Scherzer threw his changeup to both right-handed batters and lefties with ease and confidence. He opened the outing by throwing nine pitches in the first inning, all strikes. We should have known it was going to be a special day.
Scherzer has tantalized us with dominating performances. His 14 strikeout win over Oakland in 2010 was reminiscent of today’s masterpiece. He won 15 games for the Tigers in 2011 and his performance in the ALDS against the Yankees showed that he can pitch in pressure situations.
The one word that keeps coming up in conversations about Max is consistency. Or, more accurately, his lack thereof. His manager uses the word a lot when describing him. Scherzer’s skills compare with the best pitchers in the game. He can dial up to 98 MPH and stifle hitters with a change and slider that are above average. He just needs to repeat it more often. If he does, he could threaten to win 20 games one day.
Scherzer has worked a lot with pitching coach Jeff Jones. After walking seven in his start at New York in late April, Jones noticed that Max was breaking his hands too low in his delivery. The minor tweak propelled Scherzer to two strong starts against Chicago and Oakland where he struck out nine in each start. Then the struggles hit again when Max threw 99 pitches in just four innings in Chicago on the last road trip. Again, consistency eluded him.
Jim Leyland bristles at the notion that the he should consider taking Scherzer out of the rotation to work out his inconsistencies. “You can’t just go poof and find another guy to replace him,” he said. “He’s one of our horses.”
It’s true. Schrezer has given the Tigers 27 wins the last two years. He is indeed one of the Tigers horses. If he finds a way to pitch like he did Sunday more often, he can even be a thoroughbred.