Maybe it’s just me, but does anyone else find it hard to believe Max Scherzer has already spent three of his five Major League seasons with the Tigers? I feel like it wasn’t that long ago that we were raving about his potential as an Arizona farmhand.
But alas, time moves on, and last year Scherzer finally began living up to his insane potential. His strikeout rate was an astounding 11.08 K/9, the highest single-season rate for a pitcher who’s thrown at least 160 innings since Kerry Wood‘s 11.35 mark back in 2003, and for the second straight year he was able to keep his walk rate under 3.00 BB/9. Combined, Scherzer’s 3.85 K:BB ratio was the 11th-best among all starters last year, better than what James Shields, Matt Cain, Chris Sale, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and David Price were able to do. It was the second straight year his K:BB ratio had improved.
Last year Scherzer’s average fastball velocity rose from 93.1 mph to 94.2 mph according to PitchFX, which also suggests he introduced a two-seam fastball for the first time. His 3.27 FIP was easily the best of his career, but a high line drive rate (22.1%) and HR/FB rate (11.6%) explain the gap between that FIP and his 3.74 ERA.
At a Glance
Strengths: K, K/9, W, L, QS
Neutral: ERA, WHIP, BB
Best-case scenario: Zack Greinke (LAD)
Likely scenario: Yu Darvish (TEX), Tim Lincecum (SF), Yovani Gallardo (MIL)
Worst-case scenario: Jeff Samardzija (CHC)
Max Scherzer 2013 Fantasy Projection
Due to his hard-throwing nature, I don’t think Scherzer will really ever develop into a big-time innings eater. For now it’s probably best to project him for around 195 innings, but with his prodigious strikeout rates that should be enough to help him top 200 Ks. Strikeouts are Scherzer’s main source of fantasy value, and because he strikes out so many batters he can be at least average in WHIP.
Last year the high line drive rate elevated Scherzer’s opponents’ BABIP (.333) and batting average (.248), which inflated his WHIP to 1.27. If he can correct that line drive rate a little and maintain a high strikeout rate, he shouldn’t have a problem threatening a sub-.240 OBA, and that would likely yield a WHIP around 1.20 with a similar drop in ERA.
Comerica Park is around league average in terms of homers, so it’s not that surprising that Scherzer’s HR/FB rate was just north of the league average. Should he get a little lucky there and see his HR/FB rate fall to 9-10%, he shouldn’t have much trouble dropping his ERA to something around his FIP, which we project at 3.44 this year. Detroit has a great offense, and that’ll only help Scherzer’s win total. In points leagues he’s someone I’d love to own.