There hasn’t been a more stunning fall grace in the early going of 2010, than the horrible start that Max Scherzer is off to pitching in Motown. An integral piece to the deal that saw Le Tigre receive Action Jackson. send Baby Grand to NY and Edwin Jackson out west to ‘Zona, Scherzer has been a massive disappointment so far and this angry fantasy owner has had enough! *stomps foot*
The former 11th overall pick of the 2006 draft posted impressive numbers in his first full season in the Diamondback rotation last year and just about everyone figured he’d at least take a lateral step this season, his first in the AL. Facing a DH instead of a pitcher never helps a pitchers numbers, but I figured that might be mitigated somewhat by the spacious dimensions of his new home ballpark in the Motor City. With a 3.87 FIP and 9.19/3.33 K/BB per 9 rate over 170 1/3 innings, Max’s peripherals were better than the modest 9-11 4.12/1.34 line he posted in his 30 2009 starts. With numbers like those, I was more than happy to drop $7 on the young fire-baller on auction day, in hopes of snagging a cheap strike out source with a ton of upside.
Fast foward a month and a half and I’ve just thrown Mad Max onto the scrap pile in the Big Ballers League, to let him be a headache to another fantasy owner. His numbers are eye-popping, toss the laptop across the room bad: 1-4 with a 7.29 ERA 1.67 WHIP and only 26 K’s in 42 innings. It’s hardly a matter of luck in spite of the unfortunate 58% strand rate and .327 BABIP against (last year he saw hits fall in at a .323 clip). He’s getting hit hard and often, to the tune of nine jacks and a 22% LD rate. With his BB/9 up slightly to 3.43, he isn’t walking many more batters, it’s simply a matter of him not missing bats: Down to only 5.57 K/9. Swallow that for a second. This guy had 9.19 K/9 last season. In what kind of god awful bizarro world do we live in, where a top prospect can turn into a heaping bowl of awful seemingly overnight? On a team flush with high K starters and needing an extra bench bat, I just couldn’t stomach his awful pitching anymore.
“I thought Max Scherzer was better.” – Jim Leyland
Me too skip. Well we need not look any further than the power pitchers sudden lack of power. After averaging 93.6 MPH on his heater last season, that number has dropped to a below league average 91.7 MPH through his eight starts this year. Suddenly that plus heat is getting smacked on a regular basis as his contact rate has jumped to 81.1% from 76.9% and his percentage of swinging strikes has fallen to 7.4% from 10.6%. A further investigation of his PitchFX data tells us that his secondary pitch, a slider, has fallen in velocity as well but it has also been markedly straighter, breaking markedly less than last year. This is particularly troubling in light of the reservations that the D-Backs had about his history of arm problems. Sliders are said to be the most arm-damaging pitch that a pitcher can throw and it seems that there is a fair amount of evidence to believe that Scherzer is pitching through some arm problems. I’ll quote David Golebiewski, who’s quoting himself.
The most likely reason is that Arizona doubts Scherzer’s long-term health and viability as a starting pitcher. To recap his extensive injury history since 2006: shoulder and biceps tendinitis in ‘06, shoulder inflammation in 2008, shoulder fatigue and tightness in 2009. His health certainly bears watching, especially considering that Scherzer’s innings total increased from 109 in 2008 to 175 in 2009 (major league innings plus one rehab start).
When asked if Scherzer’s rotation spot is in jeopardy, Leyland responded, “That’s nothing I’d discuss on television after a tough loss. But it’s a good question, a legitimate question.” Armando Galarraga, who’s been pitching well at AAA Toledo (4-2/38K/3.92ERA/1.20WHIP in 41.1 IP) was just called up to the big club and will start today at home against the Red Sox.
NOTE: Shortly after finishing this piece early Sunday morning, I read on Rototimes that Scherzer was sent down to AAA.