all over with my teammates, the win in Oakland. You can’t just isolate one event. This is a collective effort and this award kind of recognizes everything.”
Although Scherzer and the Tigers did not advance to the World Series, he’ll still be getting a ring because he’s set to marry his college sweetheart, Erica May, later this month.
Now that Scherzer has won the Cy Young, what might be next for him to achieve in baseball?
“Next year, you either get better or you get worse,” Scherzer said. “There’s no such thing as staying the same.
“There are a lot of things I can improve on to make me a more efficient pitcher.”
Pitching coach Jeff Jones believes Scherzer can accomplish anything he sets his mind to.
“Since probably halfway through last year ’til now, he’s probably one of the better pitchers in baseball, if not the best pitcher in baseball.” Jones said. “I think his potential is very, very high.
“With the way he works and the way he thinks, the way he processes things, I think the sky’s the limit for him, I really do.”
Consider that fair warning to American League batters. SCHERZER: ‘I LOVE DETROIT’ If the Tigers are willing to pay to keep Scherzer, he’d be more than happy to stay.
“I like it here — I love it here in Detroit,” Scherzer said. “We’re capable of putting out a team that’s able to win every single year right now. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? I’m here to win, and win a World Series.
“I realize I’ve got a good situation here in Detroit, but it also takes two to dance.”
A recent report from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman said that the Tigers have told other teams that they’re open to trading either Scherzer or Rick Porcello.
Scherzer is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season and his agent, Scott Boras, is known for wanting his players to enter the market to get the best deal rather than signing an extension.
The Tigers already have significant money tied up for 2014. Miguel Cabrera will make $22 million; Boras client Prince Fielder $24 million; Justin Verlander $20 million; Anibal Sanchez $15 million; Torii Hunter $14 million; and Victor Martinez $12 million.
Tigers owner Mike Ilitch has demonstrated that he’s more than willing to open his checkbook for Boras clients such as Magglio Ordonez and Ivan Rodriguez, among others.
But how many $20 million-a-year players can Ilitch afford? That remains to be seen.
“Really, all the business side, that takes care of itself,” Scherzer said. “I don’t have any anxiousness to get anything done, but if something does get done, I’d be happy to do it.”
Scherzer was also pleased that new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus elected to retain Jones as pitching coach.
“We’ve got a good thing going,” Scherzer said. “We’ve got an extremely good relationship. He really knows how my mechanics work. He knows what I need to hear to get right.”