At the start of the year, few, if any, would have included Max Scherzer's name in the Cy Young conversation. Not when he plays on a team with Justin Verlander, and not when Felix Hernandez, David Price, Yu Darvish and a handful of others are in the league.
Yet here we are in August, talking about Max Scherzer as the Cy Young favorite. That apparently makes some people uncomfortable, so far as I can tell, for one key reason: he wins too much.
Yes, what was once a measure of success in some corners seems to have been turned into a scarlet letter. To me, that makes about as much sense as heralding the pitcher win in the first place.
Here are four things we can say about the pitcher win:
-- Good pitchers sometimes get a lot of them. So do not-so-good pitchers
-- Good pitchers sometimes do not get a lot of them. So do not-so-good pitchers.
-- The rules for giving a pitcher the win have some logical basis behind them and then lose their mind and make no sense.
-- Pitching for the right team is sure going to help a guy's win-loss total.
So, yes, when those among us voice displeasure with those who put too much weight on the pitcher win, there's good reason for it.
Now, Max Scherzer.
Scherzer has collected quite a few of the things -- 19 in fact. He has lost just once.
What does this tell us about him? Well, for one, it says he's been fortunate. His team has done well behind him. That much is true. He has the best run support in baseball. He doesn't slip up much -- so it says he's consistent -- but in the five games he's allowed four or more runs his record is 3-1 with one no decision.
It also says he's stuck around pretty late in games, giving his team more innings to put him ahead on the scoreboard. He's getting the wins. Not the relief pitchers in games he started.
In any case, regardless of wins, we have a lot of information on hand that says he's good pitcher. He's second in strikeouts. He's top five in ERA. He's among the best in sabermetric stat SIERA (2.90, third in the AL, compared to Hernandez's 2.85 and Darvish's 2.67.) He's fourth in strikeouts-per-walk ratio.
What I'm saying is, pick your favorite stat and Scherzer's going to be near the top of it.
Pointing out pitcher wins as a stat that doesn't tell you the whole picture might win you some saber-cred among the baseball hipsters. But what you can't do is argue Max Scherzer isn't deserving of the Cy Young Award -- because he is. He pitches late in games. He strikes out a large number of opposing batters. And yes, he wins a lot.
He's exactly what we expect a Cy Young winner to be.