Better know a Tiger: Max Scherzer

Leon Halip

Scherzer looks to repeat Cy Young level performance in his "walk year".

Max Scherzer led the Tiger rotation in 2013, and led the American League in many categories, winning the Cy Young award. He hopes to have a similar performance in 2014 and cash in after the season with a huge contract, as he will be a free agent. If Scherzer again puts up numbers like he did last season, he'll be in line for a contract approaching what his team mate, Justin Verlander received from the Tigers.

Scherzer not only led the league in wins and win percentage with a 21- 3 record, but he also led all pitchers in WAR, and was among the league leaders among qualified starters in virtually every major pitching category. He struck out over 10 batters per nine innings, and led the league with an 0.97 WHIP, the only qualified starter in the league to allow less than one base runner per inning.

For much of the season, Scherzer was just dominant. He made quality starts (at least 6 innings and less than 3 earned runs) in 78% of his starts, and he left only six runners on base for the Tiger bullpen to deal with. Only two of those runners scored after he left the game.

Scherzer introduced a curve ball into his repertoire for the first time in 2013, which he threw just often enough to keep hitters off balance, and replaced about half of his sinkers- his least effective pitch in seasons past. He credited the curve ball for his increased effectiveness: He told Jason Beck at MLB.com

"The reason I'm pitching better is because I have a curveball," Scherzer said. "I have three pitches to throw at a left-handed hitter. That's the single reason why I'm pitching better."

Scherzer
G IP ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP K/BB
2013 32 214.1 2.90 2.73 10.08 2.35 0.76 0.97 4.29
Career 174 1019 3.67 3.51 9.44 2.88 1.02 1.23 3.28
Steamer 31 192 3.29 3.45 9.56 2.56 1.10 1.15 3.74

Odd Numbers: Scherzer actually reduced his K/9 rate by a full strikeout per nine innings vs his 2012 numbers (11.08). He let the Tiger defense make more plays as he cut his batting average allowed by 50 points, giving up just a .196 average to opposing hitters, while establishing a career high with 214 innings pitched.

Keys to Success: Whatever was working for Max last year, he should just keep on doing it. There wasn't a weakness in his game in 2013. He was dominant at home and on the road. He dominated lefties and right handed hitters alike. He was lights out every month of the season.

Outlook for 2014: The Tigers expect to hand the ball to Scherzer another 32 to 34 times during the season, and while few expect him to actually improve on his Cy Young performance, he should once again be one of the most dominant pitchers in the game.

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