Max Scherzer has only one blemish on his record to go with 18 wins. The Tigers are 22 games over .500. Max is 17 games over .500. So the Tigers are five games over .500 without Max, identical to the Royals and one game worse than the Indians. That does not make much sense, and the stat geeks will argue with that conclusion. But there it is. And before they do, note that while Jose Alvarez may be the definition of a "replacement player", the other Toledo options including Shawn Hill, Derek Hankins, Ramon Garcia, and Pat Misch are well below replacement level.
But how far can Scherzer take this run? Let's look at the rest of his season by assuming he pitches every fifth game. These are the potential opponents and their current winning percentage:
August 24, Mets, .459
August 29, Athletics, .569
September 3, Red Sox, .579
September 9, White Sox, .398
September 15, Royals, .520
September 20, White Sox, .398
September 25, Twins, .443
That is two games against the White Sox, with the third worst record in the game and now without Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. The Mets and Twins also struggle to score runs. But maybe Max faces Matt Harvey. Let's assume two wins, a loss, and a no-decision.
The Royals, Athletics, and Red Sox present a greater challenge. Let's assume a win, a loss, and a no-decision.
With that Scherzer would end up with 21 wins and 3 losses. Max would be the first to say that wins are a poor measure of a pitcher's performance, but like Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown leading to an MVP award, 21-3 should be an automatic Cy Young award.
Roger Clemens was 20-3 in 2001. Scherzer needs to top that record so that there is one less reason to mention the Rocket. Pedro Martinez's highest win total was 23 in 1999 to go with 4 losses. This record is in sight. Greg Maddux was 19-2 in 1995, a record that could also be exceeded. Ron Guidry was 25-3 in 1978. Max could beat Louisiana Lightning's winning percentage by only losing one more game. And only one more loss would mean Scherzer's 2013 season will be talked about for decades.
If you are thinking ahead to the post-season, it could be tempting to add a sixth starter for the next few times through the rotation. The A's and Red Sox would then lose an opportunity to see Max and prepare for a potential playoff encounter, and the whole staff would have a little extra rest. But that will not happen with 38 games to go. Max's last game, September 25, sets up well for a start on regular rest in the first round of the playoffs. The Tigers may have the division clinched by then, but the game will not be meaningless.