Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer took a small step back in 2019 due to some missed time due to injury.
He had two tough starts (10 runs and 19 baserunners over 11.2 innings) over his first six appearances in April, which led to a 4.12 ERA and 54 strikeouts over 39.1 innings. After rebounding with four good starts (3.12 ERA), his arm rounded into shape over his next nine starts (7-0 with a 0.84 ERA, 0.765 WHIP, .172 BAA, and 94 Ks over 64 innings).
Unfortunately, a back strain around the All-Star break led to a trip to the injured list. Scherzer made one appearance (three runs over five innings with eight strikeouts) before going back on the IL after reaggravating his back. His arm didn’t look right over his final six starts (4.74 ERA, eight HRs, and 54 Ks over 38 innings) although he rebounded in the postseason (2.40 ERA and 37 Ks over 30 innings).
On the year, he lost value against lefties (.255 with 11 HRs over 298 at-bats). Scherzer did manage to set a career mark in his strikeout rate (12.7) with an elite walk rate (1.7). His AFB (95.3) was the best of his career while offering three elite pitchers (four-seam – .215 BAA, changeup – .229, and slider – .172 BAA). He lost serious value on his cutter (.300 BAA) and curveball (.308 BAA) vs. left-handed batters. After pitching up too frequently in the strike zone over the previous four seasons (fly-ball rate – 45.4, 47.9, 46.6, and 47.6), Scherzer induced more grounders (40.8 percent) in 2019 (fly-ball rate – 38.1). Over 32 starts, he finished with 14 wins and 280 strikeouts in 202.1 innings.
Scherzer has a Hall of Fame arm and has been electric for eight consecutive seasons. I’m projecting 15-plus wins with a sub-2.50 ERA, and a chance at 300 strikeouts with a full season of starts. Scherzer has an ADP of 18 and it seems most are not discounting him after last season’s brief injury problems.
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