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Max Scherzer slow to start, strong to finish in first season with Detroit

Every weekday between now and mid-November, we'll be looking closer at a Tigers player. For more information on the series, including a schedule, please check this post out.

Some worried before the season coming over from the National League would cut into Max Scherzer's effectiveness in Detroit. They looked prescient when a little more than a month into the season he had a 6.82 ERA and 2-5 record in the Tigers uniform and found himself optioned to Triple-A Toledo.

Before Scherzer even made the trip down I-75, he stopped by the video booth at Comerica Park to see just what his mechanics looked like one more time and what he could do to improve. The answer was obvious to Scherzer. The results were painful for his overmatched minor league opponents. After two starts as a Mud Hen, he returned to Detroit ready to test it out again against major leaguers. Fourteen strikeouts against the Oakland Athletics later, things seemed to be pretty settled.

From that point to the end of the year, he he 158 strikeouts in 153.2 innings and an ERA of 2.46. He finished the season just behind Justin Verlander in ERA (3.50 vs. 3.37) and 11th in the American League. He was sixth in the league in strikeout rate at 8.49 per nine innings (again behind Verlander's 8.79),

A-. (Some might see a B+ here thanks to the poor first month, and that's fair too)

2010 25 3.50 31 31 195.2 174 84 76 20 70 184 120 1.247 3.2 8.5 2.63
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/4/2010.

Scherzer made use of a fastball, slider and changeup, with the slider being an especially effective pitch in 2010 and the curveball also being worth several runs above average. He got batters to swing and miss at 9.4 percent of his offerings this season.

One area of criticism is that he didn't go deep enough into the games often enough. He went seven or more innings in just 14 of 31 starts. (Compared to 21 of 33 for Verlander.)

What 2010 tells us about 2011:

Scherzer's batting average for balls in play has generally been above .300 during his professional career, both in the majors and minors. But it was a below-average .295 in Detroit last year. So he might be expected to see a bit of regression in the number of balls that fall for hits. It's no sure thing and you shouldn't expect it will be a bad turn of luck. But the possibility is out there. His ERA was below both his fielding independent figures (3.50 FIP. 3.71 xFIP).

Other than that, I don't think I'd expect to see a season all that much different than this latest one. I think the numbers he put up after returning from Toledo are a bit too nice to ask for him to repeat over the course of a full season. His mechanics always put him at risk for getting a bit off track for a few games too.

Otherwise, great pitcher. Should be pretty good for Detroit on a consistent basis.


I used Baseball-Reference and