We're continuing our previewing of the Detroit Tigers player by player. Expect much of the bullpen and the bench players to be doubled up a bit during the final week before the season, but we'll goone a day until then, by uniform numbers. I reserve the right to go out of order either on purpose or by accident.
Funny story, and I'm surprised nobody noticed this. Maybe you were all so polite as to avoid embarrassing me. Or maybe you, like me, just don't notice what uniform number people wear. Anyway, I was doing the series by uniform number, and skipped from Justin Verlander's #35 straight to Doug Fister's #58 ... despite labeling him as #37 in the post. Anyway, for the detail oriented among you who might wonder what the heck is up, that's what! Nobody? Good.
Max Scherzer #37
After two seasons of showing some growth, Max Scherzer stepped backward in 2011. His ERA climbed nearly a run, his strikeouts dropped and he just didn't look like the 1B to go with Justin Verlander's 1A like he did at the end of 2010. So which Scherzer is the real one? Possibly, they both are. Which means likely, the end results will be somewhere in the middle.
When everything is working for Schezer, he can dominate. He's a hard-throwing strikeout pitcher. He has games where he doesn't issue many free passes. Batters remain uncomfortable and off balance. It can be incredible. Yet he has games where things just don't come together. Maybe it's the mechanics. Maybe he doesn't have a good feel of his pitches often enough. Whatever the reason, he struggles out there. It's frustrating.
If you're looking for one reason Scherzer wasn't quite as dominating in 2011, it's because he just didn't get as many strikeouts as he needed. If you're looking for a reason for optimism, it's that he allowed a higher percentage of home runs per fly ball than you would expect.
I think the most likely scenario is that Scherzer gets to around the 200-inning mark (he got to 195 the past two seasons) with an ERA somewhere between 3.75 and 4. He'll strike out plenty. Despite prolonged flashes of brilliance in 2010, I feel comfortable saying he's no Verlander. However, Scherzer and Fister should be dueling for the figurative No. 2 spot in the Tigers' rotation all year.