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Max Scherzer notches 3,000th strikeout

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Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer joined an exclusive club over the weekend.

Scherzer entered the game against the San Diego Padres with 2,994 Ks. The 3,000th came in the fifth inning against Eric Hosmer; he’d finish the game with nine Ks in eight innings, leaving his total (for the moment) at the delightfully-palindromic 3,003. He is the 19th pitcher in MLB history to cross that threshold.

What’s crazy is there was even more history to be made.

Scherzer threw an immaculate inning – the rare feat of striking out the side on nine pitches – for the third time in his career. That put him into a tie for the most such innings ever, alongside Chris Sale (who got his third earlier this year) and Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax.

Oh, and he also took a perfect game into the eighth, retiring the first 22 batters before giving up a one-out double to, get this, Eric Hosmer. He closed out the inning without any damage, finishing his day with eight shutout innings. He threw just 92 pitches.

News flash: Max Scherzer is good at baseball.

Obviously, we knew that – anyone who has followed the game in the past decade-plus knows about his accomplishments – but the truth is that the 37-year-old Scherzer has a shot to land in some pretty rarified company.

He’s been brilliant since coming over from the Nationals at the July trade deadline. He’s 6-0 with a 0.88 ERA in eight starts; he’s struck out 72 in 51 innings. There’s a possibility he winds up leading the NL in ERA and strikeouts while being top-five in wins. He’s a dark horse Cy Young candidate (it’d be his fourth).

We need to talk about Max Scherzer in the context of the greats. In my opinion, he’s a Hall of Famer even if this is his last season. Great numbers, three Cy Young Awards, a no-hitter AND a perfect game AND a 20-strikeout game. He’s got the goods. The real question is just how high he might climb.

Let’s start with the 3,000 strikeouts. Scherzer is the 19th to ever reach that mark, and the second-fastest ever in terms of innings pitched; only Randy Johnson got there in fewer innings. Assuming he finishes strong, he probably winds up with 235-240 Ks on the season. He likely passes Justin Verlander and becomes the active leader.

The other counting stats won’t be as impressive, due to the changing nature of the game. Guys don’t pitch as long or as often. Scherzer will finish this season at around 10 wins shy of 200. He’ll likely get there next season if he stays on the field and reasonably healthy, but his ceiling is probably in the 220-225 range; he’d have to stick around effectively into his 40s to get much further.

But here’s the thing: Scherzer might be the kind of guy who actually can stick around effectively.

Over the course of a 14-year MLB career, he simply hasn’t gotten hurt. He’s missed a little time here and there, but the reality is that, since he became a full-time starter with Arizona in 2009, he has started at least 27 games in every full season he’s played (the exception was 12 starts in the truncated 2020 season). That includes this year, by the way – his 3,000th K came in his 27th start.

He’s a free agent after this season, but considering how he’s pitched this year, he’ll have plenty of suitors. Say he wants to call it quits after he turns 40; that’s three more seasons. Obviously, time waits for no man and there will be some regression, but Scherzer’s track record certainly indicates that he’s someone who will age relatively gracefully.

Say he’s got another 75 starts in him after this season. He’s managed a win slightly less often than every other start; let’s err on the side of regression and say he manages 30 more wins – figure around 225 total. His ERA and WHIP numbers will probably creep up a little, but he’s got so many quality innings in the bank, they won’t budge much.

Ah, but the Ks are where it gets interesting. Let’s say Scherzer pitches 425 innings in those starts – an average of between five and six innings per. Considering his career K-rate, 500 Ks seems reasonable. That’s a number that puts him into the top-10 all time on that list – impressive company to be sure.

Of course, this is all speculation. Max Scherzer could get hurt in his next start and never pitch again. That’s the nature of the game. But looking into the future, projecting a player’s possible place in history? That’s ALSO the nature of the game. We always try to pay attention when we’re watching the greats in the midst of their greatness.

So let’s pay attention to Max Scherzer.

Last modified on Wednesday, 15 September 2021 08:18

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