Posted September 03, 2013

Scherzer chasing history against the Red Sox on Tuesday night

Detroit Tigers, Max Scherzer
Max Scherzer. Tigers

Max Scherzer is 19-1 this season, easily the best record in baseball. (Paul Sancya/AP)

If Max Scherzer beats the Red Sox on Tuesday night, he’ll become just the second pitcher in major league history to open a season with a 20-1 record, joining Roger Clemens, who did it with the Yankees in 2001. Scherzer, who has a .950 winning percentage, has already tied the previous mark of 19-1 set by Rube Marquard in 1912 and matched only by Clemens prior to this season. The Tigers right-hander has already made one attempt at getting his 20th win, last Thursday at home against the A’s. That turned out to be his worst start of the season (5 IP, 6 R, 5 ER). Detroit trailed 6-1 when Scherzer left the game, but he got a no-decision because Torii Hunter hit a walk-off three-run homer that gave the Tigers a 7-6 victory.

In 2001, Clemens won his 20th game in his 30th start, New York’s 145th game, which also happened to be the team’s first game after the September 11 attacks. The Yankees were 27-3 in Clemens’ starts to that point in the season, while Clemens had a 3.42 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 3.10 K/BB and a .305 BABIP.

Scherzer’s outing tonight will be his 28th start, and it will come in the Tigers’ 138th game. He has a 2.90 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 4.67 K/BB and a .252 BABIP and the Tigers are 22-5 in his starts.

Scherzer has pitched better this year than Clemens did in ’01, though the gap isn’t quite as large as the above numbers suggest. Both pitchers received roughly 5.7 runs of support per game, but scoring was much higher in 2001. The average American League team scored 4.86 runs per game that year compared to 4.34 runs per game this season. While the Tigers have actually been scoring at a higher rate than the ’01 Yankees, their 5.7 runs of support per game is far more overwhelming in the current offensive environment than New York’s similar support for Clemens.

Clemens was the overwhelming winner of the 2001 AL Cy Young, but I did not think he deserved the award. In fact, I didn’t think he was the most deserving pitcher on his own team, given how well Mike Mussina pitched in his first season with the Yankees. Scherzer seems likely to bring home this year’s award, but I have yet to rank him first in my Awards Watch. The Mariners’ Felix Hernandez was my top pick the last time I examined the race, but his recent struggles (0-4, 7.84 ERA in his last four starts) are disqualifying. (I dinged Scherzer “because he comes up short in run prevention.”) The Rangers’ Yu Darvish (12-6, 2.73 ERA), who starts in Oakland on Wednesday, actually has a good chance to be my pick when I revisit the race on Thursday.

As for Tuesday night’s game, Scherzer faces a tough task. He will be facing a Boston team that has the best record in the AL, and the second-most-potent lineup after Detroit’s. Not only that, but he will also be pitching at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox have a .643 winning percentage this season. Scherzer is facing Boston ace Jon Lester, who has a 1.80 ERA over his last five starts, and who will be pitching to a Tigers lineup that is unlikely to include Miguel Cabrera (out with an abdominal strain since last Friday). Scherzer has faced the Red Sox once previously this season, holding them to two runs over seven innings in Detroit in late June and picking up the win.

If Scherzer loses tonight, he’ll have blown the chance to match Clemens as well as a chance to set the all-time single-season winning percentage mark. If he gets a no-decision, we’ll do this all over again when the Tigers visit the White Sox on Monday. But if he wins, that Monday start in Chicago will be his chance to do something no pitcher has ever done: start a season 21-1.

7 comments
William27
William27

I think Boras will be asking $30 million a year for 12 years for this guy.

who will do what verlander did this year after getting close to $30 million a year extension.

be ordinary

dinohealth
dinohealth

You know , Cliff, you were writing such a fine piece and doing real wonders with the stats, till you got to the point where you state that you  think Scherzer and Clemens did not deserve to win the Cy Young award with the historic win and stat seasons they turned in!   At least, had you presented the comparable data for the pitchers you DO support, you might have made a better case!  Why didn't you?  Hmmm, methinks I know why....your choices do not STAND UP to those stats!  You did the same thing with Cabrera last year, hoping till the last minute, that Hamilton would "make good" and keep Cabrera from winning the Triple Crown (and MVP).  You were effectively hoping that a generation of fans would be deprived of a historic feat that we have not witnessed since 1967!  This year, you are again pumping Trout, almost hoping that a this generation of fans will not witness something that has never been accomplished in the history of Baseball: back-to-back Triple Crowns AND MVP Awards!  Frankly, you are really pathetic and consumed by statmentia! 

dinohealth
dinohealth

@William27 lol....These "ordinary" guys are taking the Tigers to the playoffs and beyond....again!

Seamus_Young
Seamus_Young

@dinohealth He linked to an article explaining why he believes Clemens was a poor choice, he linked to an article addressing his past comments on Scherzer, and said that he would address Scherzer's candidacy again on Thursday. He's not trying to avoid confronting any argument. And nothing is more 'statmented' than being obsessed with statistics such as wins or runs batted in, and thinking that they are somehow superior to WAR or WHIP. Don't accuse someone of being too focused on stats just because they prefer ones you do not.

dinohealth
dinohealth

@Seamus_Young @dinohealthSince he was of the opinion that Scherzer does not deserve the Cy Young, and, he is writing about Scherzer, he should have shown a comp table of his choices with the those of the stats he presented on Clemens and Scherzer, at the point in time he digressed from the theme of the story (the historic quest) and, introduced his agenda concerning the Cy Award candidacy of Scherzer.  Otherwise, do not say it, and, save it for another article.  As for Cabrera, clearly by his very own (Corcoran's) stat-triple crown, Cabrera is a Triple Crown winner this year, already!  If you are a baseball writer, do not downgrade a player's performance simply because the Baseball Community does not prefer the stats that you want to "rengineer" the game with!  I think you got it totally backwards here!  I might add, I am basing my critique of this article solely on the stats Cliff presented in the article (and lack of); not mine, or, anyone else's.  The point is, put up the stats of your choices against those you present for Scherzer and Clemens, or, shut up, and do not say it in an article whose lead-in headline is about a historic attempt at the record books!  You cannot have it both ways and be evasive; nor, can you pick and choose the stats that suit your "choice" to pump. i.e. another pitcher, or, Trout! There is a common thread in the manner Cliff chooses to pump his stat "system" and, it is unfair to the players, their accomplishments, and, misleading for baseball fans/readers!  All this, without a single word, from me, on the WAR stats' relevance and relative value!

dinohealth
dinohealth

@William27 @dinohealthApparently, the Tigers have four, "ordinary", double-digit-win-guys, pitching on that extraordinary TEAM!  How much are they worth?One of last year's "ordinary" guys, Scherzer, is chasing baseball performance epic history!  Bottom line, guys that can perform at that level, may have an off season, but, chances are, they are a bit more than "ordinary", and, will do great things, again!   I might add, their bullpen, is, truly, ordinary.  And, I am a Yankee fan (pertaining to being a dimwit, perhaps, true)!